BOWLING GREEN - The Bowling Green Falcons started the season with senior Joe Alls at running back, and everyone else fighting for their place in line behind him. When Alls separated his shoulder in the fourth game of the season, a 72-21 win over Ohio, true freshman P.J. Pope got the call.
Pope responded by averaging almost five yards per carry over the last two games while Alls allowed his shoulder to heal. Pope scored a couple of touchdowns, did not fumble, and showed his ability to keep the BG rushing attack effective.
When Alls returned to his starting role yesterday in a 38-20 win over Ball State, Pope was right there to spell him. Alls finished with 109 yards on 20 carries, and Pope had 81 yards on 12 carries and scored two touchdowns. Alls said that senior and freshman have no rivalry over who gets to see the ball more.
“There's no tension between us,” Alls said. “P.J. plays great football, and I admire that. Last year he was playing high school football. He motivates me as well, because when I see P.J. go out there and run well, I get excited just like I made that play. P.J. and I have a great relationship.”
Alls said his relationship with Pope is a result of the closeness of the BG team and the atmosphere that has enabled the Falcons to go 7-0 to this point in the season.
“I think it's the camaraderie,” Alls said. “Our team is so tightly-knit. Everyone knows everyone, and I think that is important for us, because when we go out there, we don't want to let the next person down.”
BG head coach Urban Meyer said the Falcons, who play four of their final five games on the road, including the next three in a row, will need both backs if they hope to maintain their offensive success that had BG leading the nation in scoring at 49.3 points per game going into yesterday's contest.
“For these next three road games, with him and P.J. Pope, you need both of them to be healthy and going 100 miles an hour,” Meyer said.
Meyer said he thought Alls was not back to his old self yet, and appeared tentative at times, protecting his shoulder.
“I don't think that was the 100 percent Joe Alls,” Meyer said. “He's a better player than he showed tonight, and he still had 100 yards rushing.”
BRUCE VISITS: Former Ohio State head coach Earle Bruce visited a Falcon practice last week and spoke to the team about the importance of remaining focused on their preparation while the buzz over a national ranking swirls around them.
Bruce, who had current Bowling Green head coach Urban Meyer on his staff at Ohio State and later at Colorado State, said he recommended Meyer for the Bowling Green job when it was vacant following the 2000 season.
“I said sure he was the guy for the job,” Bruce said. “I said Urban was a good thinker, an excellent recruiter, and had a great rapport with his players. I told them that Urban had what I would call a good football mind.”
Bruce, who is a pregame and postgame radio analyst for Ohio State football, said Meyer's involvement with the players on an individual and personal level has had a lot to do with his 15-3 record as a head coach.
“If players don't respect you as a coach, then they completely ignore what you say,” Bruce said. “They don't do that to a coach when he has worked with them and coached them like Urban Meyer has done.”
UPS & DOWNS: Marcus Allen is a fifth-year senior linebacker who was on nothing but losing teams at Bowling Green until Urban Meyer arrived following the 2000 season. Allen, who had an interception and a forced fumble against Ball State, said the team has been able to weather tough times and pull together.
“This is the best atmosphere I've ever been around in my life,” Allen said. “We've been through our ups and downs, we've been through the blood, sweat and tears.
BITS & PIECES: Sylvania Northview grad Charles Wynn, a redshirt freshman for Ball State, is the heir apparent at tailback for the Cardinals. He carried twice in Ball State's final possession, gaining nine yards. . . . Ball State nose tackle Greg Pagnard, a junior starter at nose tackle from Tiffin Columbian, had three tackles against the Falcons.