Free fall continues with 7th straight loss

Kali Price

Shawn Bayes (85) lunges for a pass during the home game against Bowling Green. The Falcons earned a 24-14 victory over Kent State at Dix Stadium Saturday afternoon.

Credit: Ben Breier

Derrick Bush (37) scores a touchdown after breaking free of linebacker Terrel White during the home game against Bowling Green.

Credit: Ben Breier

Thanks to the Kent State football team, Bowling Green is back in contention for first place in the Mid-American Conference East Division.

Led by backup quarterback Anthony Turner, Bowling Green (5-4, 4-2 Mid-American Conference) defeated Kent State 24-14.

“It was very important that we won today,” Turner said. “If we didn’t win today, we would have been out of the race. We’re back where we were.”

Turner, filling in for the injured Omar Jacobs, was 10-of-16 for 77 yards and a touchdown. The redshirt freshman helped the Falcons snap their two-game losing streak.

“(I wanted) a (win), that’s the most important thing coming here today,” Bowling Green coach Gregg Brandon said. “I don’t care what it looked like or how many yards or anything, we won the game, and our guys played the lights out.”

The loss knocks the Flashes’ record to 1-8 overall and 0-6 in the MAC.

“Like I told the team after the game, I was really proud of the way they fought in that game,” Kent State coach Doug Martin said. “We’ve got a sign up in (this) tunnel that we see when we run out every game that says ‘Your character will be exposed on this field today’ and I thought our character was exposed today and I loved what I saw.”

The 20th meeting between the Flashes and the Falcons began with unsuccessful drives on both sides.

The Flashes’ first drive ended in senior punter Joshua Brazen’s career-tying 62 yard punt. Brazen averaged 49.1 yards.

On the Falcons’ second drive, senior P.J. Pope rushed for nine yards to score the first touchdown of the game.

The Flashes answered on the next drive when sophomore quarterback Michael Machen threw a 13-yard pass to senior wide receiver Derrick Bush for the Flashes’ first touchdown.

Machen ended the game with 222 total throwing yards on 27-of-39 attempts. Machen’s longest pass was a 45-yard pass to junior wide receiver Najah Pruden in the first quarter. He was, however, sacked five times.

“He got hit a lot today,” Martin said. “As I told Michael along the sideline today as the game was winding down, he grew up today at quarterback. I’ve been waiting for him to go out there and do exactly what he did today, to stand in there and take it and not turn the ball over, and he did that.”

Machen’s sacks and key interception hurt the Flashes.

“The one interception he threw was tipped up in the air by our wide receiver,” Martin said. “He led this football team today and that’s big that he takes that role. I know he wants to win games and score a lot of touchdowns, but the way he played the game was the way a quarterback should look like out there today. I’ve been saying all along that he has been taking steps and he took a giant one today.”

Nearing the end of the first half, freshman running back Jerry Flowers fumbled on the third play of the Flashes’ second drive of the second quarter.

Flowers’ fumble resulted in the Falcons’ second touchdown, putting them up 17-7 at the half.

“Our defense stepped up and our kicking game came through at some key times,” Brandon said. “Our (defensive backs) were hitting like torpedoes. Offensively we did just enough to win the game and keep ourselves out of trouble. Being able to finish after their turnovers gave us a chance to win the game. Our guys have focused this season and we’re still playing for a championship.”

The second half opened with a strong defensive effort by the Falcons, with junior linebacker Terrel White sacking Machen to end the Flashes’ first drive of the half.

“We had some good schemes worked up for how they protected and we got some good reads on how they were sliding and that type of thing,” Falcons’ senior Mike Thaler said. “If we lost this one like Anthony said, we’re just playing for pride.”

On the Flashes’ next drive, Machen’s pass up the middle was intercepted for no return.

The interception resulted with a 3-yard run by Turner for a touchdown with 5:47 left in the third quarter. Turner’s touchdown put the Falcons up 24-7.

The Flashes were able to hold the Falcons at 24 for the remainder of the game.

“We’ve improved, but it’s been day-by-day with injuries and whatnot,” senior buck linebacker Justin Parrish said. “We just don’t give up. We always knew we could make plays. There’s still more work that can be done.”

Despite that, the Flashes were only able to score one more touchdown at the beginning of the fourth quarter.

With 12:27 left in the contest, Bush scored his second touchdown of the game on a 38-yard pass from Machen, bringing the score to 24-14.

Kent State’s final drive ended with Machen’s fifth sack of the game on a failed fourth-down conversion attempt.

The Flashes had individual successes as well.

Sophomore tight end Tom Sitko had a career day, tying his number of receptions at four.

“Tommy has really been a great surprise,” Martin said. “I really thought Tommy could be a great tight end, and he is. He gets better every week he goes out there. He’s what you’d like to build this program on. He’s one of (the leaders), he did a great job for us.”

Martin said that Sitko is one of the players that the Flashes are going to be looking at to step up for the Flashes.

Since the Flashes’ Oct. 15 loss to Navy, the team has been playing through a number of injuries and added more to the list on Saturday.

“(Pruden has) got a severe ankle (injury) and so does Shawn Bayes,” Martin said. “So both of those receivers will be probably out for a while. (Freshman running back Greg Keys) separated his shoulder and has an ankle (injury) also. Derrick Burrell has a separated shoulder, Stevon Moss is out with a knee (injury). He played in and out.

“I’ve never been through (a string of injuries) this bad. My second year at East Carolina, we had a lot of injuries and went 2-and-9 that year, but I’ve never seen anything as bad as this. If we had to go play right now, Spencer Dye would be it. He’s a walk-on. Other than that, there is no one on the football team that’s played running back.”

But Martin said that despite the injuries the team will have to push through until the end of the season.

“If it was a lesser group of kids, I’d worry about it,” Martin said. “I really don’t have any concerns about them giving up at all. They’ll compete their tails off in these next two games. I’ll bank everything I own on it. I can’t guarantee you if we’ll win them or not, but I can guarantee that we’re going to compete. Whoever shows up is going to get hit, and get hit hard.”

Contact assistant sports editor and football reporter Kali Price at [email protected].