MORGANTOWN, W.VA. (AP) - Bowling Green’s offense couldn’t find a rhythm and quarterback Matt Schilz spent more time scrambling than finding receivers.
With Schilz unable to thrive, the Mid-American Conference’s highest-scoring offense came to a halt at No. 22 West Virginia, losing 55-10 on Saturday.
And when West Virginia freshman running back Dustin Garrison got into a groove, Bowling Green quickly found out that it was going to be difficult slowing down both the Mountaineers’ rushing attack and the arm of quarterback Geno Smith.
“When they had success with their running game, we didn’t give them a reason not to (run),” Bowling Green coach Dave Clawson said. “We pressured them a couple of times. It got to be: You’re going to die a quick death or a slow death?”
The most yards Bowling Green had allowed over the first four games was 396 to Wyoming. West Virginia had surpassed that by halftime.
“We couldn’t stop them,” Clawson said. “We couldn’t get off the field.”
Bowling Green was hoping to use, of all things, a significant edge in net punting to its advantage. The Falcons led the nation through the first four games with a 45.3-yard net average on punts, while West Virginia was dead last at 29.8.
But West Virginia only punted once Saturday, while Bowling Green’s Brian Schmiedebusch averaged 35.5 yards on two punts.
“One advantage we had coming into the game was the punting game,” Clawson said. “And if we could get two or three first downs, we get to midfield. Let’s force them to go 80, 90, see if they’re not patient enough to run the ball. When you gave them a short field, it made it very difficult. And we didn’t play well.”
Schilz came to Morgantown tied for the FBS lead with 14 touchdown passes. He threw for an early score but lost a fumble and was intercepted three times, twice by Keith Tandy. Schilz finished 13 of 25 for 114 yards.
He didn’t have much help available. Bowling Green’s leading rusher, Anthon Samuel, missed the game with an injured ankle, while Eugene Cooper, the team’s leading receiver, sat out with an unspecified NCAA clearinghouse issue.
“You lose a game by 45 points, to say you lost it because of two guys. That would be a stretch,” Clawson said.
Smith continued his solid season by throwing for three scores. But for the first time, the Mountaineers (4-1) found balance in their offense.
West Virginia entered the game as one of the worst rushing teams in the FBS with 306 total yards. The Mountaineers compiled 360 yards on the ground Saturday, including 291 yards and two scores from Garrison.
“I think we found a running back,” West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said.