It was the battle of East and West on Friday night as the 9-3 Bowling Green State Falcons and the undefeated and No. 14 ranked Northern Illinois Huskies traveled to Detroit to face-off for the 2013 MAC Championship Title at Ford Field.
Going into this game, many fans expected Northern Illinois to win this game and win another MAC Championship Title but Bowling Green had other ideas as they pulled off the major upset, defeating Northern Illinois with a final score of 47-27 and winning the MAC Championship Title.
It all started in the first quarter, where Bowling Green received the ball first and they certainly didn’t waste anytime scoring as they drove down the field within three minutes. Which led to quarterback Matt Johnson connecting with tight end Tyler Beck for a 28 yard touchdown and after converting the extra point, Bowling Green took an early 7-0 lead. However Northern Illinois came right back with a score of their own as quarterback Jordan Lynch was able to connect with wide receiver Juwan Brescacin who made a wonderful one-handed grab in the end-zone. After converting the extra point, both teams were tied at 7-7. Nonetheless, it was after that score that Bowling Green once again drove down the field but thanks to some solid defense by Northern Illinois, they were forced to settle for 26-yard field goal, giving Bowling Green a 10-7 lead. Later with three minutes left in the first quarter, Bowling Green once again drove down the field as Matt Johnson connected with freshman wide receiver Ronnie Moore for a wide open 36 yard touchdown, allowing Bowling Green to end the first quarter with a 17-7 lead.
Entering the second quarter, Northern Illinois was able to get going offensively as they once again drove down the field. However, thanks to some solid red-zone defense by Bowling Green, the Huskies were forced to settle for a 51-yard field goal which they converted, making the score 17-10. Later on with ten minutes left in the first half, the Huskies were once force again force to settle for a field goal and after converting the 45-yard field goal Northern Illinois still trailed Bowling Green 17-13. However, it was at that time that Bowling Green once again caught fire as Matt Johnson connected with wide receiver Heath Jackson for another touchdown giving Bowling Green a 24-13 lead. Nonetheless, the ever resilient Huskies did their best to come back with another score but unfortunately they fell short of putting points on the board as they couldn’t convert on the 58-yard field goal. Then with three minutes left in the first half, Bowling Green running back Travis Greene fumbled the ball which was recovered by Northern Illinois. However, the celebration was short-lived as Jordan Lynch’s pass was tipped and picked off by Bowling Green defensive tackle Ted Ouetllet which lead to a scoring drive for the Bowling Green offense as Matt Johnson connected with tight end Alex Bayer for a 12-yard touchdown allowing Bowling Green to increase their lead to 31-13 to end the first half of play.
To start the third quarter, Northern Illinois received the ball first and like lightning, they quickly drove down the field and scored a touchdown as Lynch rushed for an eight yard touchdown cutting the score down to 31-20 after making the extra point. Bowling Green did their best to come right back with a score of their own but were unable to convert on a 28-yard field goal keeping the score at 31-20 with Bowling Green still leading. Believe it or not the trend of missed field goals wouldn’t end there, as Northern Illinois came right back with another missed field goal this time a 44-yard field allowing the score to stay the same with Bowling Green leading 31-20 to end the third quarter.
Entering the fourth quarter, Bowling Green’s offense was once again stalled by the Northern Illinois defense but they were able to execute on a 52-yard field goal increasing their lead to 34-20. As always, the resistant Huskies did their best to come back with a score of their own but Jordan Lynch was picked off by senior corner-back Aaron Foster, leading to great field position for Bowling Green. Let’s just say, Bowling Green didn’t waste anytime capitalizing as Matt Johnson executed a shuffle pass to running back Travis Greene, increasing their lead to 40-20, after the extra point was blocked by Northern Illinois. The icing on the cake would come with three minutes left in the game as running back Travis Greene rushed for eight yard touchdown increasing Bowling Green’s lead to 47-20. With only seconds left in the game, Northern Illinois was able to get on the scoreboard with a two yard rushing touchdown by Jordan Lynch. However, it was to little to late, as Bowling Green pulled the upset and defeated Northern Illinois to win the 2013 MAC Championship Title with a final score of 47-27.
Overall, it was a great game by Bowling Green, they played with passion and physicality and executed on their game plan. Sophomore quarterback Matt Johnson played great throwing for a total of 393 yards and five touchdowns. He did a great job of spreading the ball around, scoring five touchdowns with five different receivers (Bayer, Jackson, Moore, Greene and Beck). Then defensively they were even more impressive, as they held a talented Northern Illinois team to 27 points and picked off quarterback Jordan Lynch twice.
As far as Northern Illinois is concern, a lot of the issues came from the defense. There is no reason that Bowling Green should have scored 47 points in this game. They allowed Bowling Green to play complete balance football and get down the field with ease and to make matters worse, half of Bowling Green’s touchdowns took place because the wide receivers were constantly wide open. Now that’s not to take anything away from Bowling Green’s performance, because they played great, it’s more about the lack of defensive effectiveness by Northern Illinois. The offense isn’t completely blameless either, they had multiple opportunities to get back in this game but they constantly struggled to get in the end-zone which caused them to settle for field goals. If they are able to execute better in those red-zone situations and not turn the ball over, Northern Illinois could have very well won the MAC Championship.
At the end of the day, it was a great game and if you learn anything from this game, it’s that any team can be beaten and to never underestimate your opponent.
Written by LBeasley, Sports Contributor for Radio One Detroit
Listen to LBeasley’s Radio Show, “Sports Talk with L-Beasley” every Mon, Wed & Fri from 6-8pm (ET) on LBeasley.com