Sunday, November 30, 2014

Buzzer Beater Gives Falcons Victory! Holmes has dominant night...

So how about that. After enduring heart-breaking, rip your heart out of your chest losses last season, BG turned the tables on the Detroit Titans, as Richaun Holmes picked a pass up when BG had 2.2 seconds to score, down 1. You can watch the play many times as you want.

You'd be doing yourself a disservice, though, if you only thought about Richaun Holmes as it related to the last play of the game, as good as it was.  Holmes had an incredible night--I'd be hard pressed to remember when the Falcons enjoyed a dominant effort of this caliber.  Holmes scored 26 points on 10 of 12 shooting, grabbed 18 rebounds and had 5 blocks, including a block of UD super FR Paris Bass with :45 and BG leading by 1.

I don't remember the last time a Falcon had 18 rebounds.  It is tied for the 4th highest total so far in D1 this year.  Richaun has been a good player most of the time and a very good player some of the time, but in this game he was simply great.  He was as dominant as any player Falcon in recent memory and the buzzer beater was just the closing act.

The end was pretty confusing, as basketball games tend to be.  I was watching the WADL telecast (featuring former NBAer Earl Cuerton).  BG was inbounding on its own baseline with 2.4 seconds left down 1.  They didn't put a guy on the ball and Henderson had a hard time getting the ball in.  When he did, it was stolen and then lost OB right away.

They went to the replay and decided there was 2.2 seconds left, which seemed to the Detroit announcers--and Ray McCallum after the game--that there should have been less than that.  Anyway, it was 2.2.  BG went to inbound the ball and they put the 6'9" Bass on the ball and he seemed to really both Henderson, which is not surprising.  BG called time and when they set it up again they had Bass off the ball for reasons I will not understand and that's when they hit Holmes and he made the video you see above.

When I watched the replay, it didn't look that obvious to me and there might be a rule related to how much the clock runs off on something like that.  Either way, nothing was stopping them from defending the pass.

Detroit was the first team to score over 60 against BG this year.  This is also the second straight game where BG won the game despite being outshot.  UDM was 45/39 while BG was 39/29.  However, BG created 4 extra possessions by having only 10 turnovers and created a few more by a decisive margin on the offensive boards and that was enough to turn the game.  BG had 1.0 per possesion for the 4th straight game and gave up .98, which is their least efficient defensive performance of the season.

Individually, beyond Holmes, there were no other double figures scorers.  Austin and Clarke each had 9 points and Dickerson had 6 rebounds.  In all, 10 Falcons played and 8 scored.  Chauncey Orr did not play with back problems.

The 4-0 Falcons will return to the court on Wednesday to play Western Kentucky in Bowling Green KY.  Let us hope that we have a better trip than the football team did.

Final Past and Future Opponent Review

Western Kentucky (7-5) Shocked Marshall 67-66
VMI (2-10) Fired Coach
Indiana (4-8) Beat Putdue, won Old Oaken Bucket.
Wisconsin (10-2) Beat Minnesota, won division.
UMass (3-9) Lost to Bufalo
Buffalo (5-6) Beat UMass
Ohio U (6-6) Beat Miami
WMU (8-4) Self-destructed lost to NIU
Akron (5-7)  Lost to Kent
Kent (2-9) Beat Akron
Toledo (8-4) Beat EMU

MAC vs. Power 5: 4-22
MAC vs. non-MAC FBS: 3-12
MAC vs. FCS: 11-2
East vs. West: West leads 16-3

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Men's Hoops: Initial Observations

So, having seen the Falcon men live for the first time....some observations.

First, when I listened to the post-game and they asked Coach Jans about the team shooting badly, he said "sounds to me like we need to get into the gym."  That was a real revelation.  Our former Coach--and, frankly, many coaches--talk about shooting like it is a random thing...
sometimes you just don't shoot well."  So, I like that our Coach understands that can be improved.

Second, I was very impressed with the play of Zack Denny.  We hardly saw him last year, but the impression everyone had was that he was a shooter mostly.  And, obviously he can shoot, but he is a much more complete ballplayer.  He is 2nd on the team with 5.7 rebounds per game, and he has shown an ability to get to the rim and finish.  He is a sophomore, and I think he can really get better and stronger.

Third, BG has really integrated new guys and guys who weren't available last year.  In the SEMO game, counting Orr, Denny, Mayleben, Dickerson, Joseph, and Austin, BG had 116 minutes from those guys. That's a pretty big shift from one year to the next--I'd be surprised if any other team has more.  In contrast, Jehvon Clarke led the MAC in minutes played last year, and he played 21 minutes--not to single him out, just an example.

Fourth, BG is playing better on both sides of the court.  The team is over 1 point per possession in each game so far, something they did only 9 times against D1 competition last year.  On the flip side, BG has held all 3 of its opponents to less than .91 points per possession, something they did only 11 times last season in D1 games.

Now, I don't think we have had a backbreaking schedule early.  They are all D1 teams...Drake is 1-3, Wright State 3-2, SEMO (probably the best of all of them when healthy) is 2-3.  The Detroit game will be an interesting test.

Titan Preview

The Falcons face a very interesting test on Sunday when they travel to venerable Calihan Hall on the campus of the University of Detroit-Mercy.  UDM is a consistently solid basketball team that we are now playing for the 8th straight year.  BG has won the last 3 and 5 of the last 7 with both losses coming at Calihan.

The Titans added to the intrigue by heading into Savage Hall and snapping UT's home winning streak last week.  As we tip toe through the early season trying to figure out what we have, this game will be a good data point.

Detroit is led by Juwan Howard, Jr.  He's a really good player.  Remember, he started at WMU and then went to Detroit.  He is averaging 19.7 PPG in only 28 minutes, which is really pretty good.  Now, he has taken 41% of their shots which is 2nd in the nation right now, so those points are coming at some cost to his team.  He is shooting 38% overall and 33% from 3.  He has made 94% of his free throws--33 of 35.  He also in second on the team with 5.3 RPG.

6'5" F Anton Wilson is scoring 12 PPG on 58% shooting (and 50% from 3FG) and super freshman Paris Bass is scoring 11 PPG on 47% shooting and leading the team with 5.5 RPG.

When comparing the two teams statistically, it is important to look at schedules.  We know who BG was played, but Detroit has played Oregon, Michigan and Toledo....and Rochester, Maryland-Eastern Shore and South Alabama.  So, while the numbers are relatively even, Detroit has played 3 top flight teams...and three less than top flight teams.

The Titans have been playing at a pretty normal 65 possessions per game.  They have been scoring 1.02 points per possession, which is pretty average and allowing .95 with is above average but certainly not a shutdown number.

As you can see here, the teams are pretty evenly matched on the offensive end.  Detroit is a pretty good shooting team, takes care of the ball well, is not great on the offensive boards and gets to the line about as much as BG does, though they shoot FTs. slightly better.  Their 3FG% is slightly worse than BG's.

Looking at defense, the Titans defend the shot pretty well at 43% and 31%.  They force turnovers on 24% of possessions, which is just slightly less than BG has.  They do foul a lot, at 20 stats per game as opposed to 15 fouls per game for BG.

On the road, I'd say we are clear but close underdogs.  This is a good won't answer all the questions, but it is a good test for the boys.

BG Sh*ts the Bed, Part II

There's not much point in going over this anymore, but I'm going to do it anyway.

BG had 157 yards on its first six plays yesterday.  Obviously, you know that's not sustainable, and I bring it up just to make this point...BG had 297 yards on its next 60 plays, which is still about 5 yards per play.  In fact, BG went 3 and out only twice.

The story is just as much about drives stalling out.  In the 2nd Q, BG drove to the Ball State 33, had two poor running plays and took a sack on 3rd and 6 before mis-handling a FG.  In the 3rd Q BG had it 2nd and 4 on the 18.  They threw a flat pass that got blown up and then on 3rd and 6 they tried a run that was stuffed.  BG was down 6 at the time, and the FG was better than nothing...and, of course, it would be the last time BG would score.

In the 4th, BG was on the Ball State 33.  On 2nd and 11, Knapke missed an open Roger Lewis on the sideline and then on 4th down had a miscommunication with Ronnie Moore that left the ball sailing into the empty part of the endzone and left Moore visibly frustrated.

BG was only down 10 when that happened.  You complete that drive, and the 4th Q could be very different.  Instead, Ball State went down the field and scored again that set the tone for the rest of the game.

On its final drive, BG drove the ball to the Ball State before losing 3 yards on 3rd down and throwing another incompletion on 4th down.

