BOWLING GREEN, Ky. — The Bowling Green State University football team came into this season threatening to score points at a breakneck pace.
But “Falcon Fast” turned into a Falcon fiasco in the 2014 opener as it was Western Kentucky that trotted out the high-powered offense, rolling up 701 yards of total offense and eight touchdowns in a 59-31 victory Friday at L.T. Smith Stadium.
The BG defense was plagued by a mix of wide-open WKU receivers catching easy passes from quarterback Brandon Doughty, then adding yardage after the catch because of poor tackling.
The result was Doughty completing 46-of-56 passes for 569 yards and six touchdowns as the Falcons allowed the most points since surrendering 65 at Michigan on Sept. 25, 2010.
And while the offense did eventually get rolling, finishing with 465 yards, it sputtered early and gave the Hilltoppers a chance to build such a big lead that the outcome was no longer in doubt by halftime.
"It was a very poor effort, and I have to take responsibility for that," BG coach Dino Babers said. "A football team can't play that badly unless the head coach had something to do with it."
In fact, the only problem Western Kentucky had was with its stadium. Just before halftime a smoke alarm was pulled, causing warning lights to flash and knocking out the public address system.
Then early in the fourth quarter the scoreboard turned off, but was eventually restored.
As for the game itself, the Falcons took the opening kickoff and went three-and-out, and the Hilltoppers quickly got rolling.
Western Kentucky got the ball on its own 17 and raced down the field, with Doughty completing his first seven passes for 63 yards, followed by three running plays that ended with Leon Allen’s two-yard TD run.
After each team struggled on its next possession, BG mounted a drive that pushed it into the Hilltoppers’ red zone. But on a fourth-and-3 play from WKU’s 13, Matt Johnson kept the ball but failed to get the first down.
And from that point, Western Kentucky exploded. The Hilltoppers raced 88 yards to score, with Taywan Taylor catching a pass near midfield and running through the defense for a 55-yard TD.
Early in the second quarter, Bowling Green managed to drive to the WKU 10, but Tyler Tate pounded his 27-yard field-goal attempt off the right upright.
Western Kentucky promptly put together an 80-yard, eight-play scoring drive, this one capped by a 34-yard scoring toss by Doughty to Antwane Grant.
To add insult to injury, BG’s Darrell Hunter got caught up in a shoving match with Western Kentucky’s Tyler Higbee, threw a punch at Higbee’s head, and was ejected.
Trailing 21-0, the Falcons did mount a seven-play, 70-yard scoring drive that saw Johnson throw for 45 yards and Fred Coppet score from a yard out with 6:54 left in the second period.
But the Hilltoppers just kept driving and scoring, this time covering 75 yards in just six plays, with the final yardage coming on a nine-yard TD toss from Doughty to McNeal.
“As a unit, we just didn’t play up to the standards we set for ourselves,” senior defensive tackle Zach Colvin said. “We gave up 59 points, and I can’t tell you the last time we did that.
“That’s on the whole defense. We have to accept that and come back to work.”
The Falcons’ final points of the half came when Tate booted a 52-yard field, tying the longest of his career, with 2:50 left in the half.
That was enough time for Western Kentucky to drive 63 yards and set up Garrett Schwettman for a 29-yard field goal on the final play of the half.
The Hilltoppers took the second-half kickoff and marched down the field for their fifth touchdown of the night, ripping off 69 yards on 10 plays as Doughty threw his fourth TD pass, a 5-yard strike to Jared Dangerfield.
The Falcons offense started to come to life in the third quarter, responding to WKU’s touchdown by driving 75 yards on eight plays, the last a three-yard TD run by Andre Givens.
Bowling Green’s defense stopped the Hilltoppers, and a two-play, 51-yard drive saw Johnson find Ronnie Moore with a 41-yard scoring strike.
And the Hilltoppers put the game out of reach with Doughty’s six touchdown pass of the night, a five-yard toss to Dangerfield that capped an 11-play, 77-yard drive.
Bowling Green did score on a nine-play, 69-yard drive that saw Travis Greene score on an eight-yard run.
“This was a letdown. It certainly wasn’t what we expected,” said Johnson, who completed 25-of-36 passes for 314 yards.