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Published: 1/1/2010

Defense dogs Falcons

BY DONALD EMMONS
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

BOWLING GREEN - Blown coverages and missed defensive assignments haunted Bowling Green State University throughout Dave Clawson's first year as head coach of the Falcons.

But none of the breakdowns received more notoriety and scrutiny than Idaho's game-winning drive in the final seconds of the Humanitarian Bowl Wednesday that stunned the Falcons with a 43-42 loss at Boise State's Bronco Stadium.

With just 28 seconds to play, the Vandals romped 66 yards in three plays to score a touchdown and a two-point conversion.

The drive took place moments after

Tyler Sheehan's 51-yard TD pass to Freddie Barnes gave the Falcons a 42-35 lead.

The game-deciding drive included two completed passes and one incompletion by quarterback Nathan Enderle. Enderle completed a desperation bomb to Preston Davis on the first play.

BG defensive back Adrien Spencer was flagged for pass interference. That play set up the heartbreaking defeat.

The Vandals receiver was never supposed to get behind the defender on a deep passing route with so little time left in the game.

"They had probably four plays to go 60 to 70 yards, so we were in kind of a prevent coverage there," Clawson said. "Their kid went up and got the football."

BG's defensive plan didn't materialize.

In a similar situation earlier this season, the Falcons used Barnes as an extra defensive back. However, Barnes wasn't on the field on this occasion.

Barnes, the NCAA single-season receptions-holder, ended the year with 155 catches for 1,770 yards.

And after an incompletion, Enderle found Max Komar sliding into the end zone for a 16-yard touchdown completion with four seconds left. Enderle came back and completed a pass to Preston Davis for the bowl-winning two-point conversion.

Outside of a 49-14 drubbing at the hands of Boise State, the Falcons' defeats offered familiar, and costly defensive short-circuits in games BG was in position to win.

"We struggled all year on defense," said Clawson, whose team ranked 82nd in the nation in total defense. "We've had some issues and we didn't get them fixed."

Improving the defense is high on the priority list for 2010.

"We've got to get better on defense," Clawson said. "Losing who we do on offense, we can't go into games thinking we're going to outscore people. It's certainly a priority."

Keeping the ball rolling will require finding replacements for 16 seniors starters.

Nevertheless, the season produced more highs than lows as the Falcons (7-6) rallied to win six of their final seven contests to become bowl eligible and receive an invite from the Humanitarian Bowl.

BG's offense was one of the best offensive units in the nation. Sheehan completed 373 of 575 pass attempts for 4,051 yards, including 27 touchdowns and only seven interceptions.

The senior signal-caller and Barnes, who accounted for a nation-leading 19 TD receptions, engineered BG's eighth-best passing offense in the country.

BG accomplished victories over rivals Miami (35-14) and Toledo (38-24) and posted come-from-behind victories at Kent State (36-35) and Buffalo (30-29).

"We got off to a slow start and finished strong," he said. "The guys played hard for 13 games. Obviously, that's a disappointing way to finish it, but I think overall we did a pretty good job this year and it's a good season to build on."

Contact Donald Emmons at:

demmons@theblade.com

or 419-724-6302.



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