So, BG moved the ball here and there against Ball State--as they should have, given the ridiculous injuries the Cardinals have on defense.  BG was unable to complete drives--as they should have, given the ridiculous injuries the Cardinals have on defense.

You can't ask more out of your RBs.  Coppet and Greene carried 30 times for 299 yards.  The offensive failure came strictly from the passing game.  Knapke was 18 of 27--for 67%--which is a good percentage, but in order to get that kind of percentage, BG had to throw a lot of safe, low yardage passes.  Also, to be fair, the spread offense we put in to replace the offense we ran to a championship last year is supposed to generate yards after the catch, and we saw very little of that yesterday.

BG had one play to Lewis for 42 yards.  If you deduct that and the two sacks, BG had 87 yards on 28 remaining dropbacks and on 17 completions.  Those are numbers you cannot win with.  I just ran the numbers yesterday....the average sack adjusted yards per completion in the MAC was 11.9 yards, more than double what BG had on those attempts.

And, as I mentioned yesterday, Coppet and Greene both left the game due to injury.  It is no understatement to say that their participation is critical Friday.  I don't know what BG is going to do to fix the passing game, but even with Coppet and Greene, BG is in deep trouble if they can't create a two-dimensional attack.

I know what you are thinking.  I expect them to start Knapke.  For a fan base, there is no player more all-powerful than the backup QB. It rarely works out that way.  Maybe they will surprise me, but I don't expect it to happen.

The defense was not a lot better.  I don't mind that Edwards got his yards--that guy is a beast and very underrated.  What is bothersome is that the Ball State QB--WHO HAD BEEN BENCHED--went 20 of 29 for 286 yards and 3 TDs and 0 INT.  The BG pass defense was very poor and has not been that bad in coverage since the WKU game.  Actually, in thinking about it, BGs defense has survived on getting turnovers and there were also none yesterday.

Anyway, when Coach Babers said "everything" needs to get fixed, he was right.  He says he will fix it.  Here's the thing...while the team was winning while underperforming against weak opposition, he hung his hat on the fact the team was winning.  Since the Kent game, he has intimated that the real goal is the MAC Championship--and it completely is.

The problem is, here it is.  If they win Friday, a lot of this goes away.  You're back to back champions.  If you don't win, you have a guy who came into a championship team with plenty of players left, changed everything, lost his starting QB and couldn't recover, talked big, threw people off the train, then went 7-6, losing to UT and all 3 cross-over games.  (As it turns out, BG would have won the East without beating Kent).

All that to say that if BG loses, its going to be a long bitter off-season.  If BG loses big, all the worse.  From a fan's perspective, we waited a long time to compete for titles again and 12 games in this year seems like it hasn't been what it should have been.  Given what we came into the year with, we shouldn't have to be fixing "everything" after 12 games. Win Friday, and that's another story...which is why the coaching staff is busy this week trying to fix "everything."

Friday, November 28, 2014

Sadness Accrues: Falcons Sh*t the Bed in Home Finale

He's right.  It was awful.  One week before playing for a MAC Championship, BG was beaten soundly on its home field by Ball State, closing out a season where BG goes 0-3 against the West and wins the East with 3 losses.

Ball State won every facet of the game.  With 9:40 left IN THE FIRST QUARTER, BG led 21-7.  From there, BG was outscored 34-3.  That's just incredible.  It was painful to watch and should leave the Falcons under no illusions heading into next week.  As Coach said, we need to fix "everything."

On offense, BG was one-dimensional.  Adjusting for sacks, BG had 129 yards passing on 27 attempts.  Once that was apparent, Ball State jammed up the run and kept BG bottled up and that's how you go 55 minutes in a football game with 3 points.

On defense, BG played very poorly.  Edwards ran the ball right down their throat, there were missed tackles and they were 20-29 passing for 286 yards.  Ball State out performed BG's defense in every way possible.

On special teams, BG gave up too many long kickoff returns, had a bad snap on a FG, and had poor KO returns of its own.

There's some symmetry to the season, because this was as bad a butt-kicking as the WKU game was to start the season.

Coach didn't mince any words.  He's upset, bad taste in his mouth and it isn't "Thanksgiving turkey."  He knows how poor a performance that was for a team getting ready to head into a championship game.

He says they can fix it.  We shall see.  I believe they can get the defense tightened around, because that was a relatively uncharacteristic performance for them.

The offense is the bigger worry.  First, both Greene and Coppet ended up leaving the game with injuries...they are badly needed.  Second, it is not clear what can be done to fix the passing game.  BG can't seem to go deep and calls an awful lot of bubble screens and short slants and those just aren't going anywhere.  Open throws are missed and despite having everyone all spread out, the ball never seems to get anywhere out of traffic.  (It reminds me of the playcalling BG was forced to use when Anthony Turner was the QB).

Everyone is on the QB, obviously.  Obviously, he's not very productive right now.  It isn't the only issue, but it is a big one.  The problem is that we don't see Callaway in practice...people say he couldn't do worse, but the people who have seen him practice apparently think that he could.  I don't believe you will see BG do anything different with personnel at QB next Friday.  Either way--whether it is getting Knapke productive or getting an untested true FR QB productive--a huge challenge lies in front of our coaches.

Here's the problem.  That was game 12 and game 11 without Matt Johnson.  I can understand some adjustment time, but given the offensive chops of Babers and our two co-offensive coordinators, you have a right to expect to see some improvement and in fact the offense is regressing.  So maybe that's the third reason why the offense is the big worry...because if they haven't been able to fix it by now, what makes you think they can fix it by next Friday?

The Indiana game haunts.  How can the passing game have been so effective that day and then show us what they did today?  That was the same QB.  See?

A long night lies ahead of the Falcons.  If it bothers the fans this much, imagine how it makes the players and coaches feel.  NIU is going to be a very, very big favorite on Friday and BG needs a night-and-day improvement or it won't even be close.

Senior Day

Today is Senior Day at the Doyt. Seventeen Falcons will play their last game on this home field. Below--taken directly from the BG Game Notes--is a summary of who they are and some of their game contributions...and, of course, remember that you can contribute to a football team in a lot of ways, including by providing tough practice competition.  Each of these young men is a champion and will remain a Falcon in our hearts forever.

25 Questions from Middletown

Muncie is Middletown.
Google it.
What is their body of work?

It's been a rough year in Muncie.  After a huge year last year, they were looking to be challenged by some big graduation losses.  Then, they experienced a biblical plague of injuries and that adds up to a very long year.  They are 4-7 and 3-4, and that includes a loss to FCS Indiana State.  They beat Akron and CMU, played a tough game against NIU.

How many seniors and juniors on the two-deep?

26, which is a normal number.

Who are their statistical leaders?

Scott Secor is the #2 FG kikcer in the country.

What is their turnover ratio?

Interestingly, they lead the MAC at +11 (MAC games only) yet still struggle.


How is their QB Play?

This has been a long story.  They started the season with Ozzie Mann.  He was eventually replaced by Jack Milas, and the team began to play better.  Milas will not play Friday in BG, so is it Mann again.  During his time starting, Mann had a 118 efficiency rating (higher than Milas), and that isn't in the Top 10 of the MAC.  He completed 57% of his passes and only 10.3 yards per completion.

What is their scoring and yards per play?

They are 6th in the MAC in scoring and 11th in yards per play...that's your turnovers at work.

Can they run the ball?

No.  They are tied for 12th at 3.8 yards per carry.  Jahwan Edwards is the lead back, and he's a really good player, but has only been able to average 4.3 yards per carry.

Do they pass the ball?

They are 9th in the MAC in passing efficiency.

How is their run/pass balance?

They run on 51% of their plays, which is a slightly above average commitment to the run.

Do they convert on 3rd Down?

They are 9th at 38%.

Do they score in the red zone?

They have a high overall percentage but it includes a lot of FGs.  They score 4.7 per trip, which is average.

Do they protect the quarterback?

Yes.  They have only allowed 7 sacks, which is good (2.7%).


Topline: Scoring and yards per play.

This is where the injuries hit.  They are 11th in scoring defense and in yards per play allowed.

Do they defend the run effectively?

They are 10th in yards per carry allowed.

Cardinal defense will arrive in this.
Can they be passed on?

They are 11th in pass defense efficiency.  They allowed 63% completions (12th in league) and 11.9 yards per reception.  They do have 10 INTs...which is 2nd in MAC.

Do they get off the field on 3rd down?

No.  They are 11th.

Do they defend in the red zone?

They are slightly below average at 5.1 points per trip.

Do they pressure the QB?

10 sacks is 3.9% which is below average.

