Bowling Green gained steam in the second half to secure a 38-6 Eastern Missouri Conference victory over Mark Twain in Center.
Bowling Green head coach Kevin Krietemeyer hobbled down on crutches through the grandstand from his spot in the press box to the sideline to call a timeout.
His Bobcats were moving backward in the second quarter following a muffed snap that forced the visitors into a third-and-24. It’s safe to say Krietemeyer, who tore his ACL during a Week 1 loss, wasn’t pleased with his team's performance, and he let his players know about it for the whole stadium to hear.
“Coach K is a big inspiration for us,” said Bowling Green senior Stephen Merz. “We look up to him and he believes in us. To have him come down here and chew our butts out and really get us going to show what brand of football we can play, it was really nice.”
Bowling Green punted, but the next time the Bobcats offense took the field it drove 61 yards on six plays capped by Merz's 10-yard scoring run to take a 13-6 lead with 2:23 remaining in the first half.
Merz, who took over under center in the second quarter, threw for a pair of touchdowns and also ran for a fourth-quarter score in relief of concussed starter Austin Callahan to lead Bowling Green to a 38-6 Eastern Missouri Conference victory over Mark Twain in Center on Friday night.
Mark Twain (1-4) started with two straight turnovers on downs, each in Bobcat territory. The home team’s third possession lasted just one play as quarterback Lincoln Talbott was intercepted by Kaleo Dade on a desperation pass.
"We kind of shot ourselves in the foot," Mark Twain coach Karl Asbury said of his offense in the first half. "We were up and down the field, but we just couldn't (reach the end zone)."
Bowling Green (3-2) took a 7-0 edge on its ensuing possession with a 13-yard touchdown strike from Callahan to senior Noah Pafford, who made the snag in the right corner of the end zone.
Mark Twain’s defense stepped up to force a 3-and-out on Bowling Green’s first drive of the second quarter.
The Tigers capitalized.
Jace Barton, who led the Tigers with 163 yards rushing on 28 carries, found a hole to convert a fourth-and-1 to keep Mark Twain’s offense in business, and Talbott connected with Preston Eckler over the middle for a 15-yard touchdown completion to cut the deficit to 7-6.
Those were the final Mark Twain points of the night.
“The kids did a great job of getting 11 hats to the football,” Krietemeyer said of his defense. "That’s something we try to preach, and they did a good job tonight. I’m really proud of them.”
Bowling Green led 13-6 at half and didn’t relent after the break. Early in the third quarter, Merz swung a pass out right to Brenden Henderson, who turned into a human pinball on his way to a 47-yard touchdown.
On the next Bobcats drive, Merz threw deep to Matt Kay to move the chains with a 45-yard dart before Dade ran in a touchdown from two yards out to make it 25-6. Merz and Dylan Huber then teamed up for a 33-yard pass-and-catch down the left sideline to make it 31-6 with just over 10 minutes remaining.
Merz ran in a 14-yard score with 1:36 left to put the final nail in the coffin of Mark Twain.
Avery Epperson led the Mark Twain defense with 13 tackles on the night, while Aidan Epperson came up with a sack and Eckler reeled in an interception. Talbott made nine stops.
“If we can defend the long pass, tackle and block, our kids would be pretty good,” Asbury said. “That’s the bottom line. The scoring by them, they had two or three long passes, and we missed some tackles. And if we block better offensively, they’re right there with everybody we play. But we’ve got to get that ingrained in our mind.”
Mark Twain faces South Callaway on the road next Friday.