Sunday, December 08, 2019

Falcons Finish Hard, Beat Oakland

Coach Huger said after the game that it was a good example of what MAC play will be every night...a tough, grinding, possession by possession game that required BG to find a couple new playmakers and then make a couple big baskets late to beat Oakland, a well-coached team that always plays hard.

It breaks a five-game losing streak to Oakland.

BG, playing without Justin Turner, controlled the play in the first half.  The Falcons led by 8 about mid-way through and popped it into double figures with about four minutes left and led by 9 at the half.

The second half was much different.  Oakland came out and played much better defense.  They did a better job at getting the ball into the paint--which is their strength--and BG had a hard time defending against their two very good power forwards.  BG was still leading by 11 with 14 left, but then Oakland went on a 16-2 run and took the lead with 8 minutes left.

I was pleased, though, that BG was able to re-engage the battle.  Lots of times, teams have trouble doing that.  

With 2:22 left, Oakland did something really unusual, but was worth noting.  They hack-a-miked Michael Laster.  He was bringing the ball up and just out of nowhere they fouled him intentionally.  Granted, he came in as a 58% FT shooter...but you just don't see that, especially with that much time left.  I don't know if they were trying to get BG to pull him out or honestly felt that was their best defensive shot--they had been defending well.  They were in the double bonus...just strange.  (Spoiler alert:  it seemed to awaken the inner-New Yorker in Laster, who made all 6 FTs coming home, including the 2 after the hack-a-mike incident.

BG had a 3 point lead, but then from 3:20 to 1:41 Oakland scored 9 points and allowed 2 to have a four point lead.  

ESPN gave them a 75% chance of winning.

BG had the ball, down 4, ran offense.  Coach said the play was for Laster to get to the rim but he drew the help and then hit Diggs in the corner.  Diggs had been struggling, but he nailed this shot, which the Falcons absolutely had to gave.  Down 1, 1:25 to play, Oakland's PG--who had been pressured all night by a variety of Falcons--got into the paint but missed his shot and Sierra boarded and BG ran a break and with :53 left Diggs hit a layup to put BG in the lead.

On the next possession OU got the ball deep to Xavier Hill-Mais, their best player, but he turned it over on the baseline with :33 left.  (It was on the other end of the court from me, but the call required a lengthy video review.)

Oakland fouled...Laster...with :31 left, but he made both FTs to put BG up 3.  At this point, you're one stop from a win.  BG defended really hard--and Oakland isn't a 3FG shooting team...Hill-Mais ended up launching a brick with :13 left, BG had the rebound, Laster was fouled, he made both FTs to make it 5 and OU got a last second meaningless layup.

It wasn't always pretty but it was a gritty 68-65 win.  When you think about the teams we have admired in the MAC over the years...that's what they do.  They make plays right up until the end and walk out with a win while the losing team wonders how it happened.

Looking at the numbers, the game was definitely played at Oakland's pace, with 65 total possessions.  BG ended up with a good offensive night at 1.05 points per possession.  Oakland scored 1 point per possession, which higher than they have been scoring and higher than BG has been allowing.  It is right on the D1 average, though.

BG's offensive path is clear.  The Falcons are only shooting 47% (EFG), which is well below the national average.  What BG does right is not turn the ball over.  They have turned the ball over on 12.5% of their possessions....WHICH LEADS THE NATION.  So, you don't shoot well, but you have extra shooting possessions because you don't turn it over, and you can score.

As below.

In fact, Oakland beat BG everywhere else.  As noted in the preview, OU gets to the line a lot.  They shot 19 FTs and made 13 (68%), while BG only shot 16 but made 12 (75%) and made 10 of 12 in the second half.

BG continues to struggle to make 2FGs.  The national average is 49%.  BG is shooting 44% and is 303rd in the country.  They shot 49% against Oakland but only 33% from beyond the arc.  Meanwhile, OU made 57% of their 2 FGs and only 30% from 3FG.

Interesting note.  Oakland has attempted 40% of its FGs from behind the arc in four games, including this one, and lost them all.

As mentioned, BG is playing without Justin Turner.  Dylan Frye has been carrying the scoring load, but he didn't have it last night....and for much of the game Trey Diggs did not either.

You needed other guys to score to win, and BG got them.  Daeqwon Plowden had his best game of the season, scoring 23 points...6 of 9 from 2FG and 3 of 4 from 3FG.  That's a great offensive night in anybody's book.  He made both his FTs, had 10 rebounds, 2 steals and only 1 turnover.  He stepped up when the team needed someone to.

