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Saturday’s win didn’t feel like a win for Falcons

September 15, 2016 GMT

As big as Saturday’s win over North Dakota was for Bowling Green, it never truly felt like a win.

It was a milestone win for the Falcons, the first of the Mike Jinks era. But the mood after was somber.

Nobody felt Bowling Green had played to its potential in a 27-26 win over an FCS team that clearly had inferior talent.

“I feel like it’s more of a learning point than a win,” said sophomore wide receiver Deric Phouthavong, one of the many new faces seeing time for the Falcons. “Because we’re way better than that. We know we are. We just need to continue to watch film, learn from our mistakes and build on top of that.”

It took a deflected pass on a two-point conversion try with 13 seconds left for Bowling Green to narrowly miss a colossal loss.

Bowling Green jumped ahead early, leading 14-0 with 8:03 left in the first quarter before letting North Dakota hang around.

The Fighting Hawks stayed within reach, 21-10, by halftime and cut the deficit to 21-20 midway through the third quarter.

Most of it was a product of what Bowling Green didn’t do, rather than what North Dakota did.

“First win for coach Jinks, yeah great. But if you ask those kids on an individual basis, they’ll tell you ... it felt like we’ve got a long way to go,” Bowling Green coach Mike Jinks said.

“We’ve got to learn from this because we did have some matchups that we felt like we could take advantage of. We had the opportunity to possibly go up 17 or 21 points on a missed field goal and then the wheels came off, and really for no reason other than our own. If we want to be the ball club that we want to be, those things can’t happen.”

After Bowling Green’s second touchdown in the first quarter, the Falcons went scoreless on its next five possessions, which included two interceptions. After a late second-quarter score and a late third-quarter score, Bowling Green went cold again, punting on its final four possession, where it largely tried running the ball.

The Falcons attempted just 11 passes in the second half.

“Schematically, they did a lot of different things and they brought a lot of different stunts,” Jinks said of North Dakota’s defense. “Looking back at it we probably should have stayed little bit more aggressive.

“At the end of the day, like I told (offensive line) coach (Stephen) Hamby, when they’re out of timeouts and you need a first down to win the game and you’ve got three plays to get 10 yards, you’ve got to be able to get those 10 yards. I don’t care what they’re doing stunt wise, especially with the offensive line and the caliber of ours.”

The Falcons’ offense fell out of a groove after the two first-quarter scores. With six new offensive starters in 2015, four of them at skill positions, along with a new system, there were always going to be bumps along the way. But Jinks and staff had hoped to be farther along at this point.

“Were expectations a little skewed? Possibly,” he said. “But it’s not where you start, it’s where you finish. At the end of the day our goal is the win the East and a MAC championship. And I know in my heart we can do that.

“It’s frustrating. … Because we have the talent,” Jinks added. “Guys just have to start believing in themselves and make plays. Because the plays are there to be made.

“That’s one of those games where we should be sitting up here talking about James Knapke throwing for 600 yards and breaking school records,” he said. “That’s where this angst comes from, that’s where this frustration comes from.”

Jinks said Wednesday that the offense is close to coming together, it’s just a matter of a few minor inconsistencies being cleaned up.

“Skill wise we’re ready,” Phouthavong said. “We believe in our receiving core, we believe in Knapke, we believe in James Morgan, we believe in the staff. It’s just, we are inexperienced coming into this.”

INJURIES: Running back Fred Coppet and receiver Ronnie Moore both practiced Wednesday and expected to play Saturday after leaving last week’s game.

Center Tim McAuliffe also practiced after dealing with a lower-leg injury, and defensive end Terrance Bush also practiced. Both are expected to play Saturday.

Linebacker Austin Valdez sat out Wednesday and is considered day-to-day.