ANNAPOLIS -- The game plan for Bowling Green against Navy yesterday was simple: Mix up the offense and just hope to come away with a win.
But the Falcons scrapped that plan early, after quarterback Erik White discovered a hole in Navy's defense. By game's end, the senior quarterback had completed 28 passes for 307 yards -- both career highs -- and hit wide receiver Ronnie Redd with a game-winning, 33-yard touchdown pass with 5 minutes, 29 seconds left, as Bowling Green defeated Navy, 22-19, before 20,744 at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.
For Bowling Green (3-1) of the Mid-American Conference, it was just the second road victory against a non-conference team since defeating Kentucky in the second game of the 1985 season.
For Navy (0-4), it was the latest loss in what is becoming a season to forget. Again, mistakes and turnovers (two fumbles lost, one interception) at key times hurt the Midshipmen.
With Navy leading by 13-0 in the first half and looking to build on that with the ball on the Bowling Green 26, quarterback Jason Van Matre fumbled as he tried to stretch for extra yardage on a short gain. And, early in the fourth quarter with a 19-14 lead, plebe wide receiver Tom Pritchard caught a 63-yard pass for Navy's longest offensive play of the season -- only to fumble the ball away when tackled on the Bowling Green 13.
The fumble seemed to drain Navy's spirit. The offense generated no attack the rest of the game.
"We had a chance to put them away," said Navy coach George Chaump, shaking his head. "It was just unfortunate for us and very fortunate for them."
On the game-winning play, the Midshipmen gambled with a blitz on third-and-nine and got burned. White drilled his pass to Redd, who ran untouched into the end zone.
"It was a quick slant pass, and I was expecting to see someone when I caught the ball," said Redd, who caught two passes for 47 yards. "But no one was there, and I just ran it in."
Chaump said Navy took the chance because of White's passing success.
"We selected heat, and we were supposed to play a tough man-to-man," Chaump said. "You have to play the man-to-man tough; you have to play it to win."
Navy scored first for the fourth straight time. This time the Mids did it on a big play -- a 30-yard reverse by B.J. Mason a little more than four minutes into the game.
Navy built the lead to 13-0 (the extra-point kick failed) on a 4-yard touchdown run by Billy James (11 carries, 70 yards), who set up the score three plays earlier with a 37-yard run -- Navy's longest run from scrimmage this season.
"They attacked us and took some steam out of us early," said Bowling Green coach Gary Blackney. "No one this year has moved the ball against our defense like that."
Bowling Green capitalized on a Navy turnover to get back in the game. A Van Matre pass was tipped and picked off by linebacker D.J. Ogilvie, who returned it to the Navy 42. The Falcons scored seven plays later, on fourth-and-goal from the Navy 1, as Artie Mangham -- a linebacker who had lined up in the backfield -- scored on his first college carry.
On Bowling Green's next drive, White hit wide receiver Mark Szlachcic on a 19-yard scoring pass to help the Falcons take a 14-13 halftime lead. By the half, White had completed 15 of 21 passes for 170 yards (Bowling Green was averaging 150.7 passing yards coming in).
"We had no idea we would throw as much as we did," White said. "I give credit to the offensive line -- I wasn't even touched for the first three quarters. We went in wanting to have balance, but the pass was just there."
The Midshipmen regained the lead on their first drive of the second half, when Van Matre (12 completions in 18 attempts for 190 yards) hit Pritchard on a 37-yard touchdown pass. With the failed two-point conversion, Navy had a 19-14 lead. But the fourth-quarter fumble by Pritchard that could have helped Navy put the game away, instead put Bowling Green in a position to win.
"The big difference was their short passing -- we did a poor job stopping their ball control passing game," Chaump said. "At critical times, they completed some short passes down the middle. That hurt."
Navy's 0-4 start is its worst since 1987, when the Midshipmen dropped five straight en route to a 2-9 season. The Midshipmen are off next week and will face Air Force at home on Oct. 12.
"In light of the fact we're facing Air Force and the wishbone, I
appreciate having two weeks to get ready for them," Chaump said. "At this point, with four games and seven weeks, I think a little period where we practice and not have the pressure of a game will help us."