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Falcons fast at allowing yards, points

09/01/2014, 12:00am EDT
By BY DAVE HACKENBERG BLADE SPORTS COLUMNIST
Falcons fast at allowing yards, points

Monday morning quarterback:

■ So much attention was given to Bowling Green’s new, up-tempo offense during the preseason. FalconFast, it is being called.

Maybe a lot more attention should have been paid to the defense. FalconFold is what it looked like in BG’s season-opening loss at Western Kentucky.

The Falcons have sported the Mid-American Conference’s best defense in each of the past two seasons. A year ago the unit ranked in the top-10 nationally in four key categories.

Here are selected BG defensive averages from the 2013 season with last Friday’s single-game totals in parenthesis:

The Falcons allowed 15.9 points (59), 17 first downs (40), and 321.4 yards (702) per game.

Yes, 702 total yards. It was a lousy effort 200 yards ago.

Two FBS teams, UNLV and Florida Atlantic, managed to produce worse opening-week defensive performances than did BG. Of course, they were playing power-conference teams Arizona and Nebraska, respectively.

The Falcons, meanwhile, were playing a fellow mid-major in Western Kentucky and as MAC title favorites it’s a team they were expected to be competitive against.

True, BG had but a handful of defensive starters returning, two of them All-MAC linebackers, but there is nonetheless considerable experience on that side of the ball. Instead, BG looked over-rated, under-prepared, and shell-shocked. Any adjustments made along the way were ineffective.

The Falcons can’t help but be better in their home opener against VMI, but Indiana and Wisconsin follow that game and BG can’t afford the kind of effort it got Friday against those offenses.

■ Urban Meyer suggested “I’m maturing” in regard to how he reacted to the early play of Ohio State rookie quarterback J.T. Barrett against Navy on Saturday.

The only maturation that really matters for the Buckeyes is that of Barrett, who ended up doing just fine with the help of a running game that averaged almost five yards on each of 40 carries. OSU showed some rushing depth with four players, including Barrett, punching 40 yards or more.

Toledo coach Matt Campbell may also have been biting his tongue reacting to QB Phillip Ely’s first few possessions in his first start. But when UT started gouging New Hampshire on the ground it opened the passing lanes and the playbook.

With sophomore Kareem Hunt leading the way, UT ran the ball 43 times for 314 yards, while Ely and backup Michael Julian attempted 36 passes and produced 360 yards. Almost perfect balance.

Ohio State was run-heavy by comparison — 40 rushes, 15 pass attempts — but that should almost always be the case, certainly while Barrett and his head coach are maturing.

Barrett and Ely will both have sterner tests this weekend as Virginia Tech and Missouri travel to Ohio to face the Buckeyes and Rockets, respectively. Again, the better the running game, the better the quarterback play should be.

■ Seriously, for all the flashbacks to 2007, did anyone really expect Appalachian State to come within four or five touchdowns of Michigan this time?

The stunning loss to App State in ’07 may have been when the aura of invincibility began to slip away from the Wolverines, but winning 52-14 in Saturday’s rematch didn’t regain it.

Winning at Notre Dame next weekend might be a different story.

■ The targeting penalty against Toledo free safety Chaz Whitaker was a little tough to swallow for the Rockets because New Hampshire quarterback Sean Goldrich dove head-first after scrambling for a first down in the second quarter Saturday night.

Was there helmet-to-helmet contact? It appeared so. Was there intent, as the targeting penalty would imply? That is hard to interpret with a head-first slide that somewhat invites, or at least makes it harder to avoid, such contact.

■ The last word always goes to the readers. These emails came in last week 15 hours apart after back-to-back college football preview columns.

“Your obvious dislike for the University of Michigan is nauseating.”

And…

“I think that your dislike for Ohio State is showing through.”

Got ’em confused, I guess.

Contact Blade sports columnist Dave Hackenberg at: dhack@theblade.com or 419-724-6398.

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