KENT, Ohio – Bowling Green closed with 24 unanswered points to hand Kent State a 41-22 loss in the Mid-American Conference opener for both East Division rivals on Saturday afternoon at Dix Stadium.
The two teams traded punches in the first half with Kent State taking a 22-17 lead on a 2-yard Trayion Durham touchdown run with 4:40 to play before halftime. After that, it was all Bowling Green.
"It was not a very good outcome, of course," said Kent State coach Paul Haynes. "We started the first half very well … but then there were things we talked about that we couldn't do on the defensive side. Give up big plays. Mental Mistakes. We had way too many of those."
Following the Durham scoring plunge, the Golden Flashes had outgained the Falcons 243-to-237. From that point on, Bowling Green's offense racked up 341 yards to just 59 by Kent State.
A Matt Johnson-to-Jared Cohen touchdown pass of seven yards just before halftime put the Falcons back into the lead for good at 24-22. Their 17-0 shutout in the second half included a game-breaking 92-yard scoring pass from Johnson to Ryan Burbink on third-and-15.
"We had just a three-man rush on them, trying to play coverage," said Haynes. "It was a three-deep scheme … and they split the zone. We have to play it a lot better. That can be covered. We just didn't. That wasn't 'the' play. But it was a big play."
Johnson finished with 357 yards on 19-for-25 passing. He was complimented by a running game that gained 219 yards on 46 attempts, including 146 on 24 runs by Travis Greene.
Three different Falcons scored on the ground. Greene plowed in from 1-yard for the game's opening score with 10:22 to play in the first quarter. Andre Givens added a 3-yard touchdown to put Bowling Green ahead 17-15 with 6:57 to play in the second, and William Houston closed the scoring with a 1-yard dive early in the fourth.
The Falcons went on rack up 576 yards of total offense.
"It simply wasn't fundamental football," said Kent State defensive tackle Roosevelt Nix, who became the program's all-time leader in tackles for loss at 56 with his two sacks. "We were there. You can't let good backs and a good offense get extra shots. On first hit, you have to get them down."
After a 15-fumble, 23-interception season in 2012, the Golden Flashes defense is still in search of its first forced turnover of 2013. Add in last year's GoDaddy.com Bowl in Mobile, Ala., is Kent State's turnover drought is at three games.
"That was a key for us before," said Haynes. "We just aren't getting them. Some years you get them. Some years we don't … It comes down to fundamentals to get the ball."
Kent State freshman quarterback Colin Reardon had the offense rolling in the first half behind touchdown passes of 42 yards to Chris Humphrey in the first quarter and 12 yards to Casey Pierce in the second quarter.
Reardon completed 10-of-14 passes for 131 yards and the two scores in the first half, but finished with just 164 yards on 15-for-28 for the game.
"In the second half we saw everything we did in the first half," said Reardon, who also led Kent State in rushing with 58 yards on 12 carries. "We just were not executing … If we had executed it would have been the same thing as the first half."
The Golden Flashes (1-1) will go on the road for games at LSU, Penn State and Western Michigan in the next three weeks.
"We are going to fight," said Haynes. "That's what you do. This is week two. This isn't the end of the season. The world isn't over. We've been beaten before. We come back. We are not going to put our tails between our legs."
Senior defensive tackle Roosevelt Nix is now Kent State's career leader in tackles for loss with 56.0, passing Michael Zele (1975-78), after adding four to his total on Saturday. He is also now tied for third among Kent State's career sack leaders with 21.5. Nix also moved into the MAC's top 10 in career tackles for loss.
Junior Chris Humphrey led the Flashes in receiving yards (84) for the second straight game and made his second touchdown catch in as many games.
Redshirt freshman Colin Reardon threw a pair of touchdown passes with no interceptions for the second straight week. He also completed his first five passes of the game for the second straight week. Reardon led the Flashes with 58 yards rushing.
Junior DeVante' Strickland had career-highs of 11 tackles and eight solo tackles.
Junior tight end Casey Pierce made his second touchdown catch in as many games.
Junior Trayion Durham scored his 19th career rushing touchdown.
Sophomore Anthony Melchiori had a 62-yard punt, his longest of the season.
Senior safety Luke Wollet hit the 10-tackle mark for the fifth time in his career.
Sophomore Jordan Italiano matched a career-high of seven tackles.
Chris Humphrey's two-point conversion in the first half was Kent State's first since 2011.
At halftime, the Mid-American Conference presented Kent State with the Cartwright Award for program excellence in academics, athletics and citizenship during the 2012-13 school year. It is Kent State's second Cartwright Award in the last four years.
Kent State's crowd of 22,758 was the eighth largest in program history.
Bowling Green Coach Dave Clawson
"It's good to win a game like this, over the past 2 years our defense has carried us and this is really the first game we've had in 2 years that we struggled on defense and our offense carried the team. I thought we made some really good second half adjustments by our defensive staff. Credit to Kent they really had us on our heels in the first half, they did a great job. We made some adjustments and the kids executed, it was a really good win for us."
