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Published: Friday, 9/5/2008

Briggs a spark plug for Falcon defense

BY RYAN AUTULLO
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

BOWLING GREEN - The right side of Pittsburgh's offensive line was thrust backward and then crumbled like an avalanche. When the dust cloud settled, one individual had emerged from the ruckus.

It was Bowling Green State University's Diyral Briggs, somehow still full of energy after a long and humid afternoon at Heinz Field.

This snapshot took place over and over during the fourth quarter of BG's upset win over the Panthers. Briggs, who at 232 pounds is small for a defensive end, was fresher than anyone.

"I feel as a defensive player you should have energy," Briggs said. "I feel like to play defense you have to have emotions and you have to have a motor."

Film study and scheming are necessary, but perhaps less so for the men in the trenches. At the end of the day, it's often a 1-on-1 battle in which pride and drive are what matters most. You either figure out your counterpart or he figures you out. Briggs won the majority of his face-offs Saturday, as he accounted for two sacks, six tackles, and three quarterback hurries. He'll try to have similar success against Minnesota and its quarterback, Adam Weber, when BG hosts the Gophers on Saturday night.

"I feel like Xs and Os are very impor-tant, but me having that motor I feel sometimes separates myself from my opponent," Briggs said. "It's who's going to go the hardest for the longest?"

That motor can be a detriment too. Briggs is similar to a 100-yard sprinter - he can't just stop at the finish line. After his first sack Saturday, Briggs raised his hands above his head and did a celebratory dance similar to that of the San Diego Chargers' Shawn Merriman. Referees don't like that behavior, and Briggs was penalized 15 yards for excessive celebration.

"[BG coach Gregg Brandon] pulled me to the side and said, 'I love the aggressiveness and the great play, but we didn't need that. That was kind of selfish,'•" Briggs said. "He was right. I was just a little excited and let my emotions get to me. He told me to calm down and make it up."

And Briggs did. On Pitt's next possession, Briggs recorded another sack but not before he twice hurried quarterback Bill Stull into getting rid of the ball. Brandon doesn't like to see his team give up penalties, but he's reasonable enough to not tinker with Briggs' enthusiasm.

"It's a fine line," Brandon said. "He plays the game with a lot of intensity and passion, and we certainly don't want to temper that."

Briggs was named to the Mid-American Conference first team last year, but "Personally, I felt I wasn't up to my standards." He registered five sacks in 12 games - he was suspended for the GMAC Bowl for breaking a team rule - and admits that he probably put too much focus on trying to reach his goal of 12. Briggs chose to not set specific goals this year and has worked at becoming a better run stopper. He added about 15 pounds.

"Diyral's an impact player, and he has to be an impact player," defensive coordinator Mike Ward said. "If we're going to win a lot of games, Diyral's going to have to play like that or better in every game."



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