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February 22, 2024

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Complete team performance squeaks Falcons past Cardinals 24-21

Drake Harlett
Safety Davion Daniels celebrates after a BGSU win

There’s a reason why college football fans fall in love with “Midweek MACtion”. 

Last night between Bowling Green and Ball State?

Filled with the lights, cameras, and MACtion all night long. 

Bowling Green entered this game at .500 (4-4) and on a two game win streak, but Ball State despite their record coming in (2-6), was eager and hungry to come into Doyt L. Perry Stadium and escape with a win. 

Both teams first possession resulted in punts with little to no positive yardage for either team. 

Later on in the first quarter however, the Cardinals had the ball at their own 29 when the nation’s top defense in takeaways claimed their first victim of the night. 

Ali Saad forced a fumble on Ball State quarterback Kiael Kelly, and Davon Ferguson recovered it, giving the Falcon offense prime position to score. 

The fumble marks the seventh straight game with a fumble recovery for the Falcons. 

The offense took the field again and was faced with a fourth and two in Cardinal territory, where the Falcons went for it on fourth down and got more than just the two yards they needed, as quarterback Connor Bazelak found tight end Harold Fannin on a 23 yard pass play in the end zone for the game’s first touchdown. 

An Alan Anaya extra point later and the Falcons were up 7-0 midway through the first quarter. 

Ball State then ran out the clock in the first quarter, and shortly after the second quarter started, started to find the end zone and tied the game up at  7-7 via a six yard run from Kelly. 

BG’s offense was held scoreless on its next drive, bringing the defense out onto the field yet again. Ball State put together an impressive drive that looked like it was going to result in a touchdown. 

But the Falcon defense came up big once again, recovering a second fumble to put the offense back out onto the field. 

After a Bazelak incompletion on first down, Terion Stewart decided to take matters into his own hands, breaking loose for 54 yards, stiff-arming a Cardinal on his way for a touchdown. 

An exchange of punts by both teams resulted in the first half coming to a close with the score being 14-7 heading into the locker rooms. 

Bowling Green started the second half with a three and out, giving the ball back to Ball State, who drove the ball 62 yards on 13 plays to find the end zone tying this game up at 14 all. 

But Bowling Green took notes and put together a 13-play, 75-yard-long drive of their own.

In that drive, quarterback Camden Orth drove the Falcons all the way down to the Cardinal 1-yard line, where a few plays of negative gain brought Bazelak back into the game for a third and ten, where he found Ta’ron Keith in the end zone giving the Falcons to lead 21-14 in the fourth quarter. 

Keith, a player who dealt with an illness all week, still practiced and fought with the team.

“He’s been sick all week, he lost 15 pounds two days ago and he was able to get himself healthy enough to play in this game and TK is a playmaker. He’s not the fastest but he’s nifty and smart and he plays smart football,” said head coach Scot Loeffler after the game. 

Ball State then scored yet again to tie up the game at 21-21 with nine minutes to go in the game.

But, in the midst of uncertainty, Keith gave the Falcons great field position as he took the ensuing kickoff all the way to Ball State’s 43 yard line.  

“I’ve been trying to get a kick return for about a month now and teams haven’t been kicking away from me and finally I got a chance and I just trust my vision and trust my teammates to make the right blocks and I’ll hit the seam,” said Keith postgame.

The Falcons put together a few positive plays but ultimately were faced with a fourth down.

Loeffler, instead of bringing on Anaya, who missed a makeable field goal late in the second quarter, kept his offense on the field, where Bazelak found wide receiver Odieu Hilaire for the first down.

Keith then gained 20 yards on a pass, putting the Falcons at the doorstep yet again. 

The offense however could not convert at the 1-yard line with a first goal and four minutes to go in the game, resulting in a short field goal attempt. 

All of the hearts in the stadium stopped for a second as the 22-yard chip shot had a fumbled snap but then was recovered and Anaya punched it through on a low laser to give the Falcons the three-point lead with three and a half minutes remaining in the game. 

“We need to whenever we get the ball on the one-yard line, find a way to score and there was twice that we had the ball within six inches of the goal line and didn’t find a way to put it in the end zone,” said Loeffler.

In the ensuing Ball State drive, the Bowling Green defense, led by Dontrez Brown, made a big stop on fourth and two to give the offense the ball back with 1:43 remaining. 

With the Cardinals still with all three timeouts, they forced the Falcons to run the ball until they were faced with a fourth and seven, where Loeffler made a gutsy call and went for it. 

The gutsy call however resulted in the Falcons not converting as the pass was incomplete. 

But the mindset for the defense as they needed to make a huge stop on the upcoming drive?

Be a brick wall. 

“Just get a stop, we just wanted to get to the quarterback, we knew he was a great runner so we knew we had to contain him at the end,” said Brown postgame.

Ball State got the ball with a minute and 20 seconds and a chance to win it. A few positive yards and with just seconds left, Ball State now was on the Bowling Green 35 and gave themselves a chance to tie the game.

Everyone in the stadium could barely watch as the Cardinals lined up for the kick, but it did not have enough juice on the 45-yard attempt as it fell short, ending the night with a 24-21 grind-out win for the orange and brown.

“Very proud of our team for finding a way to win and winning is hard, sometimes winning is ugly, sometimes it’s pretty but at the end of the day it’s a win and I thought our defense at times played exceptional but overall we’re excited to be 1-0 and out next challenge is to go on the road and play a good Kent State team,” said Loeffler. 

Coach (Max)Warner was saying after the locker room, whatever it takes. If it’s ugly like in the rain against Akron, similar for Buffalo. This game was close and they did a good job at stopping us and we just found a way to win,” said Bazelak after the game.

Winning may not always be pretty as they both mentioned, but a win is a win, and the grit this Bowling Green team showed, especially in the fourth quarter, showed a lot.

At this point, teams that can win late and in variety of ways are dangerous.  

“People remember teams that win in November. That’s a big part of MACtion, we gotta find a way to win and ya it was fun,” said Bazelak. 

Three must be Loeffler’s new favorite number as that marks the third straight win, in a game where they scored three touchdowns and won by three points. 

So don’t look now, but the Falcons are heating up in MAC play, as they now move to 3-2 in the MAC and 5-4 overall. 

For more stories related to BGSU Athletics, follow Falcon Media Sports Network on X (@bg_fmsn).

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