Georgia Southern-Bowling Green grades: Running attack too much for Falcons
Here are the top takeaways and highest-graded players from the Eagles’ 58-27 win against the Falcons in the GoDaddy Bowl:
Georgia Southern Eagles
It’s incredibly rare that there are two quarterbacks among the five top performers of a team; however, the Eagles made a change at the quarterback position at halftime and it paid off. This is surprising because starting quarterback Kevin Ellison (+3.4) was playing really well in the first half and it was not his fault that Georgia Southern was trailing. He averaged 5.4 yards per carry and was not afraid of contact as 49 of his 70 yards came after contact. He was also very elusive as he forced as many as six missed tackles on his 13 rushing attempts. In addition, he was dangerous through the air — he was not asked to pass the ball often, but delivered when he was. He completed three of his five passes for 65 yards and a touchdown and, only one of his attempts was inaccurate.
Despite all this, the Eagles decided to bring in quarterback Favian Upshaw (+5.0) for the second half and Bowling Green had absolutely no answer to this. Upshaw was not asked to pass the ball really often due to his success on the ground. He still completed his only aimed pass for 17 yards and had two throwaways. However, what was really impressive was what he did when he ran with the football. He was not as elusive as Ellison as he forced only two missed tackles on 12 carries and gained only 13 yards after contact, but it was his speed that basically did not allow the Bowling Green defenders to get close to him. Excluding kneeldowns and scrambles, Upshaw averaged 17.4 yards per carry on designed runs and essentially took over the game in the second half and won it for Georgia Southern.
The main key for the Georgia Southern defense was slowing down Bowling Green’s prolific passing attack led by quarterback Matt Johnson. Cornerback Caleb Williams (+2.7) played a key role in this as he was the most targeted Georgia Southern defender with 12 passes going his way. However, Williams responded really well and although, he was beat on some incompletions, he allowed only five receptions for 34 yards on the 12 targets. In addition, he knocked down three passes as well and allowed an (NFL) passer rating of 49.3 in the process.
C Andy Kwon (+5.8)
QB Favian Upshaw (+5.0)
TE James Dean (+4.0)
DE Nardo Govan (+3.6)
QB Kevin Ellison (+3.4)
Bowling Green Falcons
Wednesday night was a mixed bag for Bowling Green quarterback Matt Johnson (+3.8), who really struggled initially and failed to find a rhythm. Johnson was accurate on only 17 of his 30 aimed passes, which is just barely above 50 percent completion rate. Towards the end of the game the Falcons tried to go deep more and more often; however, Johnson completed only 3 of his 13 pass attempts 20 or more yards downfield. It is necessary to note that he had two incredible deep throws in the fourth quarter, but one of them was dropped, while the other was defended really well and neither became completions and therefore do not show up on the stat sheet, but are included in his grade.
Pressure up the middle was a factor that influenced Johnson’s ability to step up in the pocket multiple times and affected some of his passes. Bowling Green center Tim McAuliffe (-4.8) allowed more total pressures with four quarterback hurries than his teammates combined. In addition, McAuliffe played a big role in some of the Falcons’ struggles in the running game as well. While the Bowling Green running game averaged 5.3 yards per carry on the night, they gained only 25 yards on nine carries in the two gaps next to the center, which was good for an average of 2.8 yards.
The Falcons’ inability to stop the run had multiple reasons and it says a lot that nine different Bowling Green defenders earned run defense grades below -1.0. Linebackers struggled because they could not finish the plays and missed tackles, such as Trenton Greene (-5.0) with five missed tackles or Austin Valdez (-3.3) with four of them. While upfront, defensive tackles were just completely taken out of the game by the Georgia Southern offensive line and were unable to shed blocks. This is why defensive tackle Izaah Lunsford (-5.2) earned the lowest grade in this game and also the reason behind Taylor Royster (-4.9) grading out so low.
QB Matt Johnson (+3.8)
RT Logan Dietz (+2.3)
LT Jacob Bennett (+2.0)
RB Travis Greene (+1.4)
LB James Sanford (+1.1)