Jerry "BooBoo" Gates
BOWLING GREEN -- In recent seasons the Bowling Green State University football team's performance on special teams has been "special" when the Falcons face their archrivals.
Even though BG suffered a 28-21 loss to Toledo last season, the Falcons had the better of the special teams play. Jerry "BooBoo" Gates returned a kickoff 88 yards for a touchdown, while punter Brian Schmiedebusch ran a fake punt 18 yards for a critical first down late in the contest. BG stifled the Rockets' Eric Page on returns, limiting the Mid-American Conference's special teams player of the year to just 40 yards on two kickoff returns and 13 yards on two punt returns.
In the 2010 game, Eugene Cooper returned a punt 71 yards for a touchdown, and a pair of blocked punts played a pivotal role in the Falcons winning the 2009 contest.
Despite that recent success on special teams, Bowling Green coach Dave Clawson downplayed any advantage his team might have in that area.
"Those were individual plays that happened, and if you take those out, it's been back-and-forth," he said.
Even though Page is gone, Clawson said Bernard Reedy has done a good job of replacing him and giving the Rockets strong special teams overall.
"Reedy is a very dangerous returner," Clawson said. "Their kicker [Jeremiah Detmer] has kicked the ball into the end zone [and has 10 touchbacks on 11 kicks].
"Their punter [Vince Penza] can change field position, and their field-goal kicker [Detmer] can make long field goals."
Meanwhile the Falcons were better on special teams in their win over Idaho, but not up to the standards of last season.
While All-MAC punter Schmiedebusch averages 42.1 yards per boot, his net punting is just 30.7 yards.
BG also ranks near the middle of the pack in kickoff coverage, although Gates (21.0 yards per kickoff return) and Ryan Burbrink (12.0 yards per punt return) are among the league leaders in those categories.
While the Falcons have been perfect on five extra-points this season, they have yet to make a field goal.
"I think our special-teams standard needs to be higher," Clawson said. "At Florida I thought we 'lost' the special-teams [battle]. Against Idaho we were solid, but we didn't 'win' the special teams battle.
"With the depth we have on defense, we need to win the special teams."
FAMILIAR FACES: Clawson said the two teams share a familiarity with one another, and it goes beyond the two schools sitting so close to one another.
"They basically have had the same offensive staff for four years, and we've had the same defensive staff," he said.
"The change-up is that they have a new defensive staff, so there's really only two games of film on what they've done."
This season Toledo has added Stan Watson as its special teams coordinator and outside linebackers coach. Watson had spent the previous four seasons on the BG staff.
PURE JOY: Senior Chris Jones is one of the few Falcons who has tasted victory against Toledo, which has won the past two meetings.
"The joy that I felt after that game was incomparable to any other game," he said.
"I knew what it meant to those seniors, and I know what it's going to mean to me this Saturday."
Of course, Jones hasn't felt that "joy" the past two seasons.
"It's disappointing when you lose a football game, especially when it's a rivalry game," he said. "Being so geographically close, you hear about it from a lot of people and it starts ringing in your head."
INJURY REPORT: The Falcons came out of the Idaho contest relatively injury-free.
Outside of DT Hunter Maynard, who was lost for the