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Published: Sunday, 11/2/2008

Rice a surprising hero for Bowling Green

BY RYAN AUTULLO
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Bowling Green quarterback Tyler Sheehan has clear sailing to score against Kent State. Bowling Green quarterback Tyler Sheehan has clear sailing to score against Kent State.
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BOWLING GREEN - Knowing there was a chance he'd finally experience a considerable amount of playing time, Jason Rice prepared himself by listening to a collection of country music tunes.

If any Nashville songwriters are interested, Rice, a redshirt freshman at Bowling Green State University, could be the topic of a smash hit single.

There's the part about a knee injury delaying his college career and, of course, the several times he switched positions. And a bar or two could be reserved for the time he earned a scholarship through hard work.

But the hook, the part that everyone remembers, would center on Rice's showing in yesterday's 45-30 win over Kent State.

In the first extended action of his career, Rice was superb, rushing for 91 yards and a touchdown to give the Falcons coaching staff something to think about as they look for improvement from the backfield.

Rice was overwhelmed after the game, and he didn't even attempt to act like he's been in this situation before.

"It was way more [thrilling than I envisioned it to be]," Rice said. "After the game, people I didn't even know were coming up to me."

Most of them didn't know Rice either.

The story of the Dublin, Ohio, native is one of agony and hard work. Without a scholarship, Rice attempted to join the team his first year on campus two years ago. But after injuring his knee, the coaches told Rice to take the year off so his eligibility clock wouldn't start. Rice got healthy for the start of last season and earned the honor of offensive scout team player of the year. He was moved to safety for the start of fall camp, then to linebacker, and after a series of recent injuries to BG's running backs, Rice was back on offense.

"I just said we need Jason Rice because he knows the offense," BG coach Gregg Brandon said.

Brandon said he will continue to use Rice, both out of want and necessity.

Willie Geter has been out with a knee injury, and starter Anthony Turner suffered a shoulder injury yesterday, leaving his status for Saturday's game at Ohio in question. For what it's worth, Rice replaced an ineffective Chris Bullock (15 yards on 12 carries) in the second half, which may or may not be significant in Brandon's evaluation of the position.

"Amazing," quarterback Tyler Sheehan said of Rice. "He obviously showed his versatility."

Rice's touchdown run of 33 yards came with 4:26 left in the game on a basic stretch play.

He displayed a solid arm earlier in the game when he hooked up with Chris Wright for a 42-yard gain on a halfback pass.

Sheehan, a Cincinnati native, was asked an off-beat question about whether he thinks the hometown Bengals can pick up their first win of the season today.

"I'm going to call them and talk to them about [signing] Jason," Sheehan deadpanned. "I don't know if [Bengals vice president] Paul Brown will be down for that, but we'll see how it works out."

SHORT YARDS: Back-up quarterback Andrew Beam scored on a seven-yard run in the fourth quarter but has yet to attempt a pass at BG. With BG leading 31-15, freshman Andrew Johnson blocked a Nate Reed field goal attempt that was recovered by BG's Kenny Lewis. Erique Dozier led BG with nine tackles, one more than P.J. Mahone. Wright led all receivers with 96 yards on seven catches.



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