Bowling Green, Ohio — A combination of Tyler Sheehan and costly first-half turnovers that led to 17 points on the other end of the field hurt the Western Kentucky University football team Saturday. Sheehan threw for 270 yards in accounting for four scores, while the Bowling Green defense recovered a fumble and intercepted three passes before the break as the Falcons earned a 42-21 victory over the Hilltoppers at Doyt L. Perry Stadium.
It was BGSU’s second win in a row as it improved to 3-1 on the year, while the Toppers saw a three-game win streak come to an end in falling to 3-2.
“Turnovers came back to haunt us. We talked about the fact that you can’t continue to do that against good football teams, and Bowling Green is a good football team,” WKU head coach David Elson said. “We were able to get away with it in our last couple of wins, but knew that there would be no way that could continue.
“It’s frustrating because we talked about it and put an emphasis on it, and we didn’t get the job done.”
After recovering a Hilltopper fumble inside their own 30-yard line, the Falcons marched nine plays in just over three minutes before opening the scoring with Sheehan’s one-yard touchdown run with 5:03 to go in the opening quarter. Sheehan completed all five pass attempts on the possession, with the first three going for more than 10 yards and a first down including a 24-yard gain to Marques Parks to start the march.
BGSU then used two interceptions to add 10 more points on the scoreboard in the second quarter and build a 17-0 halftime advantage, with both coming from P.J. Mahone — his run backs allowed the Falcons to begin both scoring drives in WKU territory. The safety ran the first back 35 yards, as BGSU extended their advantage to 10-0 early in the second quarter following a 28-yard field goal from Sinisa Vrvilo. Mahone’s return of 44 yards on the second pick put the Falcons just outside the red zone, leading to a five-yard scoring pass from Sheehan to Freddie Barnes with just over two minutes remaining before the break.
Barnes finished with six catches for 43 yards as Sheehan connected with seven different receivers on multiple occasions while finding eight in all. Corey Partridge collected nine receptions for 80 yards to pace all players in both categories, with Willie Geter adding six receptions and both Parks and Tyrone Pronty accounting for four each.
WKU actually held a nine-yard advantage in total offense at the half, 199-190, although BGSU would end up outgaining the Hilltoppers 425-413 overall. The two teams accounted for 50 first downs, with the Falcons recording 28 of those after converting 11-of-18 times on third-down situations.
After the Falcons opened the second half with a touchdown drive that lasted a minute-and-a-half — Sheehan accounted for his third score of the day by hitting Partridge from three yards out — WKU got on the board by marching 10 plays on its first possession of the third quarter aided by a pair of BGSU personal foul penalties. The first was a roughing the punter call that allowed the Topper offense to stay on the field, the second a late hit on K.J. Black that put them inside the BGSU-15. Tyrell Hayden capped of the drive with a five-yard touchdown run with 8:46 to go in the period.
Hayden would lead all players with 121 yards on 18 carries, recording his second straight 100-yard outing. Black finished with 107 yards on 14 attempts to give WKU multiple 100-yard rushers for the first time since Nov. 6, 2004, also helping the Toppers collect 311 yards on the ground.
Actually, Black became the first WKU quarterback to rush for more than 100 yards since Donte Pimpleton had 107 against Northern Iowa on Nov. 10, 2001.
Sheehan — who completed 31-of-42 passes in the contest — found Parks for a 15-yard scoring pass to help the Falcons to a 31-7 advantage at the end of three quarters, Anthony Turner added a three-yard touchdown run and Vrvilo kicked his second field goal of the night — this time from 26 yards out — to extend the lead to 41-7 with just over seven minutes left in the contest.
WKU closed out the scoring in the final four minutes with a three-yard pass from Black to Wenquel Graves and a five-yard run by Marell Booker.
Black was 14-of-24 passing for 102 yards to account for a career-best 209 yards of total offense in his first career start. He hit Curtis Hamilton five times for 32 yards, while Quinterrance Cooper, Jake Gaebler, Graves and Jessie Quinn posted two receptions apiece.
Chris Bullock had 56 yards on 11 carries as the Falcons gained 76 of their 124 rushing yards over the final 15 minutes.
In addition to Mahone’s two interceptions, Erique Dozier picked off a pass to go along with a team-best 12 total stops. John Haneline added 11, with Loren Hargrove and Antonio Smith collecting eight each — Smith also intercepted a pass and recovered a fumble.
Andre Lewis matched a career high with 13 tackles, which included 1.5 behind the line of scrimmage, and Marcus Minor had 12 to reach double digits in the category for the first time. Jihad Morris, Clay Stephens and Chris Walker all tallied seven stops as well for WKU.
The Hilltoppers will be off next weekend before returning to action with a 1 p.m. (CDT) kickoff at Ball State on Oct. 13.