The other stepper-upper was Tayler Mattos.  He scored 12 points...his first double figure night as a Falcon...on 5 of 6 shooting and 2 of 3 from the line.  He added 9 rebounds, two blocked shots and a steal and only one turnover.  Played 26 minutes.  

Mattos has been a pleasant surprise.  He's replacing an all-MAC player and he's not that right now and he's probably not even to the mid-point of MAC post players, but I feel like he's been solid on a team with other good players.  BG has been playing a mostly post-free lineup in the last few games.  I think he's got a shot to be a contributor. BG has a decent track record developing big men.

Dylan Frye scored 10 points and was 1-8 from 3FG.  It happens.  Also, he had 7 assists over 1 turnover.  He was not on the floor over the last 1:41 of the game.

Also, there's no stats for it, but Caleb Fields played a great defensive game on the Oakland PG, leaving him little room to operate.

BG is now 7-2 and #106 in Kenpom.  Next up is the hot mess Cleveland State Vikings--who delivered BG their rock-bottom moment last season.  The next four games--and the last four until MAC play--are against teams ranked 300 or above.

Friday, December 06, 2019

Oakland Preview

Following a week off, BG has the Oakland Golden Grizzlies coming to town.  Oakland is a common opponent that plays a lot of MAC teams...and they are coached by Greg Kampe, a former BG two-sport player.

BG has played Oakland 8 times and lost 5 of the games.  In fact, they have lost THE LAST 5, in that Oakland has a five-game winning streak over BG.  The GG have never played at the Stroh. 

They were picked 5th out of 10 in the Horizon this year.  They lost @NIU by 24, @UT by 2 and won @ WMU by 10.  Overall, they are 5-4 with a kenpom of 170.

To date, Oakland has shown themselves to be a slow-paced, defensively-minded team this year.  Their games have only 64.5 possessions, #333 in the nation.  BG plays at 74 possessions, the 29th fastest in the country.

So controlling the pace will be key.

As you can see below, OU's offensive efficiency is a halftick below the national average and BG's defense is a little better.  If the Falcons do indeed get stops, that will bode well for pushing the pace.  The big spread is the other way, as BG is scoring effectively and the GG are struggling to make baskets.

So let's look at that one first.  BG doesn't shoot very well and OU is effective guarding the shot.  They are above average guarding 2FG and 3FG...and BG is very good at making 3FGs and poor at 2FGs.  It's unusual for a team to score as well as it does while not shooting great...but the key is turnovers.  BG is #2 in the nation in not turning the ball over, which gives the offense extra possessions to score, even when not shooting well.  BG is not going great at offensive rebounding or getting to the line...and OU excels at those two things.  They are #30 at preventing FTs.

Looking the other way, things are similar.  OU is a poor shooting team...worse than BG.  They are average shooting 2FGs but awful (28%) from 3FG.  As expected, their shot mix leans to 2FG.  They turn the ball over a lot but they are decent on their offensive boards.  The trouble point is in the last column...they get to the line a lot (like teams with the ball in the paint typically do) and BG has given up a load of FTs.  They good thing is they are making 67%, which isn't great.  If the GG are getting to the line, though, and start making them, that's a chance for them to compete.

Individually, they are led by All-Horizon F Xavier Hill-Mais.  He's a 6'7" SR who is built like a football player.  He's scoring 15 a game on 57% shooting and 7.4 RPG.  Their other double-figurer scorer is Daniel Oladapo, a 6'7" SO JUCO transfer.  He's scoring 11.8 on 57% shooting and adding over 7 rebounds as well.

These guys are both formidable.

Their PG is Kevin Kangu, who has a 1:1 assist/to ratio and shoots 32% overall and 27% from 3FG.

I haven't heard anything but would be shocked to see Turner play.  This is a game BG should win but Oakland always plays hard, nearly beat Toledo and has been beating us.

Wednesday, December 04, 2019

Two from BG All-MAC

The MAC announced the All-MAC teams today

McElwain was Coach of the Year...and then he might be gone...and my vote might have gone to Sean Lewis who did something few have ever done.  WMU had both the offensive and defensive players of the year, which is odd for a team not in the title game.  Anyway, you might have had your own favorite but I feel like all those winners were deserving.

BG put two players onto the All-MAC teams...and they certainly were deserving.  Quinton Morris was 2nd-team at WR after being 3rd in the MAC with 55 receptions.  He was 8th in receiving yards.  This is certainly a deserved award.  Morris was, by definition, the focus of the defense's attention or he's capable of even more.  That he gutted that many out is an All-MAC worthy year to be sure.