Special Teams:


They are 8th in net punting.  No blocks, no TDs.  Guy has some boomers, too.

Punt Return?

They are 2nd in the MAC, no TDs, no blocks.


They have one of the best kickers in the country.  He will kick on Sundays.  He's 23 of 28, 55 yard long.


They are 4th in the MAC, teams start on the 23.

Kickoff Return?

Not especially good, teams start on the 28.

Team picture.
Miscellaneous: Overall atmospherics and intangibles.

All right.  The first thing in a game like this is how hard Ball State will play, given that their season will end Friday.  My general theory is that teams come out ready to play, but faced with adversity, I am not sure how resilient they will be.

BG has a similar issue.  The game has no actual impact on the season and Coach said that he won't play people who are not 100%.

On the other hand, it is senior day and that usually is important to the players.

Finally, I don't expect many people in the stands.  At all.  So, any motivation will have to come from inside.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving to the Falcon Nation

Best wishes to everyone on this special day.  Seek not to want more but to be better.  Demonstrate thankfulness...disturb your peace and make the most of the things you have been given.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

MAC Blogger Roundtable

1) Black Friday looks to be not only a day of super low prices, but also the West shaking itself out between NIU, WMU, and Toledo. Does Western Michigan spring the upset and hope like hell Eastern stuns Toledo for PJ Fleck to row to Ford Field? Does NIU once again exert their dominance? WHAT HAPPENS?!?

I'm calling WMU to beat NIU.  The game is in K-zoo and the Broncos might very well be the best team in the conference right now, which could be a shock to those Falcon fans who were embarrassed to lose to them.  Anyway, I believe there is a zero percent chance that EMU beats Toledo, and would therefore predict BG and UT in the MAC title game.

2) Given your above scenario (whichever it may be), how do you see the postseason shaking out for the MAC teams we love. Who wins the MAC Championship? Who goes bowling? Who has to stay home and watch their conference brethren reap the benefits of bowl swag and competitive eating matches?

I'm going to call BG to beat UT on a neutral field with a second chance.  That's at least partly wishful thinking.  As for bowls, I'm not the bowl eligibility guru--you need to head over to Bull Run for that--but right now it looks like there's a good amount of eligibility and I will call BG, UT, WMU, CMU and NIU to make bowl games.  Akron has a shot.

3) With the season winding down, what will be your lasting memory of the 2014 season from the conference as a whole?

I have a bunch of these for our team (Matt Johnson injury and the Indiana game), but I would say that the memory from this year for the conference as a whole is how much WMU improved from one year to the next.  It has been remarkable.  PJ Fleck is going to make himself a very hot commodity.

Falcon Men Now 3-0 with Win

And then it was 3-0.

The last coach to start his career 3-0 at Bowling Green was a guy named Harold Anderson.  So, there's that.  We're still in the land of managed expectations, but as we learn more about this team, I think we see an improved Falcon team.  Southeast Missouri looked to me to be a pretty good team...Bradley is a good player and Johnson is a big match-up problem that I'm surprised they didn't use more.  Anyway, it was a nice win for BG and we're not in a position to look down our nose at wins.

BG bolted out to a 10-2 lead before the first media time out, which was great to see.  The RedHawks had the game tied with 8 minutes left and it bounced back and forth from there with BG leading at halftime by 3.  The second half was also very competitive, and with about 11 minutes left the game was tied at 38.  Jovon Austin hit a FT to give BG the lead that, in fact, they would never relinquish for the remainder of the game.

Even with that, the game remained competitive.  BG had a couple opportunities to stretch the lead but failed.  With 7 minutes left BG was up 8, but SEMO went on a 6-1 to get the lead back to 3 and with 1:54 left in the game BG was up 2.  Then, BG did what they so often failed to do last season, which was close out the game.  Jovon Austin got in the lane and hit a runner and then Zack Denny got a steal on the other end.  BG was fouled, Austin hit both FTs and BG had a 4 point lead with inside a minute left and from there it was just fouls and the Falcons won 62-54.  BG's lead in the last minute was the biggest in the entire game.

Looking at the team stats, neither team had a great offensive game. BG scored .99 points per possession while SEMO had .86.  Holding a team to .86 is a winning effort any day of the week, while .99 is below average but good enough to win on this day.  It was an odd day, because the most important part of the four factors in shooting, and BG was outshot by SEMO...BG was only 2 of 13 from 3FG, while SEMO was 6 of 15, which accounts for most of the spread between the two teams.  However, the Falcons made the ground up on taking much better care of the ball and doing a much better job on the offensive boards.

BG had only 2 players in double figures for scoring. Richaun Holmes had 14 points on 6 of 14 shooting and 7 rebounds for a very strong performance. Spencer Parker had 10 points on 4 of 7 shooting and 4 rebounds.  Dickerson also had 7 boards and Joseph contributed 4 assists.  Zack Denny--who has the chance to be a really, really good player--had 9 points, 5 rebounds and 3 steals in 28 minutes.

That doesn't really tell the whole story.  I've noted before that Akron guys rarely have huge stats because the minutes are so well distributed.  For BG, 10 players scored yesterday out of 11 who played.  The one who didn't was Joseph, who had 4 assists.  10 Falcons played 10 minutes or more....point is, with minutes being so well distributed, the stats won't be high and you will have to view them in terms of efficiency within the time played.

I'll have some more general observations later, but for now, enjoy the results.  BG now plays @Detroit, who went into Savage and beat the Rockets last night.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Babers Presser

Coach had his presser today...not much to say, but he did have the answer to one question I had wondered about.

Which is what he would do with someone who is not 100%.

He said that they were pushing guys to get back for UT because it is a rivalry game.  If there are players who are not 100% and they think they can get them there for the championship game, they will sit them out for the Ball State game.

Which makes perfect sense to me.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Other RedHawks Arriving at Stroh

On Tuesday, BG has an excellent chance to run its start to 3-0.  By the modest recent success of this program, even 2-0 is a good start.  It is the first time BG has won 2 straight to win the season since 03-04 and that was a year in which both of the first two wins were non D1 wins and BG went on to lose its next 5.  The last time BG had a real start to the year was in 99-00...that sad, star-crossed, half court shot year of heartbreak.  That year, BG won its first 6.

Anyway, the next opponent for BG is Southeast Missouri State...the RedHawks.  Let's just dispense with this right away.  They are coached by a guy named Dickey Nutt.  I'm sure he has heard them all.

The RedHawks play in the Ohio Valley Conference, where they were picked to be 2nd in their division of the OVC and Blue Ribbon had them the same.  While they are 2-2, there are a ton of unanswered questions and for what it is worth, I think playing BG on the road is their toughest test to date.

They played their first two games without their pre-season all-OVC Jarekious Bradley, who was injured, and 6'7" Sr. John Langford, who was suspended.  They proceeded to lose to @Loyola Marymount and San Diego (neutral floor), two mid-range West Coast Conference teams.  They beat Hannibal-LaGrange (obviously non D1) at home and then went back on the road to beat Central Arkansas by 6....Central Arkansas is historically one of the weakest D1 programs with four sub 300 RPI seasons in the last 5 years, and the fifth was 287.

So, we don't really know what we have.  I suspect they are better than their record looks but how much better remains to be seen.

As mentioned, Bradley is 6'5" and a good player.  He scored 19 PPG on 49.8% shooting and 38% 3FG shooting.  He also had 6.3 RPG.  He's only played 2 games this year, but he does seem to be moving in the same direction now as he gets healthy.

The RedHawks do have some size.  Their 2nd leading scorer is 6'9" Nino Johnson, who is scoring 14.5 PPG on 69% shooting and 6 RPG.  Antonius Cleveland is 6'.5" and scoring 12 PPG on 54% shooting and 5.5 RPG and the formerly suspended John Langford is 11.5 PPG on 67% shooting.

Their leading rebounds is actually Aaron Adeyoe, who gets 6.25 RPG. I'm not sure if anyone keeps track of this stuff, but Adeyoe might hold a unique place in Falcon history...because if he plays on Tuesday he will have played against BG in 3 different uniforms.  He started at Ball State, transferred to Western Kentucky and now to SE MO.

This team might well remind you of a lot of BG teams.  They shoot a high overall % (46.7%), but it is heavily 2FG based and they are hitting only 27% of their 3FGs.  The overall mix is an average EFG%, but size is the one thing BG does not have, however, and for this reason the RedHawks might present a matchup issue for the Falcons.

