The Bowling Green State University football rang up 526 yards of total offense and two special teams touchdowns en route to a 48-7 win over VMI on Saturday afternoon (Sept. 6). The game was the 2014 home opener for the Falcons as well as the debut for starting quarterback James Knapke.
The Falcons began the game on defense and forced VMI to punt after just four plays. That began a string of successful stops for the BGSU defense, which did not allow the Keydets to cross midfield until the middle of the second quarter.
Bowling Green’s offense began their first drive at their own 29 yard line. The 71-yard touchdown march was dominated by Knapke and Travis Greene. Greene carried on the first three plays, after which Knapke converted a third down with a 17-yard pass to Roger Lewis.
After two more short rushes, Greene burst through the middle for a 33-yard run on his sixth carry of the drive. On the following play, Knapke plowed into the middle of the line for a one-yard touchdown run. Tyler Tate‘s extra point gave BGSU a 7-0 lead less than five minutes into the game.
BGSU faltered on their second possession and did not obtain a first down. However, the Falcons’ defense forced two more punts from VMI. On the second, Ryan Burbrink and Ronnie Moore appeared to collide as they both attempted to catch the punt at BGSU’s 25-yard line. Burbrink came away with the ball and weaved his way through traffic for a 75-yard touchdown return and a 14-0 lead.
The next possession for Bowling Green began on their own 12-yard line after the fourth Keydet punt. This time, Knapke joined with Fred Coppet to drive the Falcon offense to a touchdown in only eight plays. Knapke completed three passes for 17 yards and ran for another 17 on the march, but Coppet ran for 54 yards on just four carries, including a 21-yard burst. He scored untouched around the left end on a 15-yard jaunt for a 21-0 lead less than one minute into the second quarter.
Another three-and-out by VMI put the Falcons offense back on the field, and they scored in under two minutes for the second consecutive drive. Knapke completed all three passes he threw for 50 yards, including a 41-yard dart to Lewis. Greene had three more big runs for 38 yards, and his 21-yard jaunt up the middle capped the six-play, 88-yard drive. His score pushed the Falcon lead to 28-0.
In those two drives alone, BGSU ran 14 plays that accumulated 174 yards and took only 3:26 to do it.
VMI answered with a touchdown to close to 28-7, but late in the half, the Falcons answered. Ryland Ward secured the team’s first turnover of the season with an interception of Al Cobb with 3:26 left in the half. Knapke passed twice to Heath Jackson for 30 and 12 yards, and Greene completed the three-play, 46-second drive with a seven-yard run. The Falcons took a 34-7 lead into halftime.
In the second half, Bowling Green cruised to their victory by pitching a shutout in the final two quarters. They completed the day with two more touchdowns, one each in the third and fourth quarter.
On VMI’s first drive of the second half, Hayden Alford lined up to punt for the Keydets. The snap was low, and Alford bobbled it. This allowed Herve Coby to block the punt attempt, and he recovered the ball and ran 14 yards for the Falcons’ second special teams touchdown of the day.
Bowling Green’s final scoring drive of the day again went the length of the field. Knapke guided the team 86 yards in 10 plays, and the touchdown came on a 51-yard rainbow pass to Lewis down the right sideline. With the extra point, BGSU had the final points in hand for their 48-7 win.
The Falcons ran 71 plays for 526 yards, an average of 7.4 per play. They did their business equally on the ground and through the air, as they rushed 37 times for 260 yards and passed 34 times for 266 yards. The Falcons’ defense held VMI to 97 yards rushing on 35 attempts.
Knapke produced quality numbers in his first start, as he completed 22 of 31 passes for 237 yards, one touchdown and one interception. True freshman Cody Callaway saw his first career action in the fourth quarter, and he completed all three of his passes for 29 yards.
Lewis had a breakout game with six catches for 140 yards and a touchdown, while Jackson added six more catches for 59 yards.
On the ground, Greene produced 129 yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries. Coppet’s nine carries resulted in a touchdown and 73 yards. Andre Givens ran for 41 yards in the fourth quarter, and Knapke added another rushing score.
Bowling Green produced three turnovers on defense. That included Ward’s interception, as well as fumble recoveries by Paul Senn and Gus Schwieterman. Schwieterman added a sack, while Senn led the team with 13 tackles. Terrance Bush added a second sack for BGSU.
Three quarterbacks played for the Keydets, led by Al Cobb, who threw for 224 yards by completing 26 of 43 attempts. Jabari Turner led VMI with 43 yards rushing, while Doug Burton produced 76 receiving yards.
Bowling Green (1-1) resumes their season next Saturday when they host the Indiana Hoosiers. That game will begin at 12:00 p.m. ET and will be televised nationally on ESPNU.