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BOWLING GREEN - Put the shovels away - Bowling Green State University is still kicking.
Encountering its first true must-win game of the season, BG throttled Kent State 45-30 yesterday to secure its first victory of the season at Perry Stadium.
Whether this is the beginning of another late-season push remains to be seen. For now, it's merely an isolated achievement - but a crucial one. The win proved that the Falcons still have pride following a rough October and that they are capable of playing like a team that was acknowledged in the preseason as one of the best in the Mid-American Conference.
Any notions that BG had begun to mail in the season was diminished early on, as the Falcons played their best half of the season in taking a 28-0 lead into the break. Kent never rolled over in the second half but never really threatened BG either.
"We've got a pretty resilient crew," BG coach Gregg Brandon said. "It's been an interesting season. In the early season, we played very physical games, and the next four were MAC games that everyone said we should have been winning. But we were beat up, and we're still beat up."
A loss would have wiped away BG's chances of a winning season, but with the win the Falcons (4-5, 2-3) climb to a third-place tie in the East division and have as many league wins as leaders Akron and Buffalo (both 2-2). BG hosts Buffalo on Nov. 21 but not before it visits Ohio on Saturday.
The circumstances surrounding yesterday's win were eerily similar to BG's rout at Kent a year ago, when Willie Geter stunned everyone by torching the Flashes for 203 yards on the ground. Geter sat out yesterday's game with a knee injury, but what ensued was equally as surprising as his performance in 2007.
Quarterback Tyler Sheehan, rarely a serious threat to run, accounted for 109 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries - most of them coming on designed runs. But Sheehan got one-upped by Jason Rice, a former walk-on whose first eight attempts of his career yielded 91 yards and a 33-yard TD.
"He's just one of those guys that always seems to do things right and always seems to be working extra, working hard," Sheehan said.
Only Temple is ranked lower than BG in rushing among MAC teams.
Save for an ugly interception in the red zone, Sheehan was brilliant in authorizing four scoring drives in the first half. He completed TD passes to Corey Partridge (one yard) and Jimmy Scheidler (21 yards) before ending the points barrage with a 16-yard scamper on a draw up the middle. Sheehan, who has average speed, bested his previous high rushing output in a game by 44 yards.
"We saw a lot on film study on Kent that teams ran their quarterbacks successfully against them in similar offensive styles as us," Brandon said. "We wanted to see if we could exploit that with Tyler."
Sheehan had a decent game through the air, completing 16 of 23 attempts for 159 yards to go along with two touchdowns and two interceptions.
But not all is well with BG's ground attack, as starting back Anthony Turner left the game in the first half with a shoulder injury. Turner separated his other shoulder in the Boise State game, and Brandon didn't know the extent of the recent injury following the game.
The statistics show that Kent (2-7, 1-4) had more first downs and more offensive yards. But the game was essentially over at halftime, and through two quarters the Golden Flashes mustered just 129 yards to BG's 330. Kent's game plan appeared flawed early on as elusive quarterback Julian Edelman ran the ball just four times in the first half against a defense that has struggled mightily against the run. Edelman was remarkable in the final two quarters, though, and finished with 170 yards and two TDs on 23 tries.
"He's an unbelievable player," BG defensive end Joe Schaefer said. "That was probably one of the most tiring games [I've played in]. He's just a great athlete, a great player."
Edelman threw two first quarter interceptions - to P.J. Mahone and Jerett Sanderson - that ultimately led to BG touchdowns.
Kent's Eugene Jarvis, the nation's leading returning rusher coming into the season, was held to just 30 yards on 11 carries in the half and finished with 89 on 19.
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