Bowling Green cornerback Cameron Truss (8) and safety Jovan Leacock (11) tackle Idaho running back Ryan Bass during the first quarter of an NCAA college football game on Thursday, Sept. 1, 2011, in Moscow, Idaho.
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MOSCOW, Idaho -- The Bowling Green State University football team used an impressive first-half performance by the offense and an equally impressive second-half effort by the defense to pound Idaho 32-15 at the Kibbie Dome Thursday.
The Falcon offense scored on five straight possessions in the first half to build a 30-7 halftime advantage, and the defense limited the Vandals to just 280 yards of total offense while forcing three turnovers to win its season opener.
"I'm just so excited, I can't even breathe," BG defensive tackle Chris Jones said. "I don't know if it's because I'm tired or because I'm excited.
"I'm just elated right now."
The game didn't start well for the Falcons. They turned the ball over on downs on their first drive, then gave up a 51-yard pass on Idaho's second play from scrimmage to set up a 5-yard TD pass from Brian Reader to Mike LaGrone as BG fell behind 7-0 just 2:25 into the contest.
"We blew a coverage on the double-pass, and we blew a coverage on the bootleg," Falcons coach Dave Clawson said. "It was two young guys who had their eyes in the wrong place, and we were down 7-0.
"That was a great introduction to college football: if you don't do the right thing, you pay a price."
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But the Bowling Green offense took command from there, scoring 30 straight points. Quarterback Matt Schilz threw a pair of first-quarter touchdowns to Eugene Cooper, one covering 76 yards and the other spanning 24, as the Falcons led 14-7.
On the last play of the first quarter Anthon Samuel busted open a run for 52 yards, and a face-mask penalty on the Vandals gave BG the ball on the Idaho 9, where Jordan Hopgood scored on the first play of the second quarter.
The Falcons' next drive included a 35-yard pass from Schilz to Tyler Beck that set up a one-yard scoring plunge by Samuel, and Kyle Burkhardt -- who missed the extra point on Samuel's touchdown -- capped a 61-yard drive with a 39-yard field goal with 4:28 left in the half.
Schilz completed 12-of-15 passes in the first half for 248 yards in directing Bowling Green to 377 yards of total offense.
"The thing that I love is that Matt made some plays with his feet," Clawson said. "Last year I thought that was lacking in his game.
"He ran for a couple of first downs, he avoided the rush and he threw well on the run. That's something we've worked on hard with him: to make big plays outside the pocket."
In the second half the Bowling Green offense added just 101 more yards, but several time-consuming drives kept the Idaho offense off the field. BG finished with an amazing 40:19 in time of possession, meaning they held the ball for more than two-third of the game.
"The [offensive line] did an amazing job, and it was one of the main reasons we won," Schilz said. "We ran the ball well, and those guys stepped up and did an awesome job in protection."
The Falcons finished with 187 yards rushing as Samuel had 141 yards on 22 carries, the most by a BG player in his first college game since Freddie Barnes ran for 158 yards on 29 rushes against Wisconsin in the 2005 opener.
"The cat's out of the bag," Clawson said of Samuel. "He did it all camp, and when the lights were on we were hoping he would do it again. And he had a great opening game."
Meanwhile the defense was impressive, especially in the second half when it allowed just 111 yards of total offense to the Vandals, forcing two fumbles and collecting a critical safety that re-established a three-score lead early in the fourth quarter.
Excluding Idaho's one touchdown drive, which covered 63 yards in seven plays and was capped by a 25-yard TD strike from Reader to Armauni Johnson on the second play of the fourth quarter, the Falcons allowed just 48 yards of total offense in 23 plays in the second half
"We have a veteran seven -- a lot of guys who have played a lot of football," Clawson said. "Those guys have to take pressure off the back end.
"Part of playing good pass defense is to get a good pass rush, and if the quarterback can't find the open guy, that's good defense."
BG punter Brian Schmiedebusch helped the defense by averaging 55.8 yards on six punts, including an 81-yard boot that was the second-longest punt in school history. Early in the fourth quarter Steve Dunlap downed a Schmiedebusch punt on the Vandals' 2-yard-line with 11:14 left, and Jones caught Idaho running back Ryan Bass in the end zone for a safety that made the score 32-15.
After a three-and-out Schmiedebusch again pinned the Vandals on their four, which hamstrung Idaho and forced them to punt.
Then the Falcons slammed the door by forcing a pair of fumbles, with Jones causing one that Ronnie Goble recovered on the Idaho 30 with 4:22 on the clock, and Ted Ouellet forcing the other as Bryan Thomas pounced on the loose ball at the Idaho 49 with just 46 seconds left.
"It's great to coach the team after a victory [like this], because we had a lot of practice coaching them after a loss," Clawson said. "I prefer to win a game and have some teachable moments.
"You just hope they grasp the reality that, if they don't get better, it could cost us games."
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