Defensively they have been pretty good, at .932 points per possession, but that is partly schedule dependent at this point.  They are vulnerable to the 3FG--allowing 42% to be made, so the new look Falcons would hope to be able to take advantage of that.  They are getting turnovers on 25% of their possessions and they have been very effective preventing offensive rebounds.

So, if you want the positive, this is not the best team in the OVC and the MAC has been doing well against the OVC in recent years.  They have shown nothing this year that indicates they are a particularly strong team, but they could still be putting things together and getting the chemistry arranged and their depth inside will test the Falcons.  On the other hand, BG is stronger at the guard and with some outside shooting, and should be able to take advantage.

It will be interesting to see, but I do like BG's chances of making it 3-0.

Gabe Martin MAC East Defensive POTW

Gabe Martin was awarded the MAC East Defensive Player of the Week for BG today.  He had a big game against UT...from the MAC release:

Bowling Green senior linebacker Gabe Martin (Grand Blanc, Mich.) recorded a game-high 12 tackles, and tied his career high with 2.5 tackles for loss, in a 27-20 loss at Toledo. Early in the fourth quarter, Martin blocked a Toledo field goal, which allowed the Falcons' offense to tie the game on the very next possession. Martin was also integral in forcing a fumble, as he drove a lineman back into the quarterback, before one of his teammates came and knocked the ball loose for the Falcons to recover.

Martin has been a great player for the Falcons.  He's a senior and he has been an absolute warrior.  Coach even got a little choked up when he talked about Martin accepting--without hestitation--a position change in the middle of his senior year.  He was injured for the MAC title game last year and I am thrilled we are getting him back and let's win him one on the field.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Babers: "Hell, I might sign it"

So this one is sure to get tongues wagging...there have been some rumors out there of potential bigger jobs for Dino Babers after just 1 season at the Doyt.  Illinois is one place mentioned...but he does get mentioned elsewhere.

Which is kind of ironic, because there is a decent-sized population of Falcon fans who don't think Dino Babers has done a good job at BG this year at all.  I guess is just depends on your perspective.

The WKU game hit everyone hard.  I think everyone got off on the wrong foot and I think it has been hard to bring it around.  I'm not sure the Babers style has been a good fit and I think the off-season Falcon Fast hype was probably ill-advised.  Then, there was all the bandwagon stuff after the Indiana game to be followed by a history-making failure at get the idea.

The first narrative was that Babers didn't care about defense (ignoring the injuries and the record at EIU) and then as the defense improved it has been to focus on the lack of offense, which flies in the face of all the FalconFast rhetoric we heard.

For the record, I think Babers has done a good job.  I wouldn't put it down as an overwhelming success, but he has done a good job.  He kept the team afloat with serious injury issues.  The defense has established itself and is probably as good as we might have expected after the injuries healed.  The offense lost its starting QB and the Indiana game probably gave people an inflated idea of what to expect from our offense week in and week out.

The biggest issue I would have is that BG made its season beating the other weak teams in our weak division.  BG has not beaten a team with a winning record and has lost both games to the top teams in the MAC West, and, you know, last year we won the conference.  To sum it up, I think Babers has done a good job of keeping the team from completely sinking but in-conference has won the games you'd expect the team to win and no others.  And he didn't beat Toledo.  And WKU was a complete disaster that should not have happened.

But, it will come down to 1 game.  Win on 12/5 and the season is a success by anyone's standards.

USA Today lays out the case for Babers...which is the Briles pedigree combined with enough success as a head coach to convince people that he can make the adjustment.

The article also talks about the fact that Babers had such a long apprenticeship before getting his shot at being a head coach.  (Babers is 53).  Babers makes the claim that he appreciates where he is in life, that he probably only has one more job ahead of him, and that it isn't about getting a job for big money and "getting fired in five years."

Here he says what should get the attention of the Falcon Nation.

"If someone threw me a contract with about 15 years on it right now, at (Bowling Green)? Hell, I might sign it," he said. "Not that I'm not ambitious. But I'm really happy with what I'm doing. It's not about going somewhere to make $2 million more and getting fired after five years. I haven't waited around that long just to make money. It's got to be more than that.

"That financial gain really has no interest to me. I really only get to do it once, and if I do it right I'm going to get the opportunity one more time. What I'm interested in is having an opportunity to win."


OK.  First, coaches sign contracts all the time and then leave (Babers had one at EIU, Clawson had one at BG, etc) so signing a 15-year deal is far from a commitment to staying here for 15 years.  Nor, in fact, would it indicate BG's intent to keep him for 15 years...Coaches are let go with time on their contracts, as BG did with Gregg Brandon.

Having said that, I don't think Babers is a BS artist.  I think when he describes his mindset, I think he is being honest.  Maybe not...maybe a really big offer from Illinois would be more attractive in reality than he imagines it would be.  And, he did leave EIU after two years.

The point is that a lot of the fans I hear from would be almost relieved to see him leave after a year and here is a national paper talking about him being attractive...more attractive than he is among the fan base here.

He said all along the you'd see the biggest improvement in the 2nd year.  I'm not 100% thrilled that we didn't get a coach who was committed to winning in year one and I'm not 100% convinced Babers will succeed at BG, but I am more convinced than unconvinced.  We haven't see how he recruits--anywhere--so that is an open question that no one has an answer to.

The best case would be to win on December 5 but whoever wins the West will be heavily favored.  If that doesn't happen and Babers returns, he will face an off-season with a lot of doubt, which comes with the territory.  As a Coach, you should expect to have to convince people.

Past and Future Opponent Land--West continues to kill East

Western Kentucky (6-5) Bowl-eligible with win over UTSA.
VMI (2-10) Lost to arch-rival The Citadel
Indiana (3-8) Put scare into OSU but lost.
Wisconsin (9-2) Beat Iowa in close game.
UMass (3-8) Lost to Akron
Buffalo (4-6) KSU game was cancelled.  Buffalo loses shot at bowl eligibility.
Ohio U (5-6) Threatened but lost to NIU.
WMU (8-3) Beat arch-rival WMU
Akron (5-6)  Beat UMass
Kent (1-9) Buffalo game cancelled. Kent loses shot at Buffalo.
Ball State (4-7) Beat EMU

MAC vs. Power 5: 4-22
MAC vs. non-MAC FBS: 3-12
MAC vs. FCS: 11-2
East vs. West: West leads 15-3

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Looking Ahead: Ball State

As the dust settles on the BG defeat to UT on Wednesday, we look ahead to next Friday and Ball State.  BG has a couple of extra days to get ready for that one, but then have a normal one-week turnaround to play for the MAC title.

Ball State is having a very disappointing year.  They were huge last year and everyone thought Pete Lembo was going to go elsewhere--in fact, he was highly mentioned for the job Clawson eventually got.  Things just didn't shake out for him, and that left Lembo back in Muncie.  There was some debate on how good Ball State would be...they had big losses, including QB Keith Wenning.  As it turns out, they have had a long year.

The primary issue has been injuries.  This Star-Press article calls the injuries "absurd" and Lembo says they are the worst he has had in his career.  They have mostly hit the defense...and in that case, impacted a dozen players who were expected to be in the rotation.

For different reasons, one thing to watch for is how each team will play when it has nothing to accomplish.  For example, Ball State's season will end Friday.  How much will they bring to the game?

Differently, BG's season will continue regardless of the result.  It will be interesting to see how BG handles injured players in the game.  For example, BG's top two RBs did not play in Toledo.  If they are a close call--say 90%--would BG play them against Ball State, or would they be held back for the Championship game.

Should that be the case, you wonder what we will do.  Obviously, the loss to Toledo has only made the Falcon Nation more ouchy about what has gone down this year.  The one saving grace is that for all the ways people might be disappointed in the year, BG is one game from going back-to-back.  So, my view would be that you don't play anyone who isn't 100%.  We saw in the UT game how much we need Greene and Coppet.

We'll see what Coach does.

Friday, November 21, 2014

ICSTR...Rocket Edition

Final words on the UT game...both teams had positive special teams performance.  On the plus side, BG blocked two kicks and put 4 punts deep in UT territory.  BG only had 3 negative plays--each of them a big UT kick return.  BG finished +4 for the game.

UT also had a good game.  They buried two punts, had the 3 big KO returns and one KO touchback.  They were only +3, as they gave up the two blocked kicks and the big KO return plus added a 16 yard punt.

