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Bowling Green Runs in Seven Tries to Beat Western Michigan

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Bowling Green Runs in Seven Tries to Beat Western Michigan

Joe Johnson had a huge game for Bowling Green. Photo Roger Mazzarella.

Bowling Green defeated Western Michigan 39-24 in a typical intense, back-and-forth clash between the two Mid-American Conference rivals. 

Bowling Green never trailed in this game, but neither team handled the wind especially well—BGSU outscored Western against the wind 17-7, and the score when WMU was against the wind the score was 22-17 for Bowling Green.

Quick Start For Falcons

BGSU showed plenty of adventure with their backline, going wide early, and it didn’t take long for them to get over. A penalty against WMU resulted in a Bowling Green lineout, and they ran a play bringing the wing in from the weak side, and then worked it wide to wing Travis Riba, who scampered over in the corner for 5-0 Falcons lead.

Flyhalf Jake Kubicki worked nicely with his center pairing of Tony Mock and Joe Johnson to gain ground, and with the Bowling Green forwards linking nicely, the Falcons looked very dangerous. BGSU got a kickable penalty but missed the attempt. The wind, however, played havoc with the ball in the air and WMU ended up knocking the ball on in-goal. From the resulting scrum Bowling Green went wide again, and a nifty pickup from Johnson helped his support get close to the line before Mock picked up and dove over in the corner. 

That made it 10-0, and Mock then broke through for what looked like the third try. He was adjudged to have dropped the ball as he dove to score, however, so instead it was a goalline dropout for WMU. The Falcons responded by putting a flat ball right into the hands of Johnson, who cut through to score under the posts. Ryan Niemiller converted and it was 17-0.

But after that Bowling Green seemed to start to start to undercut their own efforts. Penalties and some backchat to the referee got them into trouble, and late in the first half, Western got close to the line and mauled it. The BGSU forwards halted the surge but did it illegally. WMU tapped quickly and center Nick Pastore went over. Bowling Green also got penalized for mouthing off and that penalty was assessed after Pat Collevey’s conversion. WMU were not able to capitalize, however, and the teams entered the break with the score 17-7.

Right after the second half Bowling Green’s Kubicki was sin-binned for more backchat. Western pressed their advantage and flanker Mitch Hensley got very close. Eventually, though, it was a turnover on the scrum scooped up by the Broncos. A nicely-taken inside pass from John Kenega to flyhalf Sean McNamara saw the #10 carry several tacklers with him over the line. Now it was 17-12.

Bowling Green Turns it Around

Chastened, Bowling Green decided to stop complaining and instead focus on their rugby. The result was three tries that put the game in their pocket.

WMU was offside on a clearance kick and from there BGSU pressured and finally Johnson slipped a nifty back-door pass to Juliano Chesnick.

After that, Kubicki, back on the field now, took the ball inside his own 22 and launched a wind-aided kick than landed in the WMU 22 and rolled into touch five meters from the goalline. It was a perfect  50-22 kick. As per the new law, Bowling Green got the throw-in and after a couple of phases prop Ryan McBride was over to make it 27-12.

Another kick produced the next try, as Johnson chased the kick well and was able to block the answering kick from WMU with his face. Shaking off the pain Johnson dove on the ball for the try and, with the conversion, a 34-12 lead for Bowling Green.

Western Michigan did not wilt, and when Bowling Green attempted the same move that got them the first try of the day, fullback Luke Sutherland saw it coming and picked off the final pass, going 80 meters for the try. A very well-executed hands to the wing from Bowling Green put Mike Capizzi in at the corner, and then WMU answered with a big charging run from the very tall and hardworking lock Leo Phillips.

And that was it. Western Michigan fixed their early ball retention issues to make a game of it, but will be ruing their inability to really use the wind in the first half. Bowling Green adjusted their attitudes toward the ref and played some impressive rugby.

Western has an experienced pack and a young backline, and it was clear that the backs need some work to fine-tune their moves. Bowling Green is somewhat the opposite, but the Falcons had enough experience and fitness in the forwards to win ball and the backs were very impressive. Mock is a freshman and has excellent vision. Johnson, playing outside center, scored two tries and was instrumental in two more.

Notes: At one point Travis Riba made a huge tackle and clearly paid for it. He looked a little disoriented, and it was his teammate (and longtime friend) Niemiller who made his wing take a knee and performed a quick head-injury  assessment even as the team staff was getting on the field. Having done that, Niemiller hugged his buddy and told him his day was done. It was a very smart move by the scrumhalf to ensure the safety of his teammate.

One the other side, WMU scrumhalf Pat Collevey was very active and kept his young backline focused on the task at hand.

Bowling Green 39
Tries: Riba, Mock, Johnson 2, Chesnick, McBride, Capizzi
Convs: Niemiller 2

Western Michigan 24
Tries: Pastore, McNamara, Sutherland, Phillips
Convs: Collevey 2