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Published: Friday, 8/30/2013

Commentary

Falcons get physical in Tulsa romp

BY DAVE HACKENBERG
BLADE SPORTS COLUMNIST

BOWLING GREEN — There was a time last season when Bowling Green coach Dave Clawson decided to button up his offense, get physical, and be defensive. It paid big dividends.

This time around, for the Falcons to take the proverbial next step, Clawson wanted to see some snap and crackle to go along with the pop.

He saw plenty of everything Thursday night, including his offensive backfield taking shape, in a 34-7 season-opening romp past Tulsa.

It may well be a shape no one was expecting.

Senior Matt Schilz started at quarterback but certainly didn’t finish.

BG fans wondering how the team would replace running back Anthon Samuel, who transferred, discovered a two-headed monster, one all speed and the other brute power, that led the Falcons to a 396-273 edge in yardage.

Bowling Green has gone from two wins to five to eight over the last three seasons, and Clawson said his motto for 2013 is to “keep building. We had a good season a year ago, but we left some things on the table. Our guys are hungry. They have things to prove. This is probably the best nonconference home game we’ve had since Boise State [2009]. So we’ll get a game under our belts and see how good we are.”

Pretty good, it appears. But there’s a story behind that story.

Clawson’s decision to settle for bland a year ago was primarily because of dissatisfaction with the play of Schilz and, in lesser part, his receivers.

BG’s coach opened the QB job last spring, and Schilz didn’t get the nod as No. 1 until about 10 days before the kickoff versus Tulsa.

It took a long time to nail it down and not long at all to give it up. Two series, in fact.

Matt Johnson came off the bench, led the Falcons on a 41-yard drive for a field goal, and was in charge the rest of the way.

He wasn’t perfect, but he was pretty good and it is illogical to think he won’t have the job when BG opens MAC play next week at Kent State.

Johnson was more efficient than spectacular — he threw for 151 yards and ran for 50 — but you could sense the offense growing up around him.

BG’s defense and special teams still dominated and were the winning edge.

For one half the Falcons simply throttled a Hurricane squad that is picked to repeat as Conference USA champion, in large part because of a wealth of returning talent on offense.

At halftime, Tulsa had six first downs, 49 yards rushing, less than 50 percent pass completions and zero points.

The latter didn’t change until less than 6 minutes remained in the game, when it didn’t matter.

The visitors’ one early scoring threat, when it might have mattered, was nixed when BG safety BooBoo Gates stripped a Hurricane receiver and Aaron Foster recovered inside the 5-yard line.

Then, to start the second half, BG went 75 yards with the opening possession and there was some very welcome, dynamic offense involved.

Shaun Joplin had a tightrope, sideline catch for a first down at midfield, one play before slot receiver Ronnie Moore ran a reverse to the right for 37 yards.

Travis Greene, the little back, picked up 12 and William Houston, the big back, took it the final yard and BG was up 13-0.

Houston would score two more and the scoreboard was never close again.

Contact Blade sports columnist Dave Hackenberg at: dhack@theblade.com or 419-724-6398.



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