Bowling Green's Donovan Wilson (45) looks to evade Akron on the run during the fourth quarter of the Saturday match up at Doyt L. Perry Stadium. Akron won, 34-23. The Blade/Katie Rausch
BOWLING GREEN — The Bowling Green State University football team suffered a 34-23 loss to Akron Saturday at Doyt Perry Stadium.
The loss in the Falcons’ Mid-American Conference opener dropped their season’s record to 0-5, the program’s first winless start at this point since 1988.
Upon further review, here are five things we learned from the Falcons’ home loss to the Zips:
1. The Falcons have not resolved their quarterback question — but this point deserves an asterisk.
True freshman Jarret Doege started and completed 6-of-9 passes for 14 yards. He also caught a wide-receiver pass from Matt Wilcox, and that’s where the problems started.
Doege was hit hard and suffered an apparent back injury. He briefly returned to the field, but eventually was shut down for the rest of the game. Coach Mike Jinks did not know the severity of the injury after the game, but he went with sophomore James Morgan the rest of the way.
Morgan completed 17-of-28 passes for 163 yards and two touchdowns, but he also threw the critical pick-6 that decided the contest.
"I thought in a difficult situation he had played pretty well until that point," Jinks said of Morgan. "We've been working with him on not having to make the big play, or do too much.
"I thought he did a good job of executing the game plan and giving us a chance to win."
Doege’s health will play a large role in determining the starter for Saturday’s game at Miami.
2. While the offense has shown some explosiveness, it would be well-served to trade that in for some consistency.
The Falcons finished with just 376 yards of total offense against Akron, and inconsistency was the biggest culprit. BG was hamstrung by four penalties, seven turnovers (including five fumbles, not all of which were lost), and an assortment of blown assignments.
"We make sparks here and there, but there's no consistency," said senior receiver Teo Redding, who finished with four catches for 36 yards. "We make a play, then we hurt ourselves with a bad play."
Of the 79 plays Bowling Green ran, only nine gained at least 10 yards. The Falcons also converted on just 6-of-18 third-down plays and, while they scored three times in the red zone, they had to settle for a field goal once.
"We can't get out of our own way," Jinks said. "And a lot of that is about confidence.
"We need to exhale, relax and play football."
3. The Falcons defense remains adept at forcing turnovers.
Bowling Green forced three Akron fumbles, recovering two, and also saw Clint Stephens intercept a pass on the first play of the fourth quarter. That gives the Falcons 12 turnovers forced (second in the MAC behind Central Michigan), including a league-best nine fumbles forced.
"When we're executing, you see what happens,” said defensive end David Konowalski, who had three tackles in the game. "In practice we work on tip drills and strip drills, and that comes out in games."
Two of the fumbles by the Zips directly led to Bowling Green touchdowns, and all the turnovers helped the Falcons limit Akron to 361 yards of total offense.
4. Bowling Green remains unable to consistently get the big stop on defense.
Despite the turnovers, the Falcons allowed three drives of at least 63 yards, all leading to touchdowns. After BG kicked a field goal to lead 23-20 midway through the third quarter, the defense allowed a seven-play, 63-yard drive for a touchdown that gave the Zips the lead for good.
"We have to [man] up and stop them," Konowalski said. "We have to buckle down and make the plays we're supposed to make.
"We just didn't execute, that drive especially."
Jinks agreed, adding, "That [drive] was crushing. We had taken the lead and shown great resiliency, and then we gave up a drive like that."
The defense also gave up a game-deciding drive late in the contest, allowing Akron to hold onto the ball for 6 minutes, 6 seconds, and push from its 30-yard line to the BG 28.
The Falcons offense got the ball back with just 1:33 on the clock and no time outs left but were unable to cut into the two-score deficit.
5. Special teams have a chance to contribute to a BG victory before the season is over.
The Falcons were not perfect on special teams, missing an extra point after the first touchdown and allowing Akron some long returns on kickoffs late.
But Andrew Clair proved to be explosive on kickoffs and Marcus Milton had a big punt return to help BG improve its field position.
Jinks said the parity of the Mid-American Conference, where the talent gap between teams is not large, will allow the Falcons to continue to excel on special teams.
"You're going to see bigger plays on special teams,” he said. “There are going to be opportunities for big plays, for big returns."