Battle of I-75 2020

Bowling Green running back Andrew Clair battles his way through the Rockets defensive during the Falcons opening season game against Toledo. (Isaiah Vazquez/ BGSU Marketing & Communications)

After playing their first regular season game since Nov. 29, Bowling Green failed to defend their upset win against Toledo from last year, falling 38-3 to the Rockets last night.

Anything that could go wrong, went wrong for the Falcons in the opening minutes of the game.

First, a snap goes over punter Matt Naranjo’s head and into the endzone on the first drive of the game. Naranjo would get the punt away but only to the Falcons’ own 20.

From there Toledo was able to get on the board first thanks to a two-yard touchdown pass from Eli Peters to Bryant Koback, giving the Rockets the lead 6-0 after a missed extra point from kicker Thomas Cluckey.

Bowling Green would then proceed to throw an interception on the third play of the next drive, setting the Rockets up at the Falcons’ 25-yardline.

Toledo would take advantage of the good field position with a six-play, 25-yard drive that ended with a nine-yard touchdown pass from Peters, this time to Devin Maddox.

Then the Falcons put together one of their best looking drives of the night on their third possession before freshman Tyrone Bolden fumbled the ball after a 23-yard catch, giving the Rockets the ball at their own 25-yardline.

The Rockets would turn that turnover into 21 points on three-straight drives after Peters’ third touchdown pass of the night came off an 18-yard reception by Jerjuan Newton.

It was a nightmare start for Bowling Green, as they dug themselves a hole that proved too deep to dig themselves out of.

“We can’t make those mistakes. Where we are at as a team, we can’t make those mistakes. We need to make sure that when plays present themselves, we make the plays,” Falcons Head Coach Scot Loeffler said. “We turned the ball over, we couldn’t run the ball. It was disappointing to say the least.”

Heading into the second quarter down 21, the Falcons’ defense needed to step up to keep it from getting out of hand and it did, holding the Rockets scoreless in the quarter.

Sophomore linebacker Darren Anders was a big part of that, as he led the team with 11 tackles in the game.

“This is a good defense and we showed it at times today. We are going to get on this film and we’re going to learn. At times we did not execute at all, they were running the ball up our throats, we had a couple missed tackles but yeah we are going to watch film, get better and look for a win next week,” Anders said.

The Falcons were not able to capitalize on the strong defense however, and the game went into halftime with the Rockets up 21-0.

The defense would get a few more stops coming out of halftime, but after the long drought from the Rockets, they would get back on the scoreboard in the third quarter in a big way after a 42-yard pitch and catch from Peters to Bryce Mitchell making the score 28-0 with 5:42 left.

On the ensuing drive, the Falcons would have their best offensive sequence of the game when Matt McDonald would have a 24-yard rush, followed by a 42-yard flea to wide receiver Julian Ortega-Jones flicker that would put the Falcons up to the goaline.

But knocking on the doorstep of the Rockets, the offense would again struggle as Bryson Denley, taking the snaps after Andrew Clair went out with an injury, was not able to punch it in for the Falcons. They looked like they might go for it, even after a penalty pushed them back to the seven-yardline, but they opted for the points.

“Looking back, should we have went for it and tried to score a touchdown? I don’t know, but the mindset there was to try to get some points on the board and try to get some momentum going,” Loeffler said. “We had a hard time with that last year on third and one situations and goal line situations. It’s an area that we need to improve on,” Loeffler said.

Clair would not return to the game, finishing with 37 yards on 12 carries and the 25-yard kick by Nate Needham was the only three points for the Falcons in the game.

“We were just having little mistakes here and there, missed assignments that caused our run to get stopped. We just couldn’t get going as an offense. I think a lot of people were flustered today, we just weren’t looking good at all as an offense. Hopefully we come back on Tuesday and we play a lot better than we did today,” Ortega-Jones said.

The Rockets would add 10 more points in the rest of the game, with a six-yard run from Shakif Seymour and a 19-yard field goal from Cluckey.

Matt McDonald showed some promise, but made a lot of mistakes, including two interceptions. The first of which was a pass thrown behind Quintin Morris.

“I haven’t seen him throw behind a guy in a long time to be honest with you. He got behind on the first interception. It is his first time out there playing again but he’ll get better and better with time. Obviously he didn’t play the way we expected or that he expects, but he’s a great kid, a great player. I can promise you that he will work to where he needs to be,” Loeffler said.

McDonald finished the game 8 of 30, throwing for 128 yards and two interceptions.

The Falcons fall to 0-1 with the loss, and will look to get their first win of the season at home against Kent State on Tuesday. The kickoff is set for 7 p.m. ET

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