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Published: Thursday, 11/3/2005

Falcons get a huge lift with Pope back


BOWLING GREEN P.J. Pope is back at a time when his team needs him most.

At last overcoming nagging ankle injuries incurred in the season opener against Wisconsin, Pope, a two-time All-MAC runner for Bowling Green State University, had his best performance of the season last week. In the Falcons loss to Akron, Pope had season highs in rushing and receiving yards as well as carries and catches.

A costly fumble might have marred Pope s outing, but with quarterback Omar Jacobs likely to miss another game with a separated shoulder and the spread offense greatly scaled down for redshirt freshman Anthony Turner, BGSU knows Pope is perhaps its best offensive choice heading into its game Saturday at Kent State.

We re going to need P.J. to run that football, BGSU coach Gregg Brandon said.

Pope Pope

Some of BGSU s game plan that worked so effectively, to the tune of 21 points, against Wisconsin before Pope was injured late in the first half, reappeared against the Zips.

Pope and B.J. Lane played in the backfield together and along with Turner the three rushed for nearly 200 yards. Also successful on misdirection plays used in the Wisconsin game, the Falcons used their backs until they were playing catch-up in the fourth quarter. The Pope-Lane combo proved an acceptable substitute for downfield throws to Charles Sharon and Steve Sanders.

We had a chance to win the game in the fourth quarter, which is all we wanted to do, Brandon said.

Pope s 63 yards against the Zips is only approaching the 92 he averaged last season, but he was happy just to play a game without tweaking his ankles.

It does a lot for my confidence that I finally made it through a game, he said.

Now that that s out of the way, what seems to be a much harder task is on deck for him. The Falcons have scored just two touchdowns in each of their last two games, both losses, after averaging five TDs in their first six contests.

Pope can t make up all that ground, but the inspiration to try is certainly there.

Sitting out the most I ever have, you realize how precious it is, Pope said. There s nothing harder than sitting out you want to help your teammates.

Pope said he still isn t completely healthy. Senior offensive lineman Rob Warren thinks Pope will continue to improve with some practice time this week.

You ve got to remember, he hasn t had a chance to practice, really, to get that feeling back of playing football, Warren said. He s been sitting around for four or five weeks. I expect big things from him next week. He s just got to get used to stuff again.

Last season Pope played his best near the end, rushing for more than 100 yards in four of the Falcons last five games and missing the mark by two yards against Toledo. His disappointing senior season could be transformed if he s able to help turn the team around.

These last three games are going to be our legacy, Pope said. As seniors, we still have three games to try to change this.

Contact Maureen Fulton at:mfulton@theblade.com or 419-724-6160.

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