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Published: Friday, 10/29/2004

Bowling Green wary of Eastern's wherewithal

BY JOHN WAGNER
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

BOWLING GREEN - A little more than a month ago, Eastern Michigan lost to Toledo 42-32.

Tomorrow, the Eagles travel to Bowling Green, but it will be a different Eastern Michigan team that will face the Falcons at 6 p.m. at Perry Stadium.

BG will be playing a squad that has seen its confidence swell following back-to-back road wins that snapped a 26-game road losing streak. That confidence was boosted when the team won both of those games in come-from-behind fashion.

"The difference [in Eastern Michigan] is they found a way in the fourth quarter to beat Western Michigan, and they found a way in the fourth quarter to Ball State," BG coach Gregg Brandon said. "That's all it is, because the two games they lost to Idaho and Eastern Illinois, they didn't get it done in the fourth quarter. They could have won those games easily."

First-year Eagles coach Jeff Genyk said the biggest problem he faced is getting his players to believe they can win.

"Until you actually do something, it's hard to have confidence that you can do it," Genyk said. "We've been a team for many years where guys have been playing for themselves and for their NFL potential. During this year we've been playing for each other."

Genyk, a Bowling Green grad who coached with Brandon when both were at Northwestern, said Eastern Michigan's two wins have made them a better team.

"I think that goes back to confidence," Genyk said. "I've been involved with some teams at Northwestern that frankly were not near as good as Michigan or Ohio State and still won Big Ten championships. A lot of that came from getting on a roll.

"The same players that earlier in the season made plays to lose you ballgames, are now making plays to win you football games in the fourth quarter."

The Eagles rely on an offense that ranks among the league's better units.

Tailback Anthony Sherrill, who ran for 187 yards against BG last season, keys the ground game with his average of 83.0 yards rushing. Quarterback Matt Bohnet, an Iowa transfer who had not played in a game since 2000, ranks fifth in the MAC in yards passing with 246.9.

Bohnet's top target is Eric Deslauriers, who averages seven catches and 107.1 yards receiving.

"Their quarterback [Bohnet] is being efficient, he's taking care of the football," Brandon said. "Eric Deslauriers is a very good receiver, he's catching a lot of balls. I think he's in the top three in the conference. I like him.

"The running back, Anthony Sherrell, had a good game against us last year. He's been hurt, but I think he's going to play against us. We need to tackle that guy, because we didn't tackle him last year."

The Eagles have struggled defensively, ranking near the bottom of the 14-team league in pass defense. To prepare for tomorrow's game Genyk has had his first-team offense simulate the Falcons' high-powered attack against the first-team defense.

But Brandon said the biggest worry about Eastern Michigan isn't the Eagles' offense, defense or special teams.

"Jeff Genyk has done a good job of getting those kids to believe they can win," Brandon said. "They've won two MAC West road games, which is tough.

"I don't want them hanging around in the fourth quarter on Saturday, I guarantee you that."

Contact John Wagner at:

jwagner@theblade.com

or 419-724-6481.



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