BOWLING GREEN - On Friday afternoon at the University of Toledo's Glass Bowl, Rocket fans are expected to give coach Tom Amstutz a warm send-off into his next job, possibly looking past his recent struggles and instead focusing on his general success and the man's more than 30 years of dedication to the university.
On the other sideline will be Bowling Green State University's Gregg Brandon, and he won't be shown much love from anyone. Not from the rival fan base, and perhaps, equally, from BG backers.
After his team choked away a 21-point lead Friday versus Buffalo, Brandon ripped wishy-washy Falcon fans who didn't brave the cold weather to support BG in its quest to win the Mid-American Conference East.
If Brandon could do it all over again, he would. And he did yesterday at the team's weekly press conference.
"I stand by that 110 percent," Brandon said, raising his voice a bit. "I've gotten support from people about it, and I've gotten some negative comments about it. The bottom line is the game had championship implications, and it was disappointing. I realize there are true fans throughout the world that support Bowling Green that couldn't make the game. That wasn't what I was talking about. I'm talking about the people that flat decided not to show up for whatever reason. I know we're struggling at home this year, but the game had championship implications."
Brandon's unprovoked opening comments in the postgame press conference were that the turnout was pitiful and that he appreciated those who did tough it out through 26 degree weather. The announced paid attendance was 13,284, but that is roughly twice the number of people that showed up to Perry Stadium for a game that had BG won would have put it in a situation where a victory over Toledo would have been accompanied by a berth in the MAC championship game.
"Two days [earlier] Central [Michigan] is playing Ball State, and it's the same scenario with 30 degree weather," Brandon said. "I see students out there with their shirts off and painted up. That's college football. I'm not saying that would have made a difference, but from where I sit that's something that's been sorely lacking here throughout the years. Our students need to understand that. The general apathy wears on you."
So Brandon is upset with BG's fans. But do they have a right to be upset with a team that at best can finish .500 despite 17 seniors, a workable conference schedule, and a preseason prediction that they would win the division?
"I think that's legit, but that doesn't mean don't come," Brandon said. "It's not like we're 2-10. We still have a chance to go to the championship if we win that game and [beat Toledo]. Come out and be cranked up about that. Forget about everything that happened before. So we struggled at home, but we're still in it because we've done everything we've needed to do on the road."
BG (5-6, 3-4) has lost four league games in which it led in the second half, three of which took place at Perry Stadium. None was more excruciating than Friday's, when the Falcons missed out on a chance to go ahead 30-13 in the fourth quarter when chaos ensued on a 37-yard field goal attempt with 4:05 to go. Buffalo responded with a 71-yard scoring drive that took just 1:36 off the clock. The Bulls then recovered an onside kick and tied the game with 32 seconds left before winning in double overtime.
"It was a hard one to swallow, and it's still a hard one to swallow," quarterback Tyler Sheehan said. "It's still in a lot of our minds. By the end of the week I think we'll be able to put it past us and focus on our rival."
All is not lost for BG, just most of it. With a win Friday, the Falcons will become bowl eligible, although Brandon admitted it's not likely that a postseason invitation will be presented to his team. A win over the Rockets would improve Brandon's record to 3-3 against BG's rival. But this season was never supposed to be about a consolation prize.
"It's definitely frustrating when the talent's there, the mindset's there, and you don't get the results you dream of," senior defensive lineman Nick Davis said.
"You put so much time into something, and it's tough to move on and realize it didn't go the way you wanted it to go."
RICE OUT: Brandon said freshman running back Jason Rice "tore his knee up" Friday and will undergo surgery. The injury occurred in the first half when Rice was dropped for a 16-yard loss.
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