BOWLING GREEN - Call it shore leave, rest and rehabilitation, or the football version of “everybody take five.”
With a bye on the schedule for this weekend, Bowling Green State University has reached a brief break in action.
BG (5-2) is 3-1 in the Mid-American Conference's East Division after its 16-11 win Saturday at Akron. The Falcons, a 2-9 team last season, are still in the chase for the division championship after seven games, and that pleases first-year coach Urban Meyer, who will use the extra time to prepare for East co-leader Miami at home on Nov. 3.
“There's been a lot of positives, but the most important thing is we're 5-2 going into a bye week - a well-deserved bye week,” Meyer said. “It could not happen at a better time.
“We're going to need every ounce of preparation we can to get ready to play Miami. Their record proves that if they're not the best team in the MAC East, then Miami and Marshall are the top two.”
Meyer said the off week is a natural regrouping juncture for any team, but the Falcons need it as much for additional time in the training room as they do for strategy sessions.
Quarterbacks Andy Sahm (hip pointer) and Josh Harris (ankle), running back Joe Alls (ankle) and wide receiver David Bautista (knee) are all ailing after playing three of their last four games on artificial surfaces. Meyer said the bye gives them ample time to heal before facing Miami.
“You look for that bye on the schedule and as a coach you always know it's coming, and when you have zero depth like we have, you're wishing it was here and you're wishing it was there,” Meyer said. “I told all of the coaches and players that we should see absolute, complete exhaustion by the time we get to the bye week.
“The common sense thing would have been to pull off a little bit, and you could just see the fatigue in our coaches and players. And I just asked them and demanded that we're going to just go as hard as we can, and then once you hit that bye week - don't worry - I know how to rest a team. We'll be the most rested team in I-A by the time we get to Miami.”
Harris did not play at Akron, while Alls, Bautista and Sahm were less than full speed.
“We were a very wounded football team going into that game,” Meyer said. “We saw a bunch of kids play their hearts out. That was probably one of the best effort games we've played all season - offense, defense and kicking game.”
Meyer said he has been encouraged by the team's ability to maintain its focus throughout the first seven games.
“The kids show up (in the weight room) on Sundays and Mondays - 100 percent. At Notre Dame that didn't happen,” he said. “You had to pry some kids to get them in there. At Ohio State I'm sure it was the same.
“Most of them go do what they're supposed to do, but every place I've been there's always a few guys who don't, but here we don't have any. Everybody's doing what they're supposed to be doing.”
Meyer said the first half of his first season has been a learning experience for him as well as for the players. After agonizing over many of the minor details involved in the game, Meyer said he has reached a comfort zone in dealing with many of those things.
“The thing I've found out is you just have to go with your heart, go with your gut, and trust the guys,” Meyer said. “I actually talk to our players - the guys I really trust - and ask them how they feel in the third quarter, or in the fourth quarter - are we in good condition?
“Those kinds of things can just drive me crazy, but I think it's worked out. I'm surprised, because this is the first time I've done it.”
After an early practice Friday, Meyer will give the team some time off.
“I want the guys to be able to go home and see a high school football game, or if they want to go visit their family, they can do that,” he said.
Following the win over Akron, the Falcons got a break from their usual routine on Monday, when they would have normally been in the film room reviewing tape by 7 a.m.
Meyer said he'd let them sleep in, and as the BG players ran off the field at the Rubber Bowl following the win, they were not celebrating the victory so much as the promised shut-eye.
“All of them kept yelling, `We finally get to sleep!'” Meyer said. “It's amazing what motivates kids.”