Bowling Green (2-3) totaled 438 yards of offense, went 10-of-16 on third downs and was 5-for-5 in the red zone. It also ate up 42:45 of the clock.
Tech managed only 69 yards rushing.
Haynes King threw for 348 yards and four scores for Tech, but he also was picked off twice – one of those was returned for a touchdown, and the other came at the Bowling Green 5-yard line. Tech receiver Dominick Blaylock caught seven passes for 131 yards.
The Jackets (2-3) return to ACC play at 8 p.m. Saturday at Miami (4-0). The Hurricanes were off this week.
“At the end of the day it’s on me. I’m the head football coach,” Key said. “It was a failure in every aspect of the program today. At the end of the day that’s on me. It’s on me to evaluate it, it’s on me to make decisions, it’s on me to get ‘em prepared, it’s on me to be able to fix this.”
On Saturday, Tech wasted no time going to work on what looked like it would be an easy day at the office.
After a 43-yard kickoff return by Christian Leary to the 47, King found Eric Singleton Jr. on a 53-yard play-action post for a touchdown 17 seconds into the game.
The Jackets got the ball back quickly and, this time, needed five plays to score. King’s 11-yard pass to Leary to the left flat on a run-pass option play went for six and put Tech up 14-0 less than six minutes into the period.
Then things took a turn.
Bowling Green found its offensive footing and got a spark in the running game from backup quarterback Camden Orth. Orth’s 1-yard plunge over left tackle put the Falcons on the board and capped a 10-play drive that covered 75 yards and drained 5:24 off the clock.
Alan Anaya connected on a 40-yard field goal with 8:27 to go before halftime, getting the Falcons within 14-10.
The Tech offense continued to struggle and lined up for a third punt in as many drives from its own 47. But the snap hit upback Jason Moore in the right shoulder, and the loose ball was recovered by Bowling Green’s Finn Hogan at the 40.
Hogan, as fate would have it, then gave Bowling Green its first lead of the day by making an acrobatic, one-handed catch in the right side of the end zone on a third-down throw from the 14 by quarterback Connor Bazelak. The Falcons suddenly were ahead 17-14 with 2:37 to play in the half.
Bowling Green took that lead into the break and finished the half with 222 yards of offense, went 7-of-11 on third downs, 3-for-3 in the red zone and kept the ball for 22:24. Tech, meanwhile, ran six plays in 2:03, totaled 124 yards and scored twice on its first two possessions. Over its next four series it punted thrice, turned the ball over on downs once and managed only 41 yards of offense.
“This week we definitely have to take a hard look in the mirror. We got to figure out something. Don’t know exactly what it’s gonna be, but we have to figure something out,” King said. “We can’t have lulls like that in the middle of the game. We gotta start fast, finish fast and you gotta play fast throughout the whole game.”
The Falcons picked up right where they left in the second half by opening the third quarter with a seven-play, 75-yard drive that ended on Bazelak’s 1-yard keeper around right end that made the score 24-14. Terion Stewart added a 6-yard touchdown run into the right side of the end zone giving the Falcons a 31-14 lead with 3:07 to go in the third quarter.
King then threw a pick-6 to Dashawn Jones, with the linebacker’s 45-yard return putting the Falcons up 38-14.
Tech got a 15-yard touchdown pass from King to Malik Rutherford just before the close of the third quarter. But a failed two-point conversion left the Jackets down 38-20 going into the fourth quarter.
King completed his day with a 16-yard scoring pass to Abdul Janneh, much too little and much too late.
Stewart finished with 138 yards on the ground, and Bazelak was 21-of-32 passing for 263 yards and a TD.
“I hope they respond the right way. We have a conference game next week on the road. The only choice is to respond the right way,” Key said about how his team bounces back. “That’s to go out and fix the problems, to own it. There’s no pointing fingers here. There’s none of that. You gotta own this. You have to own a game like that and be able to look at yourself in the mirror. That starts with me.”