After kicking off the 2009 season in St. Louis, the Missouri Tigers begin their home schedule on September 12 against the Bowling Green Falcons. Surprisingly, Bowling Green leads the all-time series three games to one, including two wins against Tigers’ coach Gary Pinkel. It’s interesting to note that Pinkel used to coach at Toledo, the Falcons’ biggest rival.
The 2001 match-up was unique, as it was not only Gary Pinkel’s first game as the Mizzou coach, but also Urban Meyer’s first game as the head coach of Bowling Green. The Falcons won that game 20-13 in Columbia and followed that up with a 51-28 win over Missouri in Bowling Green, Ohio in 2002.
As is often the case in early season games against non-conference opponents, it will be imperative for Mizzou to strike early and often. Upsets are made early in games when underdog teams hang around, gain confidence, and slowly begin to believe they can actually win the game.
If Mizzou can build a 20 point lead, Bowling Green will likely not be able to come back, although the Falcons are better than the average mid-major team.
In 2008, the Bowling Green Falcons had a record of 6-6 while going 4-4 in the MAC. Looking at the teams they played, it becomes apparent that they were not beaten by any creampuff teams. Half of their losses came at the hands of Minnesota, Boise State, and eventual MAC champs Buffalo. Included in their six wins are victories against Pittsburgh and rival Toledo.
When watching the Bowling Green offense, Mizzou fans may recognize it. When Mizzou switched to the spread in 2005, parts were molded from the Bowling Green set. Having this game on the schedule creates a logical step in the process of improving the pass defense, as they can get game experience against offenses similar to the ones they will see in Big 12 play.
Quarterback Tyler Sheehan threw for over 2610 yards last season, so the Mizzou secondary can expect to be tested early and often. Sheehan is not a huge threat to run the ball, but he can be elusive at times, as he ran for a season-high 52 yards against Toledo.
Defensively, the Falcons will be replacing their entire defensive line, shifting more of the responsibility up front to the linebackers, which are small to begin with. The strength of the defense lies in the secondary. P.J. Mahone led the group last year with three interceptions, to go along with 95 tackles.
The match-up sets up in a way that Derrick Washington, Devion Moore, and the rest of the runningback core may be able to have a field day against a new and smaller front seven. This could help Gabbert continue to settle in, especially if the Falcon secondary is game enough to slow down Missouri receivers.
As Faurot Field hosts yet another season of Mizzou Football, the Tigers hope to improve and prepare for conference play. Bowling Green should provide stiff competition, but Missouri will win if the team shows up.