Bowling Green's Teo Redding makes a catch and is brought down by Akron's Alvin Davis (1) and Nathan Bischof. BLADE/KATIE RAUSCH
BOWLING GREEN — The winless Bowling Green State University football team found itself in a position to win its Mid-American Conference opener Saturday.
The Falcons had the ball early in the fourth quarter and were trailing Akron just 27-23, with plenty of time left on the Doyt Perry Stadium to engineer a game-winning drive.
Then disaster struck Bowling Green.
Quarterback James Morgan, in for injured starter Jarret Doege, threw a pass to the far sideline — right into the hands of Akron’s Kyron Brown, who returned the pick-6 38 yards for a back-breaking touchdown.
Bowling Green never recovered and suffered a 34-23 loss that dropped their season’s record to 0-5, marking the first time since 1988 that the Falcons had lost their first five games of the season.
IN PICTURES: Akron 34, Bowling Green 23
BG coach Mike Jinks was clipped in his commentary on the game-deciding play.
"It was a run play," Jinks said when asked about the call. When asked if Morgan had checked out of the play, Jinks simply said, "Yes."
And when asked if it was a good decision, the coach said, "Probably not. We'll check the video, but that probably wasn't what we wanted to do against their best cornerback."
Akron improved to 2-3 and snapped an eight-game loss to BG.
It was a disappointing finish to a contest that saw the Falcons bounce back from an early 20-6 deficit to take their first lead in game since holding an advantage over Michigan State into the second quarter of the season opener.
BG took the game’s opening kickoff, but Scotty Miller fumbled after catching a first-down pass and Akron’s Alvin Davis picked up the loose ball and returned it to the BG 19. From there Zips quarterback Thomas Woodson threw a four-yard TD toss to A.J. Coney with 11:44 on the clock in the opening quarter.
But the Falcons’ Andrew Clair returned the ensuing kickoff 50 yards to set up the first BG touchdown of the night. Bowling Green dodged a bullet when Doege threw an interception, but Akron’s Jordan George fumbled the ball on the return and Doege recovered it.
Two plays after the fumble Doege caught a pass from wide receiver Matt Wilcox and was hit in the back. He came back in for the next series but did not return.
Eventually Matt Domer scored on a two-yard run with 8:13 to go in the quarter.
Akron responded with a seven-play, 75-yard drive that was capped with a 43-yard touchdown pass from Woodson to Austin Wolf with 5:59 to play in the period.
In the second quarter the Zips expanded their lead to 20-6 with a drive that covered 80 yards on eight plays, with Van Edwards capping the drive with a three-yard touchdown plunge at the 9:38 mark.
The Falcons responded with an 11-play, 71-yard drive that featured a 39-yard run by Domer down to Akron’s 2. After a personal foul on BG pushed the ball back to the 17, Morgan threw a 17-yard touchdown pass to Hunter Folkertsma with 6:04 to go in the quarter.
Leading 20-13 at halftime, the Zips turned the ball over on the first drive of the second half as Aaron Banks forced a fumble that Clint Stephens recovered and returned to the Akron 39. Four plays later the Falcons tied the game on a 26-yard touchdown pass from Morgan to Clair with just 1:49 off the clock.
Bowling Green then forced a Zips punt and drove 77 yards on 12 plays to set up a 25-yard field goal by Jake Suder that gave the Falcons a 23-20 lead with 7:02 to go in the quarter.
"At that point we felt we had the momentum of the game," said wide receiver Teo Redding. "We thought we would get the ball back and build a 10-point lead.
"We had a lot of confidence on the sidelines."
But Akron responded with a seven-play, 63-yard drive to retake the lead, with Woodson scoring on an 11-yard run with 4:17 remaining in the period. Woodson completed 13-of-24 passes for 168 yards with two TDs and one interception.
"That was crushing," Jinks said. "We had taken the lead and shown great resiliency, and then we gave up a drive like that."
On the drive Woodson completed 3-of-4 passes for 43 yards to get the Zips into the red zone, then saw Akron cover the final 20 yards on the ground.
"We have to [man] up and stop them," defensive lineman David Konowalski said. "We have to buckle down and make the plays we're supposed to make.
"We just didn't execute, that drive especially."
Bowling Green attempted to drive after that TD, but a Clair fumble was recovered by the Zips’ Deon’Tae Moore on the Akron 42 as the third quarter ended.
On the first play of the final quarter, Stephens intercepted a Woodson pass to give the Falcons the ball back.
And exchange of punts set up the fateful pass by Morgan, who completed 17-of-27 passes for 163 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. Doege connected on 6-of-9 pass attempts for 14 yards with one interception before leaving after taking a hard hit while catching a wide receiver pass.
Bowling Green’s next drive resulted in a punt, and Akron held the ball for more than six minutes. That gave the Falcons the ball with just 93 seconds left, and BG could not score before the clock ran out.