Published September 28, 2011
| Sports Network
Bowling Green is 3-1 for the first time in four seasons, and has already won twice on the road this year. The Falcons haven't won their first three home games since 2002 under former head coach Urban Meyer, and have a tall order Saturday in West Virginia.
The 3-1 start for Bowling Green is impressive considering the roster is one of the youngest in all of college football, with 54 freshmen and redshirt freshmen and 27 sophomores and redshirt sophomores. The promising start bodes well heading into MAC play following the date with the Mountaineers, as the Falcons will travel to Western Michigan on October 8th.
West Virginia is licking its wounds after last weekend's 47-21 high-profile loss to now top-ranked LSU at home. The Mountaineers are now charged to prepare for the Falcons before heading into Big East play on October 8th, and head coach Dana Holgorsen has been drilling his team to not have a hangover from the LSU loss.
"We've got to be ready to go," said Holgorsen. "We've said this from week one to week two, and then week two to week three and all the rest of it: its about getting the game over with on Sunday, regardless if you win if you lose, if you play good or play bad, doesn't matter."
West Virginia leads the all-time series with Bowling Green, 2-0, with the last win coming in 1998 in Morgantown.
The Bowling Green offense has turned heads so far this season, and ranks first in the MAC in scoring with 38.5 points per game. The Falcons also rank first in the league in total offense (468.5) and pass offense (303.8), while it is fifth in rushing with 164.8 yards per game.
The unit is led by quarterback Matt Schilz, who has thrown for 1,169 yards and 14 touchdowns in four games, all the while completing 65.7 percent of his passes. Schilz ranks 15th in the country in passing yards per game with 292.2, and is tied for first in touchdown passes. Eugene Cooper is his top target, with 21 receptions for 93.5 yards per game and six touchdowns, while Kamar Jorden has caught 26 passes for 266 yards and four touchdowns. Anthon Samuel is the team's leading rusher with an average of 107 yards per outing, including a seven yard per carry mark with three touchdowns scored this season.
The Falcon defense is allowing just 294.2 yards per game (second in the MAC), with 199.2 coming through the air and 95 (second in the MAC) on the ground per game. Bowling Green is fourth in the MAC in scoring defense, allowing 19.8 points per game. Dwayne Woods leads the team with 29 tackles, including six TFLs, two sacks, two forced fumbles and one interception. Chris Jones has added three sacks and 5.5 TFLs through the first four games.
"Defensively they're young," said Holgorsen. "They're very sound. They don't take alot of chances, they're not going to play alot of man coverage, they're going to make you earn everything you got."
West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith has had a stellar season thus far, and set school records last week in completions (38), attempts (65) and passing yards (463). The Mountaineers had two receivers go over 100 yards for the second consecutive game in Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey, who combined for 19 catches and 302 yards and a touchdown against the Tigers.
Smith is averaging 367.8 yards per game and has thrown for nine touchdown against three interceptions. Austin and Bailey have been dynamic; Austin is averaging 105.8 yards per game, while Bailey has scored three touchdowns on 23 receptions and has 344 yards receiving.
The offense is putting up 459.2 yards of total offense per game, and is particularly pass heavy with 189 passes coming against 112 runs. West Virginia is averaging just 76.5 yards per contest, and the leading rusher is Vernard Roberts (121 yards on 41 carries in four games.)
The Mountaineers gave up 49 points to LSU a week ago, which was the most points scored on a West Virginia team at home since 2002. The unit is surrendering 328.8 yards of total offense per game, including just 195.2 through the air. West Virginia started the season strong in run defense, allowing Marshall and Norfolk State just 72 yards and 88 yards rushing respectively, but as the competition has elevated, so have the numbers. Maryland ran for 188 yards and LSU posted 186 yards.
The Mountaineers have registered 24 tackles for loss through four games, with star defensive lineman Bruce Irvin leading the unit with 4.5 TFLs. While Bowling Green doesn't present the same matchup difficulties as LSU, Holgorsen is still looking for improvement this week out of the defensive unit, especially in creating turnovers. West Virginia has three takeaways in four games.
"We haven't done it," said Holgorsen of creating turnovers. "We have three picks in four games, and we've got zero strips or fumbles in four games, so that has to get better."