BG Pos (+8)
BG blocks XP (+1)
BG Punt to UT 12  (+1)
BG punt to UT 16  (+1)
BG Punt to UT 9  (+1)
BG Blocks FG (+2)
BG KO ret to 37  (+1)
BG Punt to UT 10  (+1)

BG Neg (-4)
UT KO return to 35 (-1)
UT KO Ret to BG 19 (-2)
UT KO Ret to 48 (-1)

UT Pos (+8)
UT KO TB  (+1)
UT KO return to 35  (+1)
UT Punt to BG 10 (+1)
UT Punt to BG 7 (+2)
UT KO Ret to BG 19 (+2)
UT KO Ret to 48 (+1)

UT Neg (-5)
BG Blocks XP (-1)
UT 16 yard punt (-1)
BG Blocks FG (-2)
BG KO ret to 37 (-1)

Stats and Benchmark Report, Rocket Edition

My view is that this week we can get a lot out of all this.

Starting for BG's offense...I think it magnifies just how ineffective BG's offense was.  Running was weak and passing was actually weaker on a per play basis.  BG was poor on 3rd down, gave up way too many sacks for the number of attempts...BG only redeemed itself by not having any turnovers.  The offensive effort was probably the worst this year with the exception of Wisconsin.  When you can't run the ball but you still have to run the ball 45% of the time...and when the other team is stopping the run while not over-committing men to the box and opening the pass...that's a terrible offensive game.  I felt like BG invested way too many plays in going deep.  I assume they were trying to open the box up, but the result was a lot of missed plays on low percentage passes, especially with that wind.

The UT offense/BG defense had many of the same issues.  In fact, UT's passing offense was not effective at all.  More than 1 in 5 of their attempts resulted in a sack or INT and when you deduct sacks they had about 40 yards passing.  They also fumbled, were just OK on 3rd down, etc.  What they were was good in the red zone and most of all dominant in the run game.  Sack Adjusted, UT averaged 6.9 yards per run and ran the ball on more than two out of 3 plays.  Essentially, when it came to offense there was only one thing that worked for either team, and it was enough for UT to win the game.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Falcon Men Now 2-0, Beat Wright State

The Chris Jans era continued its strong start as the Falcons played a pre-UT Football matinee contest and broke a tight game open in the second half and finished with a 70-55 win.  The Falcons are now 2-0 on the young year and while the quality of the competition is yet to be demonstrated, hungry Falcon fans will take the two wins any day.

As you can see below, the game was nip and tuck for the first 30 minutes.  The Raiders led by 1 at the half and BG was up 3 with 10 minutes left to play.  From there BG went on a 21-9 run to close the game out and give BG the victory, eventually going away.

My preview covered Wright State--they are certainly down a couple of guys.  Having said that, we are happy to see our boys winning and playing well in the balance.

For the second straight game, the difference has been...wait for it....SHOOTING.  No, really.  Like shooting the ball into the basket.

BG shot 43% from the field overall--which isn't great--but they shot 45% from beyond the arc and got to the line 24 times, making 19 of them.  Meanwhile, Wright State only shot 33% and 27% and turned the ball over 18 times.

On your fancy advanced statistics, BG had 1.03 points per possession--which is overall pretty average--but Wright State had .81 points per possession, which is pretty much undateable.

The Falcons have had different players power each victory, something else that is a good sign.  Jehvon Clarke had a big game in game 1, but he was quiet in this.  Both Richaun Holmes and Spencer Parker also struggled on the offensive side of the court (Parker had 14 points but on 4 of 12 shooting).

In Game 2, it was Zack Denny who scored 18 points on 6 of 9 shooting and 4 of 4 from beyond the arc.  Joseph and Holmes added 9 as well.

Holmes may have struggled on offense, he had a big day on the defensive side, leading the team with 8 rebounds and blocking 5 shots.  Denny had 7 rebounds and Parker 6.  Jovon Austin led the team with 4 assists.

BG continued to use a lot of depth.  BG had 9 players get over 10 minutes of play and no player went more than 28.

BG has a few days off before South-something Missouri State arrives on Tuesday.  So far, the Falcons are off to a good start and I think we all look forward to seeing it continue.

Sadness Accrues: Falcons Lose to UT again

Look, the sun did come up.

So there's that.

A couple of quick notes.

Coach Babers said in his presser that the game would come down to whether BG could run the ball and whether BG could stop the run.  The answer to both of those questions was NO, and therefore the answer to the game was that UT won.

Obviously, where the offense is concerned the focus of fans is on the QB.  It isn't the philosophy of this blog to rip players.  Knapke can play better and needs to improve his accuracy (and I think he would tell you that).  But, there were other issues too, including the weather, drops and Lewis just a little out of bounds on what would have been a dramatic and potentially game changing well as a running game that was without its top 2 backs.

Ultimately, BG lost this game on the line of scrimmage, going both ways.  BG rarely won the battles to get space for Givens.  In fact, the only time BG was able to get running going was Ronnie Moore in the wildcat--in other words, by using a formation that left passing completely off the table.  And on defense, UT was able to get huge numbers behind Kareem Hunt (mostly) and implement a devastating zone read look with Macon at QB when they needed it.  UT won the game up front.

Relating again to the QB, Coach Babers said the team was in a "funk" and that they needed a "spark" which is why they put Callaway in.  And it worked, he got BG right down the field and scored a critical TD.  After that, it didn't go so well, as UT threw big pressure at the true freshman and BG failed to protect him and that was enough to keep the Falcons from getting the tying score.  Callaway had made a huge throw on the run to Burbrink, and it seems in retrospect that they might have protected him a little by getting him out on the move, but I'm sure they had their reasons.

Coach also said there is no quarterback controversy.  Knapke will start against Ball State.  He said that in so many words.  Of course, life isn't that simple.  If coaches got to decide when there was a QB controversy, there would never be one.  Many Falcon fans have been frustrated with Knapke, and even the little taste of success that Callaway had will jump into their heads every time Knapke misses a throw.

The defense gave up a ton of yards but survived on getting turnovers.  One INT was a bad throw by Woodside, but another one was on pressure where his arm was hit while throwing and BG forced Macon to fumble under pressure as well.  In total, BG picked up 4 turnovers and was hamstrung only by the offense's inability to capitalize on short fields.

The final thing that was frustrating in crunch time came on the 4th and long play where BG was down 7.  The Falcons sent their FG team out--which made no sense at all, since a FG would still leave BG a touchdown short and we had struggled all day to even get that close.  The Falcons had to use a timeout to get the offense out there.  If they had those timeouts in the last possession, they could have saved another :45, and that might have allowed them to use playcalls that would put Callaway under less pressure.

And then there's this...

It was a great football game last night.  Drama, big plays, punches and counter punches, certainly worthy of the rivalry.  Love our guy being ready to lace it up again.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Falcons Lose Again....

It was an opera of a football game.  Reversals of fortune, miracle plays, surprise actors upon the stage.  A great football game.  Much as we hate them, give UT credit.  They were the better team.  Congrats.  A 5th straight loss...stinging.

Honestly, that was a great football game.  BG simply cannot beat a team like UT without more offensive production.  Callaway kept things alive, but in the end the line couldn't protect him.  BG had opportunities that they failed to cash in on throughout the game.  This one is 100% on the offense, and not just on the starting QB but I think there was a lack of execution from beginning to end.

Remember, UT won with their #2 and #4 QBs in the game.

The sun will come up tomorrow.

More later.

It is now!

Almost Game Time!!! Go Falcons!!

Never forget....

Don't let your kids see this.

There they are....the history of Rocky Rockets.  Honestly, it is hard to say much.  The second guy from the right has to be the creepiest mascot I ever saw...I wonder how many dollars were spent on therapy bills from children traumatized by this "Rocky."  Then you look all the way to the left and you're like, yeah, uh, I didn't know Rockets have noses.  Or, the second from the left...when, stinging from comparisons between their mascot and marital aids, they decided to just randomly put a motorcycle helmet on "Rocky."

Sunrise in the Falcon Nation

Sunrise in the Falcon Nation...on Rocket Day!  Love your team today!

The Power of the Falcon.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Wright State Preview

While the Falcon Nation awaits the evening football contest with our hated rivals, there is the business of the home men's basketball opener.  This is a tough one.  Obviously, if BG could have scheduled the game on another day they would have, so they are trying to make it into a double header, starting at the Stroh, boarding buses and ending at the Glass Bowl.

The Falcons open at home with Wright State.  BG has played the Raiders the last two seasons, with both teams winning their home games.  Last year, Wright State won 46-43, invoking memories of basketball in the 1920s.

Wright State has been a very solid program.  They have 20 wins in each of the last two years and have failed to make the Big Dance by losing unexpectedly in the Horizon tournament.  Now, that record was established in the Horizon League, and resulted in final RPIs of 128 and 166.  Both BG games were competitive with them.

