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April 18, 2024

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Quick Lane Bowl preview: Falcons go bowling against Gophers, seek first bowl win in Loeffler era

The+Falcons+coming+out+of+the+tunnel+against+Toledo.
Drake Harlett
The Falcons coming out of the tunnel against Toledo.

Somehow, some way, we’re already in that limbo between Christmas and New Year’s. What better way to fill in the void than with some good, old-fashioned MAC-Big Ten football?  

For the second straight year, Bowling Green (7-5, 5-3 Mid-American Conference) is spending the holiday season just an hour up the road in the Motor City, Motown, Hockey town, the 313 – you get the picture. Detroit, Michigan.  

“Super excited, I think it’s an unbelievable opportunity to be in our footprint for recruiting. I think the people in Detroit and the Detroit Lions do an unbelievable job with this bowl game,” head coach Scot Loeffler said. “What an unbelievable opportunity to play a really good Big Ten opportunity. It’s great for the program in terms of, number one, I think we’re the first game on December 26, the amount of people that viewed last year’s game was incredible and I think it’s a huge positive to get as many Bowling Green fans as we can into the stadium. I think it’s going to be a great crowd and a great atmosphere for our kids to play on national TV against a Big Ten opponent.” 

 In their second straight bowl appearance and their second straight Quick Lane Bowl appearance, they match up with the Big Ten Conference’s Minnesota Golden Gophers (5-7, 3-6 B1G), and both teams will be looking for serious help from their reserves after both squads were ravaged by the transfer portal.  

 “What an opportunity. Good football team, you know any time you get to play a Big Ten team. Obviously, they’re really well-coached, P.J.’s a heck of a football coach,” said Loeffler. “They struggled at the end, but they’re still a Big Ten team. It’s an NFL game every week and you never know who’s going to win. It’s a great opportunity for us to play a real quality Big Ten team.” 

Eight Gophers, including their leading passer Athan Kaliakmanis, are currently in the transfer portal according to 247Sports’ transfer portal tracker.  

“It’s crazy, their situation. I couldn’t imagine having essentially one quarterback, one scholarship quarterback left on the roster.” 

Kaliakmanis completed 156 of his 294 pass attempts for 1,838 passing yards, 14 touchdowns, nine interceptions in 2023, while adding two more scores on the ground.  

In his place steps Cole Kramer, a player in his final year of eligibility who said he should be planning his wedding and finding, in his own words, “a real job,” but instead is capping off his collegiate career with a Quick Lane Bowl start.  

Kramer was the backup all season, only attempting one pass in 2023; an interception against North Carolina. He’s seen more time in past seasons, including in 2021 where he threw for 62 yards and two touchdowns while also rushing for 165 yards and two touchdowns, including one against Bowling Green that season.  

One person who WILL be playing in the Quick Lane Bowl is second team all-Big Ten wide receiver Daniel Jackson, who had 831 receiving yards and eight touchdowns on 57 catches.  

For Bowling Green, they also have eight, but arguably have more outgoing star power. First-team all-conference cornerback Jalen Huskey was the first domino to fall, entering the portal on day one and quickly finding a “new” home in his hometown Maryland Terrapins.

Ta’ron Keith soon followed with third-string quarterback Hayden Timosciek and kick-off specialist Jack Sauder. On the eve3 of the Quick Lane Bowl (December 23), the MAC’s leading sack artist, Cashius Howell, entered his name into the portal.  

That’s a combined 79 tackles, four interceptions, six pass breakups, 9.5 sacks, 44 receptions, 457 receiving yards, 390 receiving yards, and seven touchdowns that Bowling Green will have to make up for in this game.  

Luckily for Bowling Green, Minnesota (statistically) was the best draw for them. The Gophers ranked 115th in scoring, averaging just a touch over 20 points per game with the ninth WORST passing attack in the nation, throwing for 153.2 yards per game, which pairs well with Bowling Green’s 25th-rated passing defense, allowing just 192.7 air yards per contest.  

On the flip side, the offense, which ranked near the middle of the pack in most major categories, is returning almost every major player from the regular season, those omitted being Keith (portal) and possibly Terion Stewart, who is a game-time decision for the fourth game in a row since suffering an injury in Bowling Green’s November 1 game against Ball State.

If Stewart can’t go, Jaison Patterson will be expected to lead the backfield against a Golden Gopher defense that has allowed 154.7 yards to opposing backs in 2023. Patterson himself has carried the rock just 34 times this season for 123 yards and a touchdown.  

“Terion Stewart will be a gameday deal. That leg injury has been significant. TK is in the transfer portal and has not practiced at all. We’ve got Jamal Johnson and Jaison Patterson and (PaSean) Wimberly ready to go,” Loeffler said. “Those guys are gonna do a great job. They’ve done a great job all year long, they’ve been great role players. I think Jaison Patterson has done some things for our football team that are completely selfless. Obviously Terion Stewart and Ta’ron Keith have been the majority of our touches in the backfield, but we have no problem playing Jaison, Jamal and Wimberly.”  

Both teams come into Detroit trending in opposite directions. Minnesota has been losers of four straight – their only win coming over Michigan State back on October 28. Their average margin of defeat during their four-game skid is 17 points.  

Bowling Green, on the other hand, has been red hot, winning five of their last six. Their only loss coming courtesy of Toledo’s walk-off winner in the Battle of I-75 on November 14. That loss snapped a four-game heater in which the Falcons’ average margin of victory was a whopping 17.5 points, including a 30-point rout of Kent State at Dix Stadium.  

Of course, the elephant that will be in the stadium on gameday is what went down the last time these teams matched up back in 2021 in Minneapolis. A 1-2 Bowling Green team fresh off of their first victory in two years marched into Huntington Bank Stadium and upset P.J. Fleck’s Gophers 14-10 behind two rushing touchdowns from then-QB Matt McDonald.  

But the past is the past and means nothing this time around.  

“No that’s so long ago, I couldn’t even remember what their base front is to be honest with you,” Loeffler said. “We’ll start getting involved with them here soon, obviously today (December 4) is the first day of official free agency so we’re knee deep in that right now.”  

There is one thing that means everything to this team and its coaches: its fans showing up in Detroit, cheering loudly, and wearing nothing but orange starting at 2 p.m. on December 26.  

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

 

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