Bowling Green defensive lineman Nico Lautanen has been at BGSU for five years now, he’s experienced the highs of winning a MAC Championship, and the lows of the years that followed. When the clock ticked to zero on Saturday afternoon at the Doyt, and the Falcons had pulled off an improbable upset against their bitter rivals, for Lautanen, this game stood alone.
“To be honest with you, we won the MAC in 2015, this moment today, it blows that out of the water. We spent a long five years for this and I’m just so proud of these seniors and so proud of this football team,” said Lautanen.
In a game that saw sloppy play from Toledo and an inspired Bowling Green football team on a mission to do something that no one on the team had ever experienced, the Falcons upset the Rockets 20-7 in front of a rambunctious home crowd at the Doyt.
For the guys that have stuck through the good times and the bad, this was an all-time victory and something that they will never forget.
“They left a legacy, plain and simple. We haven’t had that trophy in nine years and fifteen years from now, twenty years from now when they have kids running around, a wife, a great job, they will be able to get together and they will never forget this moment,” said Falcons head coach Scot Loeffler.
The Falcons came out blazing in the first quarter as Grant Loy started the game off with a 56-yard run, the Falcons would only get three points out of the drive, but that would set the tone on offense for the rest of the game.
Toledo would drive the length of the field, looking like they were getting ready to answer before quarterback Mitch Guadagni would fumble the ball inside the Bowling Green ten-yard line.
Bowling Green wouldn’t wait any longer to add on to their lead either, as Loy would connect with Denley for a 66-yard touchdown pass that would extend the lead to 10-0 in the first quarter.
Toledo would muff the kick on the ensuing kickoff and that would just be the start of the special team's woes for the Rockets in the first half. Special teams issues are uncharacteristic for a Toledo team that is normally solid in that area of the game.
Following the muffed kick, the Rockets would muff another one, both being recovered, but pinning them deep in their own area. The Falcons would also get a blocked punt, a blocked field goal in the second half, and Toledo would miss a field goal that would have made it 17-10 going into halftime. All of this contributed to the improbable loss for the Rockets.
“It was a game-changing play, you know statistically it’s really hard to overcome and win a football game when you give up a blocked punt, really hard to do. You know, on kickoffs we started drives on the one-yard line twice, and the success rate, on 99-yard drives in college football, is not very high,” said Jason Candle, head coach of the Rockets.
Despite some of the special team's woes, the Rockets would find their offensive stride scoring on a 14-yard pitch and catch from Guadagni to running back Bryant Koback to make the score 10-7 at the beginning of the second quarter.
That scoring drive is what most pundits thought a majority of the game would look like. But the Falcons had an answer of their own. A nine-play, 82-yard scoring drive, capped off by a 15-yard rushing touchdown from Loy brought the score to 17-7 midway through the second quarter.
Following that play, however, only three points would be scored for the rest of the game as Toledo could never get back into the rhythm of that second-quarter scoring drive. That in large part due to a much improved Bowling Green defensive line that had five sacks on the day and held Toledo, a team that averaged 264 rushing yards per game coming into the game, to just 132 yards on the ground.
Coming into the game, stopping the rushing attack of the Rockets was certainly the focus.
“That was an excellent football team. Our main emphasis was in stopping the run and coach Vangorder told that it’s going to take our best football today to get a win and that’s what we did, we just executed everything to perfection," said redshirt senior defensive lineman Nico Lautanen.
Lautenen starred for the Falcons on defense getting two sacks to go along with eight tackles and two tackles for loss. Six-year player on the defensive line David Konowalski had a huge game as well, getting seven tackles along with a sack that forced Toledo to take a timeout late in the fourth quarter.
But make no mistake, the play of Bowling Green offense is not to be understated. They out-gained the Rockets, 425-392. Something that most would have thought improbable coming into the game, and controlled the pace in the second half, allowing their defense to catch their breath on the sideline.
Most of the offense came from Grant Loy and Bryson Denley, with Loy leading the way for the Falcons in both rushing and passing. The redshirt junior and former walk-on had 185 passing yards on 14-of-21 passing and a touchdown to go along with 149 rushing yards on 19 attempts and a touchdown.
Denley’s quick open-field burst helped the Falcons up many times as he had six receptions for 100 yards and a touchdown. Not only was the 66-yard touchdown that he had in the first quarter huge, he also had a huge first down play on a swing pass that set up the Loy rushing touchdown.
This is no doubt a monumental win for a Bowling Green football program that has been down in the dumps for three years, but when Lautanen was asked about what it meant, his answer went deeper than just today’s result.
“When I think about this game I just think about all the players before me, and all of the players before them. I know how much this rivalry game means to them and that’s really what was going through my head. I’m just so happy for all the alumni,” Lautanen said.
Now the question becomes for this football team becomes, after such a huge win or the program, where do they go from here? Loeffler believes that the Falcons still have a long way to go.
“We gotta lock arms, the BG people have got to lock arms, we’ve got to recruit well. We’ve got to get this back, we’re chasing after trophies rather than just competing so we got a long way to go, this is a stepping stone there’s no doubt about it, there’s belief now. But at the end of the day, we have a long way to go and we’re going to work our tail off to get to where we want to be,” Loeffler said.
The Falcons now move to 1-1 in MAC play and will hope to carry the momentum of this win over to a home contest next week against Central Michigan.