Friday, December 28, 2012

Military Bowl: Strong Defense Not Enough.

It was a disappointing game to lose, there is no doubt about that.  The Falcons had a good season, there is no doubt about that either.

As Coach Clawson said in the post-game, it would have been a special season if the team had been able to produce some more offensive production in the key games--Florida, Kent, San Jose--and that is the disappointment and the challenge heading into the off-season.

I'll do some more significant review of the season coming up soon, so for now, let's keep our eyes on the Military Bowl.

Both teams opened up with one first down and a punt.  SJS started its second possession at its own 21, and proceeded to shred the BG defense, gaining 76 yards over 3 straight passing plays for a TD.  At this point, Falcon fans began to have PTSD flashbacks to a certain day in Mobile that invoke unspeakable horrors upon the nation...

But this team isn't that team.  BG came right back with 50 yards on 3 straight passing plays and then a couple more completions for 10 yards and BG was down at the 5 yard line.  It was first and goal, and BG had an opportunity to tie the game.  Unfortunately, Schilz was sacked on first down from the 5, and then Samuel was stuffed and on 3rd down Schilz was pressured and BG had to settle for a FG.

In my opinion, this sequence is one of the keys of the game.  BG simply doesn't have enough firepower to waste red zone chances, and it also doesn't have enough firepower to be "off schedule" and the ability to protect Schilz all the way down the field but not in the red zone was costly.

BG's defense bounced back in a big way, stuffing SJS for a loss of 6 on a 3rd down and 1 and then special teams chipped in with a blocked punt.  BG had the ball on the SJS 24 and a chance to take the lead.

This time, BG tried running the ball, but Samuel could only gain 9 yards on 3 straight carries and the Falcons had to settle for another FG that was the first play of the second quarter.

That sequence hurts too.  Despite a long drive and a blocked punt, BG trailed.

From there, the game settled in a little.  The two teams traded punts twice, but on the last punt in the series Schmiedebusch, punting from the SJS 42 with a chance to pin them back instead shanked a 15 yarder.  The Spartans attacked fast, landing a 38 yard completion and a pass interference on BG and getting down to the Falcon 23.  The drive stalled after SJS had its own PI call and they settled for a FG to lead 10-6 with 1:40 left.

BG did attempt to run a two minute drill but only mounted one first down, and it was halftime.  Certainly, BG was still in the game and the game was a low scoring game--the only kind BG could win--but you still had the feeling that BG should have been ahead and that it would have been a different game if they had been.

BG got the ball to start the 3rd and went 3 and out.  On SJS's possession, BG got the big play it needed from its defense when Charlie Walker forced a fumble while blind-siding Fales and Chris Jones ran the ball to the 8 yard line.  BG scored on the next play and led 13-10--I'm not going to belabor the point but convert in the red zone in the first half and it is 21-10 and a completely different game.

The two teams traded punts, but BG's punt was only 17 yards.  Another key play occurred on first down when San Jose State muffed a reverse and fumbled the ball.  It is really just the luck of the draw, but the ball bounced to the Spartans and they averted catastrophe.

They did have to punt, and BG started inside its own 25.  The Falcons went three and out and then had their punt blocked out of the end zone for a safety--and if you want to count the number of times a loose ball rolled away from BG you have to note the huge break for BG when this ball just barely trickled over the end line for a safety instead of a TD.

Even so, at 13-12, it was a momentum shifter.  The Spartan offense, which had been largely stymied since the opening drive, came out on fire, driving 68 yards in 6 plays to score and regaining the lead at 19-13.

John Pettigrew opened the door for BG by returning the kickoff to the SJS 44, but the offense produced less than nothing with a net two yard loss and BG punted SJS down to its 15.

This was a huge possession for the Falcon defense.  If SJS gets cooking on offense, they could have put the game away.  They did get one first down but then couldn't convert on a 2nd and 1 opportunity and BG had the ball back.

Here, Bowling Green's offense responded with its best drive of the game.  BG switched away from Samuel and used Hopgood and Pettigrew and finally got some running yards.  On a 3rd and 4 play, Pettigrew bolted to the 1 yard line and then scored on the next play and BG had a 20-19 lead.

I doubt if I was the only Falcon fan who thought at this point that the only chance BG had to win was to end the game with the score 20-19.

It was not to be.  SJS drove to the BG 10 before they tried another reverse which put the ball onto the ground and once again the ball bounced to the Spartans...BG recovers that ball and it could very well have been a different game.  With the yardage loss, BG held the Spartans to a FG however and it was 22-20.

From there, however, the Spartans continued to assert their dominance over the 4th Q.  On the second play, Schilz was sacked, fumbled, and SJS got this loose ball, too, and had the ball at the BG 24.

The game's most controversial play came in the ensuing series.  On 3rd and 1, Fales hit his FB with a pass and he ran it near the goal line.  The ball came loose and rolled out of the end zone, which would mean BG ball on the 20.  The call on the field was that he was down and it went to replay.

Look, I'm not the guy to look to for unbiased analysis.  To me, it was pretty obvious that the ball was out and there was space between his knee and the ground.  I thought it was a fumble.  The replay booth said it was inconclusive and SJS kept the ball in what was a huge play.  It is possible his back knee--which was obscured--might have been down so maybe that's what the official was thinking.

However, as much as that might have been a fumble, Falcon fans need to be honest.  It is far from a lock that BG gets down the field and scores, even if it is a fumble.

In the actual event, they scored and took a 29-20 lead with 2:34 left and it was over.

More on the numbers from the game later.

Coach said after the game that we didn't make enough plays on offense.  I think the defense played a great game against this team, holding them well below their average.  They gave their team a chance to win, and BG was unable to convert on offense, and then a fumble and a blocked punt doomed them--along with some rolling balls that didn't head into the right hands.

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