BOWLING GREEN - When Bowling Green State University plays at Marshall Saturday, the Falcons will take the field without one of their most significant defensive players.
Senior strong safety P.J. Mahone, who was suspended indefinitely this week for violating team rules, will not be roaming in BG's secondary. The 5-foot-11, 200-pounder, is a returning starter who led the Falcons in tackles last season with 95. He has a team-high 21 in two games this season.
No doubt his absence will be felt.
"It never helps you when you lose a good player," BG coach Dave Clawson said. "It didn't help us when we lost Mike Ream [violation of team rules] in the spring. This doesn't help us, but this will not be an excuse why we're not successful. I have great confidence in Keith Morgan. I think he'll be a really good player.
"It's hard to replace a guy that has that much experience that P.J. has, he's been a four-year starter. I would never say that we're not going to miss him. We are going to miss him. You don't just lose good players like that, but things happen in football."
Morgan, a six-foot, 206-pound sophomore, has been inserted into the starting strong safety spot left void by Mahone's suspension. He has accounted for eight tackles in two games this season.
Plugging Morgan in Mahone's place represents replacing experience with potential.
It also may be described as a case of next-man-in-line to handle the job.
"Keith [Morgan] is a good player," Clawson said. "I told our team, football-wise, P.J. is a good player and we'll miss him, but we'll be fine."
Clawson added: "The one benefit of playing two spread teams the first two weeks is that we were in a lot of dime and a lot of nickel situations and Keith was like a starter. So, he has two games under his belt and he's played very well. He knows our defense and we have a lot of confidence in him."
Giovanni Fillari (5-11, 197, sr.) is listed as Morgan's backup.
Senior linebacker Cody Basler ranks second behind Mahone with 17 tackles through the first two games. The 6-3, 231-pounder, thinks the Falcons need to remain positive and pull together to make up for Mahone's loss.
"It's going to open up opportunities for many more guys on defense to make some tackles and make some plays and get noticed," said Basler, a team captain. "That was evident [Tuesday] in practice. We didn't miss a beat. We stepped up, going against scout [team] and going against our own offense."
The first game for BG (1-1) to compete without its leading tackler will come against Marshall (1-1). Like BG, the Thundering Herd are coming off a loss. They were dominated 52-10 at Virginia Tech last Saturday.
As for Mahone's possible return to the field with the rest of the Falcons, it doesn't appear anytime soon.
"He's not going to do anything this week and I'll meet with P.J. next week and we'll re-evaluate the things he can do and can't do," Clawson said. "So, he will not be playing for a while."
In the meantime, the Falcons are looking to bounce back from a disappointing 27-20 loss at Missouri.
"This is all part of the grind," Basler said. "We can only teach the younger guys how to come off a win and a loss and hopefully expecting another win to come back. We're doing the right things, studying film and getting in our playbooks and we're doing our homework.
"Hopefully everything falls into place."
Contact Donald Emmons at: