Fans watch as Bowling Green battles the University of Toledo during the first quarter at Doyt Perry Stadium.
The BLADE/ANDY MORRISON
BOWLING GREEN — The senior class at Bowling Green State University has never beaten Toledo in four tries, with the fourth straight loss coming in a 28-25 decision at Doyt Perry Stadium on Saturday.
But the Falcon seniors will have to shoulder much of the blame for the loss as several made critical mistakes during key moments of the contest, both early and late.
Two came on Toledo’s second drive of the contest. The Rockets’ Jeremiah Detmer made a 35-yard field goal, but BG senior Aaron Foster was flagged for roughing the kicker, giving Toledo a first down on the Falcons’ 9.
Bowling Green managed to keep the Rockets out of the end zone on the next three plays, but senior Cameron Truss was whistled for unsportsmanlike conduct to give Toledo a third crack at a TD, which the Rockets scored on the next play.
“Those two penalties were both daggers,” BG senior linebacker Paul Swan said. “They were both personal fouls, and that’s just dumb football.
“We have to be more mentally tough. We can’t get let our emotions get to us. If they kick a field goal, that’s four less points. … That’s a game-changer right there.”
The next glaring senior error came on Bowling Green’s first drive of the second half. The Falcons were facing fourth-and-goal from Toledo’s 1 when senior guard Dominic Flewellyn was flagged for a false start, and BG had to settle for a 23-yard field goal by Tyler Tate.
“I knew the cadence, but I guess I got over-anxious,” Flewellyn said. “I just jumped.”
The last senior error came in the waning moments as the Falcons, trailing by three, were trying to convert a third-and-13 from their own 32. Quarterback Matt Johnson found senior wide receiver Shaun Joplin behind the UT defense, but Joplin dropped a catchable pass.
Johnson threw a pass wide of Heath Jackson on fourth down, and Toledo was able to run out the clock.
“After a game like that, you have to be very careful with the blame game,” BG coach Dave Clawson said. “You can’t blame any one of those plays [alone]. If we make any of them different, it could have been a different game.”
FLUELLEN OUT: UT running back David Fluellen quelled concerns about his bad back when he ran for 61 yards on the opening drive. He never played again. Fluellen left after hurting his ankle, which has bothered him at various points the last two seasons.
Coach Matt Campbell said he did not know if Fluellen re-injured himself.
“With the ebb and flow of the game, to sit here and tell you what it is, and the diagnosis of it, I can’t,” Campbell said.
Campbell does not believe the injury is serious.
SYLVESTRE: UT linebacker Junior Sylvestre had a monster game, registering a game-high 12 tackles to go along with three sacks. His third sack came on BG’s final drive, dropping the Falcons back seven yards to set up third-and-13.
UT sacked Johnson six times, although two warrant an explanation. Johnson tripped for one sack and ran out of bounds one yard short of the line of scrimmage for another. Sacks were credited to Marquise Moore and Vladimir Emilien.
Another sack, Jayrone Elliott’s seventh of the season, was clean.
GO FOR IT: Bowling Green took the game’s opening kickoff and drove 52 yards to Toledo’s 23.
But facing a fourth-and-10, Clawson decided to pass on a 40-yard field goal and instead tried to get the first down. On the play Johnson found Ryan Burbrink near the right sideline, but Burbrink dropped the potential first-down pass.
“We did not feel we could kick a field goal against the wind unless we were inside the 17 or 18-yard line,” Clawson said.
JACKSON SHINES: BG’s Jared Cohen made his first start for the Falcons and caught a pass for 12 yards before getting injured.
That gave Heath Jackson an opportunity — and Jackson made the most of it. The junior led Bowling Green with seven receptions for 72 yards for a career night — literally. Coming in the contest, Jackson had just seven catches for 65 yards for his career.
“Heath played well — he made some big catches for us,” Clawson said. “He’s probably going to play a lot more going forward.”
THREE-DOT DATA: The Mid-American Conference announced that BG’s game at Miami on Nov. 5 will be broadcast on ESPNU starting at 8 p.m. That means the Buffalo at Ohio game also starting at 8 p.m. that night will be shown on ESPN2. ... UT safety Dejuan Rogers started in place of senior Ross Madison (knee). ... UT’s streak of four straight games with a defensive TD ended. ... Terrance Owens’ three touchdown passes marked his first multi-TD effort of the season.
Blade sports writers John Wagner and Ryan Autullo contributed to this report.