Kholbe Coleman-Abrams was third team at LB.  He was 7th in the MAC in tackles.

If anyone was deserving who did not make it, I think its Brandon Perce, who was actually 6th in tackles.  In context, Bryson Denley is a worthy player, but the overall numbers aren't there to make it likely.

Congrats to Q and Kholbe.  Look forward to seeing you back on the field next Fall.  Thanks for being Falcons.

Tuesday, December 03, 2019

Football: State of the Program

So 2019 is over.  It was a long season and we don't want to overly belabor it but also don't want to not take a second to understand how rough it was.  It is worth remembering when we get back again.

We are in year four of the worst four year period in team history.  In the 4 seasons since Babers left, BG is 12-36.  This has simply never happened to us before.  It shows the incredible importance of head coaching in college sports.  One decision can transform the program or it can wreck it and BG dropped the ball twice.

In 2019, Bowling Green repeated its 3-9 record but it was actually a significantly worse season than we had the year before. 

In 2018 when BG was 3-9 the team scored 24.7 PPG and allowed 33...conference games that's losing 9 per game and placing 9th on each side of the ball.

This year, BG lost a touchdown per game ON EACH SIDE OF THE BALL.  The offense fell to 11th at 17.4 PPG and defense fell to last at 40 PPG.

So, one year you were 3-9/2-6 at -9 per game and this year you were 3-9/2-6 at -23 per game.

For reference, the Clawson 2-10 team lost by 10.5 per game.

It's no surprise how this happened.  If I had told you at the end of 2018 that BG would come back not only without Scotty Miller, but also Jarret Doege, Rico Frye, Re'vion Hargrove and Andrew Clair (essentially), you would have thought we were going to lose at least a touchdown a game.

On defense, BG was poor to start with and then had some off-season losses and then some injuries on top of that.  Especially up front, BG is starting way too many guys who are young, undersized, or are not D1 scholarship players.

It's not a reflection on the guys we have.  They've done nothing wrong, and, like I said, are survivors and that's worth something.  It was one of the worst seasons we have ever far as I can see, the 1935 (net loss, 30 points) might be our only less successful season.

But this wasn't about being good this year.  Or, even next year.  This is about getting the program back to where it needs to be, which means a solid foundation, a good culture and a team set up to compete every year.  This year was part of that journey.

And next year is likely to be, as well.  BG is severely undermanned...short in double-digit numbers on scholarships.  Furthermore, the NCAA rules will not allow BG to get the numbers right in one season...and even if you did, they'd be freshmen and mostly not ready to play.  So that problem was bad...and could easily get worse if BG loses other players who aren't in for The Loeffler Experience.

Long term that's good.  Short term, that's a problem.

Below is the depth chart for the Buffalo game.  The guys marked out in orange are graduating and the players (right now there's only one) in brown are guys who entered the portal.  A couple of points.

On the positive side, with McDonald presumably at the helm next year and Clair back, the offense has the potential to be better.  We don't know how good McDonald will be...better than the guys we had, sure, but overall he's an unknown quantity but almost certain to be an improvement.

BG loses only one starter on the line, which is good.  The worst position is WR. BG is crazy weak at WR.  Ortega-Jones improved late in the season, so that's one.  There's Jake Rogers and Tyrone Broden, who saw a little action, and Noah Massey, who caught one pass in the opener.  There's one WR in the incoming class based on the verbals...he's a 3-star player.

TE I think is solid.  Morris is good, Sims showed some potential and Joey Carroll played a little as well.

On defense, you just have a long way to go.  On the line, you have some potentially decent players but you need to rotate 8 of them or so.  LB is also very shallow...there are a couple in the next class.  D-back is the most promising position, in my preview.  Jordan Anderson, Davin Wilson and JaJuan Hudson all played effectively as true FR, as did Biggers.  We saw the same thing with the 2010 backfield with Clawson...those guys suffered that year but ended up being players.  But the defense is undermanned and not a one-year project, either.

What we are about is getting 85 guys in here who want to do what it takes to win.  That's the game right now.  What you see on the field is something that has to happen, but BG needs 85 guys who want to win and have it in their DNA.

And that means recruiting.  In Coach's words, recruiting our tails off.  On this front, I believe we are in the right place.  My understanding is that BG is running a P5 level recruiting operation. 

