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Published: Tuesday, 8/28/2007

Falcons make return to air game

BY RYAN AUTULLO
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
BGSU s Kory Lichtensteiger
anchors the Falcons 
offensive line this season. BGSU s Kory Lichtensteiger anchors the Falcons offensive line this season.
THE BLADE/DAVE ZAPOTOSKY Enlarge | Buy This Photo

BOWLING GREEN - Two promising running backs were added to a team that led the Mid-American Conference in rushing last year.

So, logically, Bowling Green State University will pound the ball on the ground behind its proven offensive line, led by senior captain Kory Lichtensteiger.

Right? Wrong.

Falcons coach Gregg Brandon has overseen some excellent passing attacks in his day, and despite a hiccup in 2006, he's not willing to digress from his philosophy. He's also not interested in fielding questions about contingency plans in the event the passing game struggles again.

"Well, the passing game's going to work. We're going to make that work," Brandon said. "What shows up Saturday night, I don't know. But by [the Sept. 22 conference opener against] Temple, it has to be rolling."

Brandon yesterday formally named sophomore Tyler Sheehan the starting quarterback when the Falcons play at Minnesota on Saturday. Sheehan, who played limitedly as a freshman, won the job over incumbent Anthony Turner.

Sheehan provides a strong arm, whereas Turner is the better runner. The coach prefers throwing, so naturally, Sheehan became his guy.

"We just need to execute," said Sheehan, who played at LaSalle in Cincinnati. "I think we had a real tough time last year executing the offense. We did some new stuff last year and we're kind of getting back to the old stuff."

That's not a knock on Turner as much as it is the entire offense. Spoiled in recent years by all-conference quarterbacks Josh Harris and Omar Jacobs, BGSU was often clueless in 2006. Turner, in his defense, had unproven receivers to throw to. The success rushing was not by design but rather a product of the abandonment of the passing game.

"I've been looking at our offense on film and it's like night and day from last year," said senior defensive tackle Sean O'Drobinak, who was a tight end until this season.

Brandon always has held quarterbacks to a higher standard than most. He once said he would recruit as many quarterbacks as necessary until he found one he felt comfortable with.

He's not cutting Sheehan much slack, either.

"All our quarterback needs to do is win a championship. That's it," said Brandon, who unintentionally drew some laughs. "It doesn't have anything to do with yards or touchdowns passes or all that stuff. Just lead the team to the MAC championship. That's what a quarterback does."

Brandon isn't ready to close the book on Turner, though his plans for the redshirt junior are unclear. Turner was solid on many occasions last year when he ran for 480 yards and completed 57 percent of his passes. But Sheehan said he's not worried that a mistake or two will get him demoted to the bench.

"I'm real confident coach has confidence in me and that helps a lot knowing that I don't have to look over my shoulder," Sheehan said. "I can make a mistake and learn from it and go onto the next play and lead us down field for a touchdown. I'm real confident I can do a lot of things for our offense and score a lot of points."

Inexperience probably had as much to do with BGSU's struggles in '06 as anything else. Sheehan was one of 27 freshmen, and 15 true freshmen, who played. Youth could still be an issue this season as eight freshmen - Willie Geter, Glen Stanley and Neal Dahlman - are listed first or second on the depth chart.

Only six seniors will start Saturday, and for better or worse, the Falcons' season will depend heavily on the right arm of a 19-year-old.

"I think Tyler will be ready to be put in that situation," Lichtensteiger said. "Getting [experience] last year helps him out, and like everybody else, he's just ready to play."

Contact Ryan Autullo at:

rautullo@theblade.com.



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