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BGSU football overcomes early deficit to beat Buffalo, advances to championship game

The BG football team did something it has not done in 10 years— won a Mid-American Conference division title.

The Falcons defeated the University of Buffalo Bulls 24-7 on Friday to clinch the MAC East Division title for the first time since 2003 when they won the MAC West Division. 

“It’s a great feeling,” head coach Dave Clawson said. “I’m really proud of our football team. A lot of people have worked really hard for a number of years to win the MAC East again for the first time in a decade. I couldn’t be more proud of our football team and our staff.”

BG came into the game with a “Detroit or bust” attitude, as the team needed to beat Buffalo to clinch the divisional title and the chance to derail the defending MAC champions, the Northern Illinois University Huskies.

“It was win or go home,” quarterback Matt Johnson said. “The fact that we were able to come out on top against a very good team and a very good defensive team, it’s a really good feeling.”

The Falcons started the game off slow with one drive in which they were forced to punt. However, the BG defense held Buffalo’s offense scoreless on its first two drives and allowed their offense to set up kicker Tyler Tate for a 40-yard field goal, which gave the Falcons a 3-0 lead with less than five minutes left in the first quarter.

After BG turned the ball over on downs on its first drive of the second quarter, Buffalo made three first downs, which set Buffalo up for a two-yard rushing touchdown by running back Branden Oliver.

Buffalo’s 7-3 lead lasted for the rest of the quarter and BG went into halftime down by four points.

The Falcons started the second half receiving the ball and began to drive the ball down the field. 

Johnson threw a 31-yard pass to wide receiver Shaun Joplin who was downed at the Buffalo 19 yard line, but Johnson threw an interception to Lee Skinner on the next play.

Buffalo was not able to capitalize on the BG turnover and had to punt from its own 28-yard line.

Johnson came back onto the field to try again on the second opportunity of the half. On third down, Johnson threw a 48-yard pass to tight end Alex Bayer, who was able to get the ball inside Buffalo territory for the second time in the third quarter.

After running back Travis Greene was tackled in the back field on first down and there was an incomplete pass on second down, Johnson connected with Joplin for a 23-yard touchdown pass.

BG took the 10-7 lead with 8:07 left in the third quarter and never looked back.

The Falcons were able to score one more time in the third quarter when Greene ran the ball into the end zone from 14 yards out and 2:05 left on the clock.

BG went into the final quarter with a 17-7 lead.

Johnson scored the final touchdown of the game on BG’s second drive of the fourth quarter and after the extra point led 24-7 with 8:18 left to play.

The Falcons never allowed Buffalo to get past the BG 40-yard line and forced the Bulls to punt once, turn the ball over on downs twice and forced one interception by BG’s Cameron Truss during the fourth quarter.

While BG was running down the clock, running back Willie Houston fumbled the ball after rushing the ball 29 yards, his second longest run of the season.

BG was able to hold Buffalo scoreless during the second half and came away with the win, 24-7.

“We’ve been picking it up all year,” defensive linesman Ted Ouelett said. “We can get better and better as we go along. We started the year off with a lot of injuries … and we’re finally healthy.”

Ouelett led the team with three tackles for loss which included a team-high two sacks on the day.

Johnson finished the game with 11 completed passes for 230 yards and one passing touchdown.

Joplin led the team in receiving yards with six catches, amounting 149 yards and one touchdown against the Bulls.

Greene gained 129 rushing yards against Buffalo, marking his eighth game with 100 yards or more on the ground. It also put him at second on the school’s all-time in single-season rushing yards with 1,422 yards this season. He is 22 yards shy of the all-time single-season rushing yards record set by Fred Durig in 1951.

BG finished the regular season 9-3 (7-1 MAC), the best since the 2003 season when the Falcons finished 10-2 but was defeated by the Miami University RedHawks 49-27 in the MAC Championship game. 

The team has not won an outright MAC championship since 1991 and 1992 when it went 8-0 in both seasons. The Falcons have won 10 MAC championships in 1956, 1959, 1961-62, 1964-65, 1982, 1985 and 1991-92.

This is only the second time BG has won a MAC divisional title. Since the two-division set up began in 1997, BG has won two outright divisional titles (2003 and 2013) and was part of a three-way divisional tie twice in 2005 and 2007, in which the University of Akron Zips and Miami RedHawks represented the East Division respectively.

“We put five years into this,” Joplin, a fifth-year senior said. “We knew how the first couple years we weren’t that great, and now we put in all this work and effort, it feels good to finally get back to where BG should be.”

The Falcons take on the undefeated defending MAC champions Northern Illinois for the 2013 MAC Championship game at 8 p.m. on Friday at Ford Field in Detroit. 

Regular priced tickets are $10 and a round-trip bus ride from BG to Ford Field will be made available for $20. Students can receive 50 percent off the price, making the prices $5 for a ticket and $10 for a round-trip bus ride to and from Ford Field.

Look for more information about the bus service in Wednesday’s The BG News.

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