BOWLING GREEN - Save for a few aches and boo-boos, the most vital members of the Bowling Green State University football team had remained reasonably healthy through seven games.
Then Corey Partridge injured his thumb last week against Ohio. The Falcons' go-to receiver is done, most likely until next season.
Not much later Willie Geter went down with a sprained ankle. Consider the running back questionable for Friday's game at Eastern Michigan.
It gets worse.
John Haneline, BG's top defensive player, is wearing a boot after straining ligaments in his foot in Friday's win over Akron. It was originally believed the linebacker would be gone for the season, but coach Gregg Brandon is no longer ruling out Haneline's return.
In recap, BGSU lost two of its most dynamic players on offense and one of its lone bright spots on a sketchy defense over the course of two weeks.
But perhaps it sounds worse than it is.
Some pretty solid reserves have been waiting on the sidelines.
Chris Wright, replacing Partridge, caught five passes Friday for 83 yards and a touchdown, and Anthony Turner played an all-around brilliant game in Geter's absence, rushing and passing for a touchdown while picking up 104 yards on the ground. Haneline's understudy, freshman Glen Stanley, forced a fumble on what would have been a rushing touchdown by Akron's Carlton Jackson.
"Those kids have been practicing hard all season and just waiting for their opportunity," Brandon said. "When injuries occur, those back-up kids have to be able to step in and do the job."
Brandon stated earlier in the season that whichever team stayed the healthiest would have the best chance of winning the Mid-American Conference. But if the Falcons (5-4, 3-2) are fortunate enough to claim the title, which certainly does not look promising, one must point to depth following injuries as the primary reason.
"I feel like if somebody goes down in the skill positions, we can easily replace them," said Wright, a sophomore with just nine grabs prior to Friday.
BG's bench has extended deeper than Wright, Turner, and Stanley.
Dan Macon has re-emerged as a contributor at running back in his senior season. Jermiah Kelley, a junior college transfer in his first season at BG, caught a 15-yard touchdown pass Friday to give BG a 38-6 lead.
And don't forget about P.J. Mahone, who has started the past three games at safety in place of Jerett Sanderson, who has an injured quad. Mahone intercepted two passes Friday, returning one for a touchdown, and was named the MAC East defensive player of the week. BG kicker Sinisa Vrvilo earned the special teams honor.
Mahone now has five interceptions - second in the MAC - in just eight games.
"I think we've had a lot of misfortune with injuries, but I think people are playing their role and doing what they can to help the team," Mahone said.
And that includes Haneline, who is making Stanley come to his house this week so the two can dissect film.
"He's one of the best football players I've ever been behind," said Stanley, a native of Ocala, Fla. "Hopefully I can come in and be as aggressive and as smart as Haneline."
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