We are 4th in the MAC in recruiting, but a couple of points.  First, Jaret Patterson was a 2-star recruit.  And, Jinks brought in highly ranked classes, look where that got us.  We're looking for depth...we can't miss on any of these guys and that takes a level of evaluation SO FAR past what the rankings do that it's ridiculous.  Our guys have to be good players and the right kind of people, or this program isn't going anywhere.

And that's incredibly difficult to do.  We'll see in a couple weeks how BG does in its first attempt.  As is always the case, people are after our best recruits and we're hanging on.  We have to succeed.  This class is a must-win game.

Monday, December 02, 2019

Loy to Transfer

NickP of The Blade on the beat early for a Monday morning.  I doubt if this is the last time we do this...Grant Loy is going to transfer.

As in all cases, Grant should be where he wants to be.  It's his life and I wish him nothing but the best.

We owe him thanks.  No doubt, he wasn't the greatest QB we ever had, but we were lucky to have him and he played through one of the program's most challenging seasons.  He's a survivor and a Falcon for life.

And a legend.  Seriously, a legend.  The UT-BG rivalry has not had a more unlikely upset or a more unlikely hero, but there it is.  He took BG to an enormous upset in the biggest win here since 2015 and breaking the rivalry drought.

You can understand his thinking.  Coach said that McDonald won the job in Fall camp and he will be eligible and will be expected to start.  BG will have 2 3-star QB recruits coming in as well.  Best case, Loy would expect to back McDonald up...though redshirt rules make that less likely than in the past.  BG had talked about moving him to TE, but apparently he wants the chance to do something else and that's his prerogative.  He's graduating and I hope he gets the most out of his graduate education.

The moment he helped give us--that sunny day, with half of his hometown in the stands--will not be forgotten.

Be well, Grant.

Final Review of season's opponents

Morgan State (3-8)  Tied for 7th in MEAC.
Kansas State (8-4) Finish 8-4, 5-4 in Big 12.
La Tech (9-3) Big success story.  This was a good team at the Doyt.  (Did not win their division).
Kent (6-6) Sean Lewis doing a job here in one of the toughest places in college ball.  Man, what if he gets the job at BG when Babers leaves?
Notre Dame (10-2)--Successful season, to be sure.  Ranked #16
Toledo (6-6) Very disappointing.  2-5 after losing to BG and 5 points from being 0 and 7.
CMU (8-4) One of the biggest FBS turnarounds. Playing for title.
WMU (7-5) One game from playing for the title
Akron (0-12) Ouch.  We can empathize.
Miami (7-5) Clinched East outright, 6-2 record.
Ohio (6-6) High expectations...
Buffalo (6-6) Finished strong. Will be formidable again next year.

East vs. West:  10-8 West
MAC vs P5:  (1-21)
MAC vs. G5:  (6-9)
MAC vs. FCS: (11-0)

Some BG "Alumni" you might be curious about....

Wake Forest/Dave Clawson--8-4, finished T-3 in ACC Atlantic.
Syracuse/Dino Babers--5-7, no bowl.  10 wins last year.
Gregg Brandon--Colorado School of Mining made DII playoffs, lost in first round.
Terrence Stephens--Finished with 500 yards rushing at Robert Morris.
Bryce Veasley--3 rushing attempts for Duquesne
Jarret Doege--Played 4 games, led team in pass efficiency.  Completed 66%, 7 TD and 3 INT.
James Morgan--58% completions.  12/3 ratio.  Lower efficiency rating than Doege
Kyle Junior--Left OK State before Game 1
Ra'veion Hargrove--did not appear to play at Garden City CC.
Josh Croslen--Sat out at UTSA

Sunday, December 01, 2019

BG Outlasts Dartmouth

BG played its first D1 opponent at the Stroh yesterday and picked up the win they were expected to get.  In fact, BG was favored by 8 and won by 7.  There were certainly parts of the game that were not pretty for the Falcons but overall it's a win.

First, as Urban Meyer said, "one thing we will never apologize for is winning."

Second, BG is playing without its best player and possibly the best player in the MAC.

That was certainly evident on the offensive end, where the Big Green put a lot of attention on Trey Diggs and BG seemed to lack another scorer or even anyone who wanted to shoot.  Coach Huger's point on the post game show is that Justin is also our best defensive player and our organizer on defense and we miss him maybe more there.

BG ended up with a decent offensive day, but there was a period early in the second half when Dartmouth was just shredding BG, particularly off the dribble.  To be fair, we've seen that problem before even with Turner in the game...we seem to go through spells where we don't stop the ball in transition.  We eventually cleaned that up and things got getter from there.

BG bolted out to a big lead, up 19 with about 10 minutes left in the first.  I think everyone felt like it was going to be an easy win...Coach thought BG let up on defense.  Four minutes later DU had it inside 10 and that was the halftime margin.

The second half start was terrible.  UD scored 8 points in the first 2 minutes of the half to get the lead to 5.  A couple minutes later they had it to 3.  They never got it closer, but neither did BG pull away. 

With 4 minutes left DU had the ball down 3 and a chance to tie the game.  They missed, BG turned the ball over and they got a second shot, which they missed again.  Marlon Sierra then hit a key 2FG off an offensive rebound to put the lead up to 5, a key basket.  DU got it back to 3 and on the next possession Sierra hit a dagger 3 to put the game back to 6 with 1:43 left.  BG made 5 of 6 from the line in the last minute and had the victory.

Looking at the stats, BG had a decent defensive game.  It was a 70 possession game and DU ended up with .99 per possession, which is about average so far this year.  The offense was 1.09 points per possession. 

As you can see, overall shooting was even, though each team got there a different way.  BG continues to struggle on 2FG (47%) but shot really well on the 3FG (46%).  Not too often those numbers are essentially equal.  Also remember DU has defended the 3FG really well this year.  Meanwhile DU was 54% on 2FG and 38% on 3FGs.

If you are surprised at BG's overall defensive result, I was too.  I think you might focus on them making shots, as seen above.  However, as seen below, they took good care of the ball but still conceded possessions to BG, did virtually no offensive rebounding (but kept BG out of transition as a result) and then shot only 6 FTs, making 4.  BG, which has been shooting the ball very well at the line, was only 13 of 26.  Decent night at the line and this one isn't close.

Individually, just two words.

Dylan Frye.  What we are seeing is a player who has really developed while in BG.  He's a complete player and a total stud.  He scored 30 points--a career high and 39% of BG's total.  He wasn't jacking it up...he was 5 of 10 on 2FGs and 6 of 11 on 3FGs.  He added 5 rebounds and 3 assists (5 turnovers) for what amounts to a career night to date.  He's a tough and gritty and carrying the team with Turner injured.

Trey Diggs scored 17 on 2 of 4 and 4 of 8 shooting.  He had most of those early, but I think its worth noting that he didn't try to force it.  He also had 7 rebounds.

Marlon Sierra, already mentioned, scored 11 with 7 in the game's final phase with 6 rebounds.

Plowden had 8 points and 12 rebounds shooting 3-4 on 2FGs.

On a player rotation note, we noted in the preview that DU is not a big team.  BG opted to match their size as opposed to trying to out-big them.  BG's true 5s played only 17 minutes.

Team has the week up is Oakland, who is not as good as they have been but always feel dangerous and who pushed UT to the end at Savage last night.

Saturday, November 30, 2019

It's Over...Buffalo game

BG got to the finish line Saturday, if only barely.  Undermanned, the team that took the field yesterday was beaten up and even more undermanned and finally the season ended with a 49-7 loss to the Bulls.

BG was playing without Perce, Bozeman, Biggers and Davin Wilson.  Numerous other players were playing at less than optimal conditions.  On offense, Loy was injured early in the game and replaced by Wade.

The results are no surprise.  BG struggles against the run and Jaret Patterson is the best RB in the MAC.  He torched BG without mercy, starting with an 81 yard run on the first play from scrimmage.  Patterson had a record-setting day, becoming the first MAC RB to score 6 rushing TDs in a game.  He had 26 carries for over 11 yards per carry.  As a team they averaged 8.9 yards per rush and the same on a per play basis.  Much like last year, they were content to run the ball and win the game, with 51 runs and only 14 passes.

BG managed only 9 first downs.  They averaged 3.5 yards per play and had 187 yards of total offense for the game.  It was as one-sided as it looked, possibly more.

BG finishes 3-9.  I will do a season wrap up shortly, but two things stand out.  First, of course, is this:

And the other is this...I think we have to take a minute to appreciate the players--the human beings--who were on this team.  It had to have been a very difficult year, but there's something to be said for being a survivor and if you made it to the end of this one, you are one.  This point was illustrated early in the game when RB Marlow was rolled up on and suffered a very serious leg injury. I haven't heard anything, but you can tell by the reaction of the other players and the training staff of both teams. 

Best to RB--but remember this, the players are putting their actual bodies on the line.  No one is happy with the results but only some of us pay in sweat and broken bones.  Some of us just watch.