The Raiders also lost all 5 of their starters from last year.  They were picked by Blue Ribbon to be 3rd and by their own poll to be 5th. It also wasn't a great off-season.  Beyond graduation, leading returning scorer JT Yoho is suspended for a DUI and has not played this year.  Tavares Sledge, who averaged 12 minutes a game last year was dismissed in the off-season.  And Kendall Griffen, who played 25 minutes last year, is battling a concussion and sounds questionable for tomorrow's game.

Wright State is a depth based team.  Donlon substitutes more than a hockey coach.  They played 10 guys anaverage of 10 minutes per game or more last year and an 11th had 9 minutes.  Even with that, the Raiders could be down 8 of those 11 players when they arrive at the Stroh.

Which is why it was kind of a surprise that the Raiders opened up with a 73-70 win over Belmont.  It might not be the normal Belmont team, but that's still a notable win until we learn more.   (Note:  Howell was suspended for that game but will be back for BG, so they were down yet another guy).

The first thing Donlon did was allow some guys to play some minutes.  He ran an 8-man rotation and four players played 33 minutes or more.

Chrirshawn Hopkins lead them with 21 points on 8 of 18 shooting.  He also added 5 rebounds. Reggie Arcenaux added 15 points and 4 assists.

Other contributors were new to the program.  Note Michael Karena, from New Zealand and a JC transfer.  Karena is 6'10" and had 11 points in 4 rebounds before fouling 15 minutes.  Grant Benzinger is a FR who had 8 points in 33 minutes (3 of 12 shooting) and JC transfer Joe Thomasson played 34 relatively unproductive minutes.

For scoring 73 points, Wright State did not shoot well, only going 50%/21%.  They only made 64% of the free throws and had 14 turnovers.  In fact, Belmont shot better (47% and 20%).  The difference in the game appears to be that Belmont had 21 turnovers, and those 7 possessions made the difference.  Also, Wright State was good when they needed to be, closing the game on a 7-0 to turn defeat into victory.

Note for BG people...Parker Ernsthausen from BG is with the Raiders but apparently red-shirting this year.

After the game with Belmont, they hosted Ohio Dominican, a game they won by 12 and probably felt underwhelmed about that.

I would say that while Wright State is clearly undermanned right now and I would expect BG has a good shot at winning the game, the Raiders are a team that is used to winning and that can serve them well if the game is close.  Two keys would be whether Griffen plays and if Karena can stay on the court.

25 Rivalry Questions

What is their body of work?

Their record is not great, but they are better than that might appear.  They are 6-4 so far this year with losses to Missouri, @UC and @Iowa State.  Their only MAC slip-up came the same place is always does, which is on the same field as NIU.  For all the great players they have had, UT has not played in the MAC title game since 2004.

How many seniors and juniors on the two-deep?

26, which is a normal number.

Who are their statistical leaders?

Detmer is #16 in the nation in FGs.
Terry Swanson is #11 in yards per rush.

What is their turnover ratio?

This was a strong point last year, but this year they are -3.  (MAC play only).


How is their QB Play?

Well, that's a good question.  Their original starter, Phillip Ely, was lost for the year early.  They had Logan Woodside playing well, but he was injured and played only one series vs. NIU.  Their #3 was injured and is not expected to be available for the BG game.  They played the NIU game with WR Dwight Macon at QB, and he did pretty well, in fact.  They had an element of surprise--Carey said he didn't even know Macon could play QB--so it might be different with time to prepare.  Woodside is practicing this week and the situation is said to be still fluid.  Beyond the rivalry, the Rockets must win this one and I'd expect Woodside to go.

What is their scoring and yards per play?

They are a potent offense at full strength.  They are 3rd in the MAC in scoring and 2nd in yards per play.

Can they run the ball?

As always, yes.  They lead the MAC with 5.8 yards per carry.  This is test #1 for the BG defense...and it doesn't matter how well they pass if this is working.  Their line is great, and they have two very good backs.  As mentioned, Terry Swanson is in the Top 20 nationally with 6.7 yards per carry.  Their #1 back, Kareem Hunt, averages a ridiculous 8.1 yards per carry, but can't be nationally ranked until he appears in 75% of his team's games.  UT will test BG's front 7 as much as any team since Wisconsin.

Do they pass the ball?

While they don't get huge passing yards due to a run-based play mix, they are 4th in pass efficiency.  They only complete 58% with 8 TDs and 7 INT, but when they do connect they are gaining 13.5 yards per carry.

How is their run/pass balance?

They run on 61% of their plays, which is a very heavy run mix.

Do they convert on 3rd Down?

They are 4th in the MAC at 45%

Do they score in the red zone?

Dude.  They are 1st in the MAC and 16th in NCAA in red zone scoring.  They have been in the red zone 28 times and gotten points 26 times.  They average 5.5 points per trip, which is very efficient.

Do they protect the quarterback?

Yes.  They always do...they have only allowed 5 sacks, which is good (2.8%) even given the low pass frequency.


Topline: Scoring and yards per play.

This is where there struggles come...and it probably has been the thing keeping them out of the MAC title game.  They are 7th in scoring defense and 11th in yards per play allowed.  BG simply has to find a way to move the ball tomorrow.

Do they defend the run effectively?

They allow 4.2 yards per carry, which is 6th in the MAC.

Can they be passed on?

They can.  They are 12th in pass efficiency defense.  They are tenth in completion percentage allowed (60.8%), 13 TDs over 5 INT and 12.5 yards per completion.  BG has to succeed both running and passing to win.

Do they get off the field on 3rd down?

So, when we see a difference between yards allowed and points allowed, usually it is because a team is getting stops on 3rd down or in the red zone.  UT is 4th in 3rd down conversions allowed.

Do they defend in the red zone?

They are also good in the red zone, allowing only 4.4 points per trip.

Do they pressure the QB?

11 sacks is 4.8% of attempts, which is average.

Special Teams:


They are 10th in net punting.  No blocks, no TDs allowed.

Punt Return?

They are 6th in the MAC, no TDs, no blocks.


Dude is ridiculous.  He is 16 out 19 and 13 out of 14 inside 40.


They are excellent.  Teams average starting on the 23.

Kickoff Return?

OK.  They start on their own 23.

Miscellaneous: Overall atmospherics and intangibles.

A few.

First, UT has won 4 straight in this series, including a heart-breaking win at the Doyt last year.  It will be interesting to see how this plays with the BG players.  (Losing to UT was the best thing to happen to BG last year, the team was completely dominant in every game after that).  It is a monkey on the back, and that can either be a motivator or a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Second, the weather.  It is going to be not good.  The temp is supposed to reach a low of 17 in Toledo and 1-3 inches of snow are expected, though mostly before game time.  Winds 15 to 25.  The weather will 100% be a factor in the game.  You are going to be able to need to run the ball, which helps UT in my opinion.  This is unseasonably cold mid-western football, and the weather will be an issue.

Third, home field.  UT is very tough to beat at the Glass Bowl.  I think the weather will keep the crowd down, which should at least limit the impact of the home field.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Past and Future Opponent Land

Western Kentucky (5-5) Beat Army
VMI (2-9) Lost to W. Carolina
Indiana (3-7) Lost to 45-23 to Rutgers
Wisconsin (8-2) Smoked Nebraska
UMass (3-7) Beat Ball State
Buffalo (4-6) Beat Akron.  Go figure.
Ohio U (5-5) Smoked Buffalo
WMU (7-3) Beat EMU 51-7
Akron (4-6) Lost to Buffalo
Toledo (6-4) Lost to NIU
Ball State (3-7) Lost to UMass

MAC vs. Power 5: 4-22
MAC vs. non-MAC FBS: 3-12
MAC vs. FCS: 11-2
East vs. West: West leads 13-3

Jans Era Opens up in Fine Fashion

So, did you like that start to the Jans era?

I thought so.

Look, there's a long way to go and all, and there were some factors in our favor, but there's no way we aren't going to be pleased with a wire-wire 19 point victory on the road to kick the season off.

It was BG's biggest road win since a 24 point win over WMU back in 2012.

So, to dispense with the qualifiers...Drake was picked to be last in MVC, had a bunch of new guys and then had two returning seniors--including their leading returning scorer--suspended for the game (and 2 others) for receiving improper benefits.

Even with that, it was a great performance for the Falcons, who were never threatened.

The victory was built on the primary skill in the game of basketball and the thing that bedeviled BG most over the past few years, and that was the simple art of making the ball go through the goal.

