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February 22, 2024

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Falcons fly high in home opener win over Eastern Illinois

Terion+Stewart+celebrates+with+his+teammates+after+scoring+a+touchdown
Drake Harlett
Terion Stewart celebrates with his teammates after scoring a touchdown

Bowling Green entered today with an 0-1 record were eager to change that this afternoon where they welcomed the Eastern Illinois Panthers.  

The team was hungry after last week’s struggles against Liberty.   

Right out of the tunnel, the offense looked dramatically different from a week ago. Connor Bazelak was given the start again this week and he had a very different game than he did a week ago.  

Bazelak went 6/6 on pass completions on the first drive alone. As he found four different receivers on that drive with Odieu Hiliare finishing the drive for a touchdown as the Falcons went up 7-0 early on the day.  

The defense gave up a touchdown on the opponent’s drive but a missed extra point by the Panthers resulted in the Falcons still with the lead at the end of quarter one  

A few punts were exchanged by both teams until the Falcon offense opened up, as Bazelak connected with Ta’Ron Keithmultiple times for a big gain until they were at the one yard line, where Terion Stewart punched it into the end-zone, extending the Falcon lead to 14-6.  

Special teams came out strong after the touchdown, as senior running back PaSean Wimberly delivered a huge hit on the Panther return man, setting the tone for the defense as they forced the Panthers with a three and out. 

The offense started at their own 44 and Bazelak began driving them down the field yet again. Bazelak, in the red zone now, escaped pressure and found senior Abdul-Fatai Ibrahim for the score in the end zone as Bowling Green added to their lead making it 21-6. 

However, the defense let up another touchdown right before the half, but the Panthers went for two and failed, making it a 21-12 Bowling Green lead at half.  

Eastern Illinois started with the ball to start the second half and it appeared like they were going to score again getting all the way to Bowling Green’s 27 yard line, but it was sophomore linebacker Cassius Howell and senior cornerback Davon Ferguson coming up with two big sacks on back to back plays, resulting in the Panthers going for it on fourth down.

It was on fourth down when sophomore cornerback Jalen Husky made the only interception of the game in the end zone, which Howell knew were key coming back into the third quarter.

“Yeah it was definitely critical, they’re coming out of halftime and that’s definitely a critical possession of the game to either make it or break it and me and Ferguson both stepped up and made the play,” said Howell. 

After a Panther punt, the offense came back out and drove into the red zone, but failed to find a touchdown, resulting in an Alan Anaya field goal to make it 24-12 Falcons  

The defense yet again forced a punt, leading the offense back out on the field, and it only took one play for Keith to catch a screen pass that went for 59 yards and led the Falcons into the red zone. It was then that Bazelak found Harold Fannin Jr. for the touchdown, making it a 31-12 game.  

Fannin was everywhere today going for 109 yards, 86 of which was from after the catch. Fannin talks about how much it means to him to be starting for this team and his confidence moving forward.

“This helps a lot just because last year I wasn’t the starting guy, so this really lets me settle in and show the coaches what I can do” 

The Panther offense then took the ball and marched down the field. However, junior Trent Simms denied a receiver of a touchdown and senior Anthony Hawkins sacked the Panther quarterback on third down, resulting in a field goal to cut the lead to 16.   

Camden Orth then came back into the game for a drive as he threw the ball twice making two completions for 49 yards. That led them down to the one-yard line, where Stewart punched it in for his second touchdown of the game making it 38-15.   

The defense did their job and forced a turnover on downs giving the ball back to the Falcons which they then bled out the clock to end the game by a score of  38-15.  

The offense ended the day with a total of 509 yards and no turnovers, a dramatic difference from a week ago. Bazelak was responsible for 319 of those yards alone. He mentions how responding after bad games is the most important part “ya it definitely feels good to bounce back after a tough week last week but you’re gonna have bad games but it’s how we respond to those games and losses” 

The win marked the first of the season for the Falcons, bringing their record to 1-1 on the year. That win also marked the 175th win at Doyt Perry Stadium for the Falcons.   

After the game, head coach Scot Loeffler had high praise for the team after the victory. 

“We did a much better job with protection this week. Both Connor Bazelak and Cam Orth made good decisions. We threw the ball around well and ran the ball okay. We were very efficient throwing the ball today and racked up a lot of yards after the catch”   

The Falcons travel up to Ann Arbor next Saturday with a date versus the Michigan Wolverines. Kick-off is set to be at 7:30. 

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