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Week 11 preview: A date with Kent State with bowl eligibility at stake

Drake Harlett
Alex Padgett points towards the camera during BG’s game against Ball State

The Bowling Green Falcons are set for the second edition of midweek MACtion tonight as they take on the Kent State Golden Flashes out at Dix Stadium.

Kent State enters this game on a six-game losing skid and is eager for its first MAC win of the year. Last week they faced their rivals in Akron and lost a heartbreaker by four points in the closing seconds. 

Their lone win on the year came all the way back in week three when they defeated Central Connecticut in front of a home crowd 38-10. 

Despite Kent State being 1-8 heading into the game, head coach Scot Loeffler cannot stress enough these past few weeks that records in this league do not matter whatsoever.  

“Just like I said, records in this league mean nothing. They absolutely mean zero, they don’t,” Loeffler said. “We were in a dog fight and I knew it would be a dog fight against Ball State. The challenge in this league is who you play the first four games, the injuries and the things that you go through are incredible. So some of these records you can just throw them out the door. Anybody can beat anybody, that’s the cool thing about it. No one’s going to give you anything, so it’s gonna be like last week, it’s gonna be a challenge.” 

And we saw just the reason why you don’t take a team lightly in the MAC happened just a year ago. Bowling Green was in a similar situation, finally hitting their stride when Kent State came into town for midweek MACtion and thrashed Bowling Green 40-6. 

Bowling Green enters in 5-4, still in the hunt for the MAC East Division title and is hoping for a bowl berth.

Loeffler, heading into this game, knows how explosive the defense can play and has high praise for what the Falcon offense is about to face. 

“I think their (Kent State’s) defensive line is good, I know they’ve lost some backers in terms of injuries, but I like the backups, I like who they are,” said Loeffler. “I think this is one of the better secondaries we’ve played this year. I think this secondary is excellent, they can run, they cover well, they’re aggressive. They’re a quarters organization that’ll fire zone you, man fire you, play man coverage. I like them.” 

A secondary for Kent State that’s led by safety Bryce Sheppert. Sheppert leads the team in total tackles with 56, 36 of those being by himself. 

Another key player on the defense is linebacker Devin Nicholson, who is just a few tackles shy of Sheppert with 53 of his own. Along with those, Nicholson also has a pass deflection and one forced fumble as well. 

This is a defense that has shown bits and pieces of light but hasn’t been able to piece out together for one full game. 

The defense gives up an average of 377.4 yards per game which ranks dead last in the MAC and 69th in all of FBS. 

As for the offense for the Golden Flashes? 

That’s a similar story. 

The offense ranks almost dead last in the NCAA in all categories as they rank 128th out of 131 FBS schools and last in all of the MAC for total offense. 

This is a Kent State team that is at the helm of first-year head coach Kenni Burns. Burns took over for the Golden Flashes last December as former head coach Sean Lewis left for Colorado which led Burns to be the guy for Kent State. 

This will be Burns’ first time playing Bowling Green as a head coach and could not be more excited for the opportunity to play this Falcon squad. 

However, this isn’t his first rodeo facing Bowling Green at all; Burns is all too familiar with a certain game from a few seasons ago that is in the back of his mind.  

“BG’s a really good football team, they play hard-nosed football and that’s what Scot [Loeffler] is and if you watch him and his teams play over the years you see that,” Burns said. “We got a chance to play when I was at the University of Minnesota one of his football teams and they played physically, they played aggressively and they took advantage of that opportunity and I know they will if you if you let them so we got to come out and play well” 

Burns was the assistant head coach for Minnesota from 2019-2022, which included that 2021 game when Bowling Green defeated the Golden Gophers 14-10. 

Burns will have a game-time decision to make when it comes to who will play quarterback, as the two quarterbacks Michael Alaimo and Tommy Ulatowski are both expected to be game-time decisions. 

“Both those guys are game-time decisions, we took some hits with our health this game [Akron game] which is a part of football, and everyone in the country deals with it and it’s kind of just who can handle it the best,” said Burns. 

As for Bowling Green? 

Well after last week, injuries still continue to dwell over this team, and star running back Terion Stewart injured his foot in the fourth quarter of last week’s game and is expected to be a game-time decision as well. 

“We’ll know more towards the end of the week if he’s going to be good for this week or not. That’ll be more of a game-time decision of what we’re going to do with him,” said Loeffler.

The show will go on no matter what whether Stewart plays or not, but that’s football and Loeffler has built enough depth that it’s a next-guy-up mentality for this squad. 

“Just piecing it together to find a way to be competitive and to win but that’s football and that’s why you recruit and get depth and have a chance to grow.” 

The main goal for Loeffler and the Falcons is reaching 2-0 in MACtion and also reaching their fourth consecutive win which hasn’t happened since the 2015 season. 

“We’re trying not to worry about the future, we’re trying not to worry about the past. Our goal is to try and be 2-0, and to try to play the best football we can in November.” 

Kickoff between the Golden Flashes and the Falcons is set for 7:00. 

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

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