BG shot 52% for the game and 60% in the first half, when the game was decided.  That kind of shooting is hard to beat on its own, but then you have to add in that BG made 41% of its 3FGs...11 total for the game.  With a 3-heavy shot mix, 52% is even better.

Overall, BG's EFG% was 62% and BG had 1.2 points per possession, but of which would be difficult numbers to lose with.

When you are shooting well, you want to also avoid turnovers, and BG did that as well, with 9 turnovers or about 14% of possessions.  The Falcons did not do much on the offensive boards and did not get to the line much, but they did make all 8 of their FTs.

On the defensive side, BG was also excellent.  Drake shot 37% for the game (though 50% from deep) and had only .91 points per possession, which is a difficult number to win with as well.  They also turned the ball over more than BG, and while they were better on the offensive boards and FTs, it wasn't enough to off-shoot BG's great shooting and Drake's poor shooting.

Individually, BG had 12 players score.  Todd Walker noted that this is more than the total number of BG players who scored all of last season. Jehvon Clarke came off the bench and (as we hoped) thrived in the 2.  He had 16 points on 6 of 10 shooting and 4 of 8 from deep.  Also, he played only 21 minutes.  Richaun Holmes had 12 on 4 of 6 shooting and 5 blocked shots.  Spencer Parker had 10 on 4 of 6 shooting to got with 4 steals (and a game high 25 minutes and Jovon Austin had 10 on 4 of 6 shooting and added 4 assists.

No Falcon had more than 2 turnovers and that was only 1 guy, the rest had only 1 turnover.

Anyway, a great start for the Falcons.  BG made outside shots--their biggest weakness in the past--while maintaining the ability to get stops on the defensive end.  I think we saw that we are going to see a deeper rotation for the Falcons and got a look at some of our new guys.  That includes Garrett Mayleben who played 16 minutes.

I'd encourage the Falcon Nation to pump the brakes just a little bit.  Let's enjoy seeing this evolve.  I'm looking forward to seeing how BG unfolds, but let's wait a while before we start to project ourselves into winning this way on a regular basis.  We probably did land in a good situation let's no burden these guys with a lot of expectations right away.

We will find out more Wednesday with Wright State, a very solid team on our floor in a matinee.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Sweet VIctory: The Defense

Continuing with a wrap up of the Kent win, we now turn to the defense.  We all know the story...much maligned early and improving now and in fact spends much of the time keeping BG in the game while the offense tries to get going.

Overall, the defense had a good day.  They allowed Kent only 20 points, which would be a success in anyone's book and certainly should be good enough to win.  (Yes, one of those was on a very short field after a fumble).  They allowed 5.4 yards per play, which is slightly above average for the MAC...and probably more than you would like to see against an opponent struggling on offense like Kent...but it was still a decent day.

BG did two things very well.  First, they completely shutdown the Kent running game.  With Kent's very serious issues at QB, that forced them to carry the game with their passing attack for 60 minutes, and while there were moments of success, Kent was in fact unable to win the game that way.  The Flashes ran the ball only 14 times (including the sack) for 22 yards and their longest running play was 8 yards.

Second, BG got turnovers.  The Falcons had 4 INTs...which is a season-high and I can't remember the last time we got that many.  There was also a muffed punt, which was on special teams.  Anyway, point is BG got the four of them (the 3rd one to Ward) was a gift, but the other three required nice plays by Stephens, Martin, and then a circus grab by Taylor Royster that ended up on ESPN's Top Ten.

A few notes...

Clint Stephens is on the field a lot now at DB.  He's a true FR and he looks to me to be a player.  He always seems to be on his man and when he gets a shot at the INT, he "makes the play" as the Coaches say.  He had 2 break ups as well.

BG did not get a ton of pressure on Reardon, who was not sacked.  BG did get Strock once.  The Falcons were blitzing a lot and then got burned on a Flanker Screen for a TD and after that they seemed to back off the blitzes and play in coverage.

Kent ran only 61 plays, so tackle stats are bound to be lower.  Ward, Sutton and Royster all had 6 tackles for BG.

Anyway, the ultimate point is that the BG defense was dominating in the first quarter while the Falcons built up their big lead that was never relinquished and, much like the offense, got the big plays they needed to.  (BG leads the MAC with 4 turnovers forced in the red zone).

Men's Basketball Signing Day

Wednesday was Early Signing Day for basketball, and the men's team signed the 3 players we expected them to sign and no more.  They are listed above and you can find more of them by clicking on their names in the sidebar.  They're all interesting and productive players and I continue to look forward to seeing our Coaching staff build this program to where it needs to be.

BG opens season with Drake

Drake seen on NBA sideline
So, the Jans era will begin in Des Moines, the Falcons take on Drake, who is well known in basketball and was last seen prowling the sidelines at the Air Canada Centre as an apparent member of the Toronto Raptors staff.

Drake is a member of the Missouri Valley Conference and was picked 9th by their media (out of 10) and 10th by the Blue Ribbon basketball magazine.

The Bulldogs were 15-16 last year and 6-12 in the MVC.  They finished with an RPI of 179 last year and have been sort of languishing between 140 and 179 over the past five years.

They are in the 2nd year of the Ray Giacoletti era.  Giacoletti has a very solid coaching background, having been a head coach at North Dakota State, Eastern Washington and Utah before going to Gonzaga, where is he was an assistant for 6 years.  He has a 56% winning percentage as a D1 head coach.

They return only 2 starters from last year's team and most of what you see with Drake is an unknown.  (In fact, for sheer mystery, this game, which features a new Head Coach for BG and a Drake team with 6 FR on the roster to go with 2 transfers from the Big 10 (Northwestern and Penn State) qualifies as a stone-cold whodunit.)

The Bulldogs have 10 FR and SO on the roster...and in their exhibition game they started 4 G and 2 FR and a SOPH...going young and small.  Oh, yeah, and in their exhibition game they beat Coe by 25 after trailing by 1 at halftime.

The two starting freshman are Reed Timmer (a freshman from New Berlin, Wis.) and Ore Arogundade (a freshman from Chicago) who were the two marquee players from the recruiting class.  The sophomore is a 7'0" Dane named Jacob Enevold Jensen who averaged 5 PPG and 4.9 RPG in about 18 minutes.

Beyond that, they have their 2nd, 3rd and 5th leading scorers returning.

When you look at last year's stats, they were frankly in the middle of the pack in most things in the MVC.  They were the best 3fg% shooting team in the MVC and shot a pretty high number.  Jordan Daniels was 2nd in the MVC last year and is back...while Andrew Hawley was 3rd and is not back.  Chris Caid was #8 and he is back as well.

Anyway, early season previews are tough and this one is really tough.  I don't think anyone knows what to expect out there.  I would not be surprised to see BG win, even though I think it is less than 50/50.  At any rate, it should be interesting.

Sweet Victory: The Offense

BG's offense has been struggling over the past few weeks.  Teams have been jamming the line to stop the run and BG has struggled to move the ball under those circumstances.  This has been evident against OU, WMU, and Akron.  Then, BG started the game against Kent without Travis Greene, who is injured, and then Fred Coppet was injured early on and a struggling attack was undermanned.

Enter Andre Givens.  Givens was a highly recruited player in HS who had some trouble adapting to college but who landed at BG, got his academics straightened out and then has played on and off since then.

With Greene and Coppet down, it was going to be "on" and they worked him hard.  He carried the ball 38 times, which is 8 short of the program record, which includes most of our history when running the ball was the main MO of the offense.

Givens had a good game and was the key offensive player.  He had 157 yards on the game, which 4.1 yards per carry.  The yards per carry is not great, but he did score twice and when BG needed first downs late in the game they went to Givens exclusively and he delivered, even though he had to be exhausted.  Not counting the victory formation, Givens ran the ball 18 times on BG's 21 plays in the 4th Quarter.

On the pass attack, BG had a good game dominated mostly by big plays.  Coach said that he felt Knapke "really on" during the game and if Kent had been playing to stop the run, he would have been comfortable setting Knapke loose for passes.  He was 22 of 37 for the game,   That's 59.5%, which is good.  He had 1 TD and 1 pick (and that was on a hail mary at the end of the first half, so no real picks).

He benefitted from finding Lewis behind the defense and hit him with a perfect ball for an 82 yard touchdown and in the final drive where BG went back up 2 scores he put the ball in places where Burbrink and Lewis could get it for big plays.  He put a number of balls into tight spaces to Burbrink to convert on 3rd down.  He had another gorgeous ball to Dieter that he was called out of bounds on and certainly looked inbounds to me.

