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Published: Tuesday, 10/21/2008

Can BG salvage season? 2007 says yes

BY RYAN AUTULLO
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

BOWLING GREEN - Bowling Green State University will try to one up itself.

And if it fails to do so, this season will be looked at as a downer.

BG will once again try to walk a tight rope without a net while wearing flip-flops. Not exactly the situation expected for a team picked to win its division. But the Falcons at least have a precedent for this situation as last year they made it to the end safely, improbably winning four straight to secure a bowl berth. They'll start this year's voyage a week earlier, likely needing five consecutive wins to save the season.

"I think we're very capable of doing that," quarterback Tyler Sheehan said. "I think everyone needs to focus on their own job, not try to do too much, and not try to play out of their element."

The first step could be the most difficult as a strong Northern Illinois team awaits BG on Saturday in Dekalb, Ill. The Huskies (4-3, 3-1) pummeled the University of Toledo 38-7 on Saturday.

This season has turned south quickly for BG. Following a respectable 2-2 record in nonconference games, the Falcons (3-4, 1-2) have dropped two of three, with losses at home to teams - Eastern Michigan and Miami - that are a combined 4-11. Miami notched its first conference win Saturday at Perry Stadium by scoring a late touchdown for a 27-20 decision.

"It's been a long day," guard Brandon Curtis said. "Last night I couldn't sleep. I just kept thinking about the game and things I could have done better and things we could have done as a team better."

Curtis spent time thinking about last year's team and tried to pin down what was working in November when BG defeated Akron, Eastern Michigan, Buffalo and Toledo in succession. Curtis wasn't the only player retracing last year's steps.

"Me and a couple guys were talking about it and we just had a sense of urgency. Time was running out," Curtis said. "We came together and played harder. There weren't too many mental mistakes, penalties or turnovers. Guys just rallied the troops and played."

Are the Falcons going to be able to get their minds right once more?

"After seeing a lot of guys' faces, I think guys are getting that sense of urgency," Curtis said.

BARNES OUT: Junior receiver Freddie Barnes will miss "maybe three weeks" because of a sprained knee he suffered against Miami, according to coach Gregg Brandon. Barnes, the team's top receiver in 2007, has 27 catches for 218 yards and no touchdowns.

"Hopefully we'll get him back for the last couple weeks," Brandon said.

LOCKING IT AWAY: Brandon said he is banning the "locking the gate" ritual because of Saturday's pre-game incident involving both teams. BG and Miami players exchanged words when the Falcons did not leave the south end zone - which was reserved for the RedHawks to warm up - after applying a lock to a field entrance gate. This practice is done by BG to signify that its opponent is trapped for four quarters and cannot escape a beating. Cynics might say it suggests BG is a lock to lose at home, as the Falcons are 0-3 at Perry Stadium this year.

"It got a lot of attention because Miami was coming out of the locker room," Brandon said. "It's unfortunate, but nothing happened, thank goodness. But we're not going to do that again."

NO RETRACTION: After Saturday's loss, Sheehan attributed BG committing 101 yards of penalties to lack of discipline off of the field, citing players showing up late to meetings as an example.

Sheehan didn't back track from that statement yesterday when asked if he believes there is a discipline problem on the team.

"For the most part, yeah," Sheehan said. "We have a lot of guys who have great discipline and they show it week in and week out. It might not even be relevant to anything at all with football.

But stuff that happened off the field is showing on the field as well. Coaches have addressed it and until we get that fixed we're not going to be as successful as we want to be."

Brandon did not agree with Sheehan's assessment from Saturday.

"Oh, I think he's just searching for something. It's frustration," Brandon said. "That's Tyler's opinion. I don't know if they necessarily tie together. What you do in the heat of battle on the football field, and how you are off the field, I don't know if they tie together."

Contact Ryan Autullo at:

rautullo@theblade.com.



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