BG's good news: Falcons surprise No. 25 Pittsburgh
PITTSBURGH - Bowling Green State University has been fielding an array of tough questions since early January.
The inquiries began when the Falcons embarrassed themselves with a lousy showing in a bowl game. They continued after a handful of players began embarrassing themselves away from the field.
Now the Falcons have a question for all of us: Do you see what we're capable of?
Not receiving much positive news lately, BG decided to create some for itself by dispatching nationally ranked Pittsburgh in the season opener yesterday at Heinz Field. The program's on-field reputation was restored in a stunning 27-17 win, its first over a ranked opponent in five years.
"That bowl loss lingered," BG coach Gregg Brandon said of Tulsa's 56-point cake walk in the GMAC Bowl. "I get asked about that to this day. That's done - I hope. That's eight months of getting told we're no good and we didn't deserve to be there. To win on the road against a BCS program, I don't care who it is in our league, it's big."
Brandon was understandably fired up. His team was supposed to lose by two touchdowns and was supposed to be too small to compete with the big boys. Basically, it was supposed to be a pay day, where his team gets beat, but his program benefits financially.
"Our kids relish these games," Brandon said. "They thrive on being the underdogs and going on the road and having people jeering them in the pregame and telling them they can't do this and they can't do that. That's the wrong thing to say to these guys."
Because of Pitt's No. 25 ranking, this was technically an upset. But was it really an upset? That will be determined in the upcoming weeks.
"That's for everyone else to judge," linebacker John Haneline said. "I'm just happy we were able to come in and have some success and get a victory."
Credit should be shared. The defense was better than it's been in a long time, and the offense kept off balance a Panthers defense that ranked fifth in the country a year ago. And then there's the coaching staff, which was superb in devising a game plan to counteract the faster and larger opponent. Adjustments in all areas arrived with BG trailing 14-0 in the first half. Various creative looks began showing up on offense, and the defense started to blitz incessantly while missing very few tackles.
"Since I've been here we haven't had a defense that compares to this one," quarterback Tyler Sheehan said. "It's nice to know that if we don't score every drive or every other drive that our defense is going to stop them. Pitt's running attack was completely shut down."
The Panthers did not score after kicking a field goal to go up 17-14 as time expired in the first half. Standout running back LeSean McCoy accounted for just 71 yards on 23 carries, which affected Pitt's play calling as Bill Stull threw more times (51) than coach Dave Wannstedt had planned.
"Our goal the whole time preparing for this was to play as one unit, one heartbeat," said Haneline, who had seven tackles.
BG's dominance on defense comes as a surprise, but not the biggest surprise. That honor would belong to Jimmy Scheidler, a fullback/tight end who had just one career catch for minus-4 yards before yesterday. Scheidler had the game of his life, catching two touchdown passes in the first half - one from Sheehan and another from receiver Freddie Barnes who was lined up at quarterback on the play.
Sheehan completed 24 of 40 passes for 163 yards, and ran for an 11-yard score with 11:59 remaining to extend BG's lead to 27-17.
Anthony Turner, who often lined up at quarterback, ran in from eight yards in the third quarter. Chris Bullock replaced running back Willie Geter (suspension) in the starting lineup and responded with 93 total yards.
Geter, Adrian Hodges and Robert Lorenzi all were suspended last week, which topped off an offseason of bad behavior for the Falcons.
"I think our team definitely thrives when we hit adversity," Sheehan said. "We show our true character when things start hitting the fan. We still have some things going on, but I think we reacted well on the field."
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