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Published: Saturday, 9/6/2008

Bowling Green flirting with possible sellout

BY RYAN AUTULLO
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

BOWLING GREEN Coach Gregg Brandon stood outside the student union at Bowling Green State University earlier this week passing out sandwiches to coax students into attending tonight s game at Perry Stadium.

Employees in the ticket office have answered so many phone calls this week that they might as well have been conducting a telethon.

It s a historic week at BG, as the Falcons play host to a Big Ten team for the first time ever. Minnesota, which has already matched its win total from last year, will look to exact revenge on the Falcons from last year when the teams meet at 7:30 p.m. in a game that can be seen on ESPNU.

BG received votes in the latest Top 25 polls after topping then nationally ranked Pittsburgh last Saturday. That momentum is carrying over on a grander scale as there is a potential for a sellout tonight, according to assistant athletic director of marketing, Brian Delahoy. BG has not sold out a football game since the 2003 season when ESPN s GameDay was on site for the Falcons win over Northern Illinois. At the time, Perry Stadium seated about 30,000. But because of recent renovations to the north and south ends of the stadium, an attendance of 23,500 would now constitute a sellout. BG students do not need to purchase advance tickets, making it hard to predict tonight s turnout.

We were expecting big fan attendance anyway, but with us adding on the win over Pitt, we were all talking about how exciting it will be to come to a jam-packed crowd, quarterback Tyler Sheehan said.

Sheehan will be excited to see the Gophers as well. It was in last year s season opener at the Metrodome that he threw for 388 yards in an overtime win over the Gophers.

With his team trailing, Sheehan marched the Falcons to a game-tying field goal at the end of regulation before tossing a touchdown pass and a make-or-break two-point conversion in the extra period. An overtime win over Miami (Ohio) the next week was the lone positive outcome in Tim Brewster s first year as coach of the Gophers.

I think they re definitely going to come back and want to beat us at our place like we beat them at their place, Sheehan said. I think us beating them last year kind of set the tone for the rest of their season. I think we kind of exposed them defensively, and I think a lot of teams took advantage of that.

The Gophers allowed 518 yards per game in 2007, which ranked dead last in the nation. Only one member returns from a secondary that allowed nearly 290 passing yards per game in 2007. Brandon said Minnesota s defense is much faster.

Many prognosticators are expecting marked improvement from the Gophers. But if last week is any indication, this may not be a quick turnaround. Minnesota scored a touchdown with 22 seconds left in its game with Northern Illinois to prevail 31-27. NIU won just two games last year.

You re playing against a Big Ten team and you re not supposed to win these games, Brandon said earlier this week. Minnesota is a much improved team. They re playing a lot better on defense and they seem to have a better feel of what they re doing on offense.

Contact Ryan Autullo at: rautullo@theblade.com.



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