On Quarterback Matt Johnson
"Johnson played really well, that was his first college start. I'm sure we'll go back and look at the film and find all the little things he could have done better. He made plays and continued to make plays with his feet that opened up some other aspects of our offense. I thought he also played well in the pocket. Last week when he played there was a lot of energy and he made a lot of plays with his feet and we didn't execute the passing game at the level we would have liked to. This week he executed the drop back game very well. A lot of credit goes to our offensive line as well, Kent has a good defensive front, I'm so glad Roosevelt Nix is a senior so we don't have to play against him again."
On 92 yard touchdown pass
"It was good protection, it was just a 4 vertical concept and we protected it well, Matt had good patience in the pocket and it was just one of those plays, it was a great play and Burbrink extended for it and if it was another half inch inside it probably would have been deflected. Good protection, good route, good ball, and that's what we didn't get last week, but we did this week."
On Defensive adjustments
"In the second half we brought a little bit more pressure. Kent was doing a good job of creating some run-pass dilemmas and we weren't handling the zone read option well at all, they got outside our safety a few times and in the second half we made the adjustment of keeping our safety outside the arch back and then brought some pressure so it just sorted out the gaps for us a little better."
On running back Greene
"He played a good game. Travis is a tough kid, he's a good player, he's not the biggest of stature, but he's a tough guy he's got good vision and good balance. Credit to the o-line they opened up a lot of holes for him."
On wide receiver Joplin
"Every catch was huge, the 3rd down catch at the end, the deep ball before the half and he caught everything, he didn't drop a ball. He always seems to make real important plays and he did that today."
On defending Roosevelt Nix
"At times we moved the pocket, we tried to get 2 people on him at times, but he's an outstanding player, he's someone you have to account for and we tried to not single block him as much as possible."
Kent State Players
"It was fundamental football. We have to regroup and make the plays. We have to prepare to make every play. Sometimes the other team get extra shots and extra yards and you just have to bring them down."
- Roosevelt Nix
"Second half, we still had everything we had in the first half,we just weren't executing and I take full blame for that. Some people got a little lazy, but that's my fault. As quarterback, you have to keep everyone's head on straight. We came out a little lackadaisical and then from there it just kind of went downward. It's all my fault. i take blame for the offensive part, i didn't Keep everybody on track and have a fire. We just weren't executing, that's all really. If we had done the same as we did in the first half we probably would have ended up winning."
- Colin Reardon
"This was not a very good outcome for us, of course. We started the first half very good offensively, and defensively. But the things we talked about that we couldn't do on the defensive side of the ball—give up big plays and have mental mistakes—we just had way too many. And that's nobody's fault but us coaches. We have to have a solid game plan and our guys have to understand it. We can't give up big plays because of mental mistakes. We have to go back to the drawing board. We have to simplify and find out what we can do well. But it's a long season; it isn't over. We will regroup, we will come together as a team and we will be stronger."
On how the game got away in the 2nd half:
"When you look at the history of this game the last couple years, it's been about big plays, and we gave up far too many. There were broken coverages and things like that, so we need to simplify things to make sure our kids can do the things we're asking them to do. You can't win against a good football team giving up big plays. You have to make them earn it."
On Bowling Green's ability to make big plays on 3rd down:
"We were going back-and-forth with our coverage, sometimes using a 3-man rush, and they seemed to have an answer for it. We just couldn't quite make a play, and they hit us with a few big ones and kind of broke it open."
On 92-yard touchdown pass on 3rd-and-15 that put BG ahead 34-22 with 4:33 to play in 3rd quarter:
"We were in a 3-deep scheme and they ran 4 verts, split the zone and just got us. We just have to play it better. That's the biggest thing. We have to play it a lot better than we played it because it can be covered. We just didn't play it right. And when we don't, big plays are going to happen."
On what he saw as the difference in the team's offense between the 1st and 2nd half:
"It just comes down to [execution]. There were plays that were there—a dropped pass here and there, a missed block here and there. They ran the same blitzes that they ran in the 1st half. It just comes down to doing a better job of coming out of the gate at halftime. When we sit down and watch this film, we're going to see that there were plays there, but we just didn't execute. And in the 1st half, we executing perfectly. It still comes down to the little things—throwing, catching, blocking, tackling—that we have to do better."
On how his team will prepare for road games against BCS conference opponents in the next 2 weeks:
"We're going to fight. This is Week 2. This isnt' the end of the season.The world isn't over; we lost. We've been beaten before, but we're going to come back as strong as ever. We're going to go fight, we're going to get our road focus on and that's it. We're not going to put our tail between our legs and act like the world is over."
On the defense being unable to force any turnovers in the first 2 games of the season:
"That was a key for us before. We have to focus on it a little bit. We already do a lot in practice, but we just aren't getting them. We have to plant drive a little better. Wehave to strip the ball a little bit better. It still comes down to the fundamentals and technique of the stuff to get the ball."