Anyway, usually 60% completion and 12+ yards per catch is usually a winning combination, and Knapke was nearly fact, yards per catch was 14.3...and not that he didn't miss some throws, but he made the throws he needed to make and had a productive game.

For my money, his most reliable reliever is Ryan Burbrink, who is sure-handed and makes tough catches in tight space and can go up field as well.  Burbrink had 8 grabs for 111 yards...and as mentioned many were in key situations.

Roger Lewis remains very dangerous.  He was 3-116 for a TD and another catch on the 2.  I'm sure the coaches are trying to get the ball to Lewis more, but the guy is a real weapon.  Finally, Gehrig Dieter is making a contribution for the first time this season, catching 6 for 78.  If teams are going to double Lewis, than Burbrink and Dieter have to be ready to take advantage of the space created.

Overall, the BG offense had 527 yards.  It took them 96 plays to get there, which is 5.5 yards per play.  BG did have 27 first downs, which is a good number, and really only had 1 turnover, though it was a costly one.

So, the offense was good enough to win.  They remain very uneven, but they are make enough plays to get wins.  Let's hope either Greene or Coppet is ready to go for the UT game just to give Andre a little bit of a break.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

MAC Blogger Roundtable, My Responses

This week's roundtable is hosted by Hustle Belt.

1.  NIU's win over Toledo has opened up the West where four teams are all within a game of the MAC West divisional lead. Do you think the parity of the West is better for the conference, or races like the East - where the winner was pretty much decided with three weeks to go - are better for the MAC?

While at FalconBlog we are perfectly satisfied with the boring and early decided MAC East race, there's no doubt that the open races are much better for creating suspense and drama and helping to make November more exciting.  We support open races in the West at all times!

2. With the return of weeknight games comes the debate over their merits. Does the national TV exposure balance out the barren stands many teams around the MAC see for these evening games in November?
I have been around and around on this one.  We had 8K Wednesday night at the Doyt.  Wouldn't have been great on a Saturday afternoon but probably better and a little warmer.  Now that ESPN is putting some cash on the table, we are locked in.  The entire collegiate sports scene has been changed by the pursuit of money--for good or ill.  There's no going back.

3. In case you missed it, Deadspin just ripped commissioner Jon Steinbrecher for his handling of questions about the MAC's 13-year deal with ESPN. (link: What are your initial thoughts on this article and the accompanying video with the interview referenced in the story?

Just having watched that, I wonder what the interviewer is getting at.  Is it the mere issue of transparency or is it some specific provision that has him upset?  My best guess is that he is upset that schools are producing content for ESPN, which is sort of an angle I hadn't thought of it before.  Are any of the schools upset at what the MAC committed to or the length of the contract?  His focus on lawyers--as if there might be a legal issue--was also odd.  

For what it is worth, I wouldn't have answered the question about the son, either.

4. Rank 'em up

  1. NIU
  2. UT
  3. WMU
  4. BG
  5. CMU
  6. Ohio
  7. UMass
  8. Ball State
  9. Buffalo 
  10. Akron
  11. Miami
  12. EMU
  13. Kent

Blade on Zach Colvin

In the midst of the good feelings today, I wanted to point you all to a story in The Blade about Zach Colvin.  As we all know, he has been out with a medical issue since the first game.  The University has not disclosed what the issue was but their body language suggested it was something that at least had the potential to be serious.  You can check out The Blade for the specifics, but after a long Fall for Zach it looks like things are pointing in the right direction.  Good to hear, and get well soon, Zach.

Sweet Victory: The Game Flow, and some appreciation.

As mentioned earlier...nothing comes easy for this crew.  Last night's win was no exception, but last night's win was a win.  The East might be (or, IS) weak, but BG beat every team except Miami and did not play them.  They clearly deserve to be the MAC East champions.

Even given the hue and cry this year, no team has won the MAC East back-to-back since Miami did it in 2003.  It is obviously a hard thing to do and BG has done it and the results speak for themselves.

BG took the field against a team that was 1-8 and winless in MAC play.  There was not going to be a better chance to lock down the East, and for the first 15 minutes it appeared that BG was going to be doing what its fans secretly--in their dark hearts--want to make happen, and that's to blow a team off the field.

The first quarter looked like everyone was going to get their wish.  BG was doing everything right.  Kent had one first down while BG was in the red zone four times.  Some warning signs were dropped...BG stalled on two of those four drives and missed a FG and led 17-0 when it could easily have been 28-0.

Even the start of the second quarter was good.  BG drove inside the 10 once again, but also stalled once again and kicked a field goal.  Everyone was feeling pretty good.  The Falcons had raced to a 20-0 lead with almost no friction.  It didn't seem to be a big deal that the lead could have been much larger because it seemed like the game was set--BG would continue to move the ball and the defense would continue to get stops.

I wrote here about Kent's issues with at the QB position.  They had started Nathan Strock, who had perked the team up against UT, but last night he was ineffectively.  They brought Reardon (the original starter) back in, and he started to get results right away.  Almost on cue, the BG offense began to get mired in a slump.

Still, with 6:29 left, BG had dropped Kent on its own 8 and you had to feel pretty good that they could not drive the whole field.  In fact, you were probably thinking that you had a shot to get the ball back in good field position.

In the actual event, Kent DID drive the field.  They converted a 4th down around midfield and then were inside the BG 25 and seemingly in no special hurry when they caught BG in a full blitz and hit a screen to make it 20-7, which was how it was at the half.

The second half kickoff went OB for BG, and that set up a string of poor field position possessions where Kent was threatening the entire way.  Kent stuck BG on the 12 and then on the 8...the second possession did not go well, BG had a grounding penalty and punted from its own 3.  Kent had a big punt return from that left them (even after a penalty) on the BG 30.

BG had a PI on the first play after the punt return but then Clint Stephens made a huge INT for BG to keep Kent from scoring.  The Falcons were back on the 3, however, and Chris Pohlman fumbled on the 4 and Kent had the ball back and this time they didn't miss and scored to make it 20-14.

It was almost a relief because it meant that BG was going to get the ball in some decent field position, still up 6.  Kent's KO went OB, but BG only made 1 first down and failed to capitalize and punted the Flashes down to the 12.

Kent's offense was cracking at this point.  They made 3 first downs in 6 plays and were inside BG territory when the BG defense bailed them out again with a great INT by Gabe Martin.  It was one of those where the ball is on the defender unexpectedly and he hung on and the Falcons had the ball back.

Finally, the Falcons offense began to move the ball again.  BG moved from its own 32 to the Kent 3 in 15 freaking plays, chewing up 5 minutes and converting exactly 1 3rd down.  BG got to the 8 and then ran Givens 3 straight no avail...and kicked another.  A FG would have been great, but it did put the lead over 2 scores at 23-14.

The value of that--and of the missed TD became immediately apparent, and Kent started on its own 40 and hit the BG end zone six plays later, virtually without slowing down.  They doinked the XP and it was 23-20 with 9 minutes left.  I can't describe how much the game was in the balance...Kent was getting stops against BG and they seemed to be moving the ball against our defense.

And then the offense came up with the plays they needed.  Knapke hit Burbrink for 45 yards to the Kent 33--Burbrink made a huge grab in traffic to get the ball--and then he hit Lewis to the 2 where Lewis made the grab while being interfered with.  He is incredible in traffic.  Anyway, BG punched that one in and had a 30-20 lead with 7:47 to play.

Kent needed to score twice, but they were still in the game.  Three plays after another OB kickoff, Kent was on the BG 24 and there was certainly no comfort in the Falcon nation.  Reardon then overthrew a receiver and Ward got the pick BG absolutely needed and the Falcons had the ball on the 5 with about 5 minutes left.

Even with this, the game was still in doubt and it was even more in doubt when BG fumbled on its own 5 yard line.  As the stadium went into cardiac arrest, Chris Pohlman wrestled the ball out of Kent player's arms and made what might amount to the play of the game.  The Falcons then proceeded to make two critical first downs, go #falconslow to eat clock and put the game away.  There was a late punt and one more INT and then it was time for the alma mater.

It was a very good day to be a Falcon.  It did not come easy, but BG did make the plays they needed to win the game.  Remember the 2010 season, when there were close games that BG lost because they didn't know how to make those plays?  Even last year's men's basketball team suffered from this disease.

This team knew how to win that game last night.  And, for the first time in a decade, the East has back-to-back winners and the last time was when Miami had a QB who now has multiple Super Bowl rings.  BG's season hasn't been perfect to date, but there has been much to appreciate.

Oh...and if BG wins next week I think you will hear the complaining stop.  More later.