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Published: Thursday, 8/21/2003

BG turns up intensity for early game


BOWLING GREEN - On the calendar of Bowling Green State University football coach Gregg Brandon, today is Saturday.

That's right, Saturday. And tomorrow is Sunday as the Falcons begin the countdown to their season-opening game against Eastern Kentucky one week from today at Perry Stadium.

But there is a method to Brandon's madness.

“It just means that, when we're playing on Saturdays, the week of practice is planned out,” he said. “So, since we're playing on Thursday, we just have to adjust that two days ahead. That means Saturday is Thursday. It is kind of mind-boggling, isn't it?”

Perhaps it is.

But the point was made to Brandon's charges, who yesterday turned the intensity up a notch in the team's final day of two-a-day practices.

The yelling was louder and more pointed, there was a little more contact - even though the coaches railed against hits - and the speed was faster than earlier in fall camp, which began Aug. 4.

“I think people are getting a little more fired up,” said quarterback Josh Harris. “Our offense is getting tired of playing against our defense, and they're tired of playing against us. Tempers are flaring a little bit, and it's getting really intense with the game coming up in a week.”

Mitch Hewitt, one of the team's captains along with Harris, tight end Craig Jarrett and fellow linebacker Jovon Burkes, said the captains are trying to help everyone push through the difficult times.

“Everyone's tired right now, but we've all got to dig deeper and come together,” Hewitt said. “Every day that [the game] gets closer we've got to get more fired up and focused towards Eastern [Kentucky].”

Burkes agreed, adding, “Physically we're tired, but mentally right now we're strong. ... it's just about game time. I even had a dream about the game.”

Presumably Burkes played in the game of his dreams, something that isn't as certain in real life.

Burkes is fighting through a knee sprain, and Brandon said he wasn't sure the junior middle linebacker would be ready for Eastern Kentucky.

“I don't know if [Burkes] will be ready for the first game, but he'll be ready for the second is what I'm hearing,” Brandon said. “Knowing Burkes, he'll fight like heck to be ready for the opener.”

Junior wide receiver Cole Magner was out a couple of practices with a groin pull, but he practiced yesterday and showed no ill effects.

But offensive guard Scott Mruczkowski has a high ankle sprain and tackle Robert Haley “tweaked” his ankle, and both were kept out of practice.

Brandon said both should be ready for the opener.

“We've had 22 practices and the kids are mentally and physically exhausted,” Brandon said. “That's part of the process of getting ready to play a season of 12 battles. They just need to understand that they've got to push themselves through at this point. It's more of a mind game; the body may be aching, but there's nothing wrong with the mind.

“The football season is a marathon, not a sprint, and you have to have that sense of urgency that the opener is right around the corner.”

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