MOBILE, Ala. - Bowling Green State University fended off adversity to make it to a bowl game. But adversity has proven to be unyielding.
Three Falcon starters will not play in Sunday's GMAC Bowl, a potential heavy blow to a team that was already widely considered an underdog to Tulsa.
Defensive end Diyral Briggs has been suspended for violating a team rule, offensive guard Shane Steffy has a broken leg and linebacker Glen Stanley has not been practicing. Additionally, reserve defensive tackle D.J. Young apparently did not make the trip to Mobile.
The Falcons experienced a similar situation in October and November when standouts Corey Partridge, John Haneline and Willie Geter all were injured within a game of each other. But it was never as bad as it seemed because reserves filled in admirably and the Falcons went 4-0 in November.
"We've had guys injured and missed games and other guys stepped up," coach Gregg Brandon said yesterday after his team's first practice since arriving in Mobile on Tuesday. "Everybody wrote us off after Ohio when Partridge got hurt."
The absence of Stanley, who became a starter when Haneline went down, means BG will be down to its third-string outside linebacker.
Sophomore linebackers Cody Basler and Aaron Davis split time with the first team yesterday. Adrian Baker could start in place of Briggs, a first-team Mid-American Conference selection, though Joe Schaefer and Angelo Magnone will likely be involved in a rotation. Sophomore Brady Minturn played in Steffy's left guard spot yesterday.
"We've got enough guys that have played and have played well," defensive coordinator Mike Ward said.
TWO BETTER THAN NONE: Partridge became a defensive back last week, but apparently the junior's days at receiver are not over. He played on offense and defense yesterday, though he wore a white practice jersey reserved for defensive players.
Partridge, who has often been a game-changing receiver during the past three seasons, suffered a thumb injury in late October and missed the final four games of the regular season.
He is not yet fully healthy but "every day it gets better and better.
"They're going to try to work me in on both," Partridge said. "I probably won't get a lot of playing time but I just wanted to do something to help the team."
Partridge expects to play offense next year but he's admittedly entertaining thoughts of playing both ways.
SUMO FOOTBALL: Yesterday's practice began with a sumo wrestling match of sorts. Players were summoned to step forward from a circle for a one-on-one shoving match.
"We do it whenever coach Brandon feels we need to get a little fired up before practice," Partridge said.