This season was a tough one on the Falcons. Bowling Green finished the season 0-5 after their last game with Miami was cancelled due to COVID-19 problems stemming from the RedHawks.
The struggles this team faced during the season were expected. Bowling Green was projected during the offseason to be at the bottom of the conference, and were even projected to be at the bottom of the MAC East.
BGSU Head Coach Scot Loeffler had his work cut out for him in his second season at Bowling Green. With COVID-19 shutting down spring practices and summer camps, the team could not work out together. They resorted to Zoom meetings, but couldn’t get the conditioning to the level they wanted. For a developing team, this was a problem.
“We need to be in the weight room. We need to be developing this team year round,” Loeffler said.
The offense this year struggled. They ranked last in the conference and ranked near the bottom in all of college football in points scored per game with 11.4 points a game. A common theme with this team was not finishing drives. They could move the ball but could not be effective in the redzone. This is a major part of the offense that the coaches will focus on for next year.
“If you can teach your team how not to lose games, you're going to be super successful in this league,” Loeffler said.
Redshirt junior Matt McDonald got his chance to start at quarterback after sitting out last year due to transfer rules. McDonald had a down year this year with throwing 712 yards in five games along with one touchdown and six interceptions. There were times where McDonald made the wrong read, but there were also drops by the receivers and the offensive line had protection breakdowns.
A bright spot for the Falcons’ offense was the running game. Redshirt junior Andrew Clair and breakout freshman Terion Stewart led the Falcons’ rushing attack. The team averaged 184 yards a game and produced big plays for the offense. Stewart had four of the team’s five rushing touchdowns.
The Falcons’ defense had little going for them this season. A huge hole in the defense was their run defense. They allowed 310.2 yards per game on the ground and 16 touchdowns. A major factor that contributed to this was poor tackling.
The passing defense does stress this point. The secondary allowed 165.6 yards a game, which was second in the conference. However, they allowed 12 touchdowns on the season. During the games, opposing teams would have screen passes or short passes go for long gains or touchdowns. There weren't a lot of times where the defense would give up the deep shots.
This season was geared toward building for the future. The team was starting an uncommon amount of freshmen and redshirt freshmen because there wasn’t a lot of developed talent on the roster. Winning immediately is not a priority right now.
“I was hired to do one thing and one thing only, to bring this place back and to get it to their sustainability,” Loeffler said.
Loeffler has mentioned before that he is not looking to go for the quick fix. He is not interested in getting transfers or junior college kids to field a competitive team. This doesn’t mean Loeffler doesn’t want to win, there is just more work that needs to be done before looking to win.
Bowling Green was a struggling program that couldn’t retain a lot of players. They needed to have all the freshmen they could start to jump start this rebuild. Bowling Green is not a quick fix away from competing and sustaining success. Loeffler is brought in to build a culture for Bowling Green.
This season brought a lot to be confident about the future of the program but also showed some worries about if it can be achieved with Loeffler. Before a game against Buffalo, Loeffler said something that speaks to the optimistic and pessimistic sides of the rebuild.
“I haven’t been more fired up in my career to build this thing because we see where it can go. But to sit here and say this thing is gonna happen overnight, it might get uglier before it gets better but we don’t care,” he said.
Loeffler seems committed to not steer away from his plan to build a program. Getting transfers only takes a team so far in the future. And transfers should not be relied on to build a culture; a culture is built by players who have been with the team for three to five years. Loeffler has executed this plan with his 2020 class so far.
There is optimism that Loeffler can recruit talent. Stewart is a perfect example of the raw talent Loeffler has recruited. Stewart had 295 rushing yards on the season, which leads the team. He is third on the team with only 37 carries and averaged 8.0 yards a carry. He was a big play waiting to happen.
After the Kent State game where Stewart had two touchdowns, Loeffler talked about how there are still parts of the game Stewart needs to learn. Developing the talent will take time, but it is a welcoming sign to see the freshmen, like Stewart, make an impact on the team.
A worry for this team could be that they will be as bad or worse next season. This program is not close to competing in the near future. A couple more recruitment classes need to be in place to establish Loeffler’s culture and patience within the program will be tested. For Bowling Green to succeed, they need to allow Loeffler another three or four years to have his players in the building and to establish his culture.
This season did show that McDonald was not fully prepared yet. While there were times where the pass protection or the receivers failed him, there were multiple times where McDonald missed a throw or didn’t read the field effectively. This is concerning as McDonald is tied to Loeffler since McDonald followed Loeffler to Bowling Green from Boston College. With Loeffler’s history of coaching quarterbacks, he is expected to recruit and develop good quarterbacks.
Despite the negatives this season has brought, the future for Bowling Green is bright. It will take years for this team to compete for a bowl bid. Hopefully, this team can get back to having a full offseason starting in January, because they desperately need a full offseason to develop themselves.
This season was a good way to give the young players game experience. With all the negatives that surrounded McDonald, this season gave him a chance to play in a college football game. He has not started in a game in years and had limited college football experience.
The five games the Falcons played helped expose Loeffler’s first whole recruitment class to the collegiate game. We got to see the talent Loeffler brought in and where this team needs to improve. The 2020 season helped establish a foundation to the BGSU football program that will be built upon, starting in the offseason