AMHERST, Mass. – The Bowling Green State University football team racked up 668 total yards of offense over 108 plays en route to a 47-42 victory over University of Massachusetts at McGuirk Alumni Stadium in both squads’ Mid-American Conference opener. The game was played in front of a sold-out crowd of 17,000 fans.
Sophomore linebacker James Sanford forced a fumble with 1:46 remaining in the contest that was recovered by true freshman defensive back Clinton Stephens which all but sealed the win for the Falcons. The Bowling Green offense ran out the clock from there to secure the triumph.
With the win, Bowling Green improves to 3-2 (1-0 MAC), while Massachusetts falls to 0-5 (0-1).
James Knapke completed 38-of-59 passes for 443 yards and three touchdowns with three interceptions for BGSU. On his way to a career-high 443 yards, Knapke had three receivers that went over 100 yards receiving, as Roger Lewis caught nine passes for a team-high 148 yards and one touchdown, Ryan Burbrink hauled in 11 receptions for 132 and one touchdown, and Ronnie Moore caught nine passes for 109 yards. Moore had one rushing and receiving touchdown for the Orange and Brown.
While the 668 yards of total offense for BGSU is the most that UMass has ever allowed, five of the Falcons’ six touchdown drives took less than two minutes off the clock.
Bowling Green’s defense forced a season-high four turnovers. Three Falcons – linebacker Gabe Martin, defensive back Dernard Turner and Sanford – all had a team-high nine tackles. Along with the forced fumble, Sanford also recovered a fumble and registered two sacks. Defensive back Brain Sutton chipped in with eight tackles, and four other Falcons – defensive back Jude Adjei-Barimah, defensive linemen Bryan Thomas and Jhalil-Nashid Croley, and Martin – all recorded a sack apiece.
The Falcon defense held Massachusetts to just 49 rushing yards for the game.
The Minutemen’s Blake Frohnapfel completed 36-of-61 passes for the home team, and Tajae Sharpe caught a game-high 13 passes for 179 yards.
UMass scored a touchdown on its second drive of the game, but the Orange and Brown countered with three straight scores to take a 13-7 lead.
A Moore 27-yard touchdown reception – which was aided by a defensive lineman Taylor Royster fumble recovery after Turner popped the ball out on a UMass run play – was sandwiched in between a pair of Tyler Tate field goals; the first from 21 yards out, while the second was good from 33 yards. Tate’s first field goal was the result of a Thomas forced fumble on a sack that was recovered by Sanford on Massachusetts’ previous drive.
The two teams then traded multiple touchdowns to end the first half.
Bowling Green took a 20-14 lead with 9:47 remaining in the first half when Greene rushed for a four-yard score. Coppet rushes of 16 and 31 yards set up the score.
After a seven-play touchdown drive for UMass, Knapke orchestrated an eight-play, 73-yard drive that was capped by a 35-yard reception by Burbrink after a nice pump fake to put the Falcons back in front at 26-21, which BGSU took into the halftime break.
Two of BGSU’s touchdown drives in the first half took under three minutes, while all three lasted under four minutes.
Knapke completed 23-of-35 passes for 309 yards and two touchdowns with two interceptions at the break. Burbrink caught nine passes for 118 yards and a score, while Moore also had a touchdown and hauled in six catches for 94 yards in the first half.
Lewis became the third receiver to catch a touchdown in the ballgame after Knapke found the true freshman for a 52-yard score. The seven-play drive covered 96 yards, only took 1:20 off the clock and gave BGSU a 33-21 lead.
However, it was UMass who held the advantage after the third quarter, as the Minutemen scored 14 consecutive points to take a 35-33 lead.
It was then the Orange and Brown who scored two straight touchdowns. Greene finished off a drive that lasted 1:56 with a 25-yard scamper. On the Massachusetts’ ensuing drive, true freshman defensive back Nick Johnson created the Falcon defense’s third turnover of the contest by intercepting Frohnapfel’s pass at the Bowling Green 46-yard line, tip-toeing the sideline on the play.
Eight plays later, BGSU took a 47-35 lead on Moore’s second touchdown of the evening – a 22-yard jet sweep.
Sharpe caught a five-yard touchdown pass with 3:22 to play to bring UMass within five points, but Sanford’s forced fumble wrapped up the win for the Orange and Brown.
The Falcons will return to Doyt. L Perry Stadium on Oct. 4 at 3:30 p.m. to face MAC-East foe Buffalo. The contest will serve as the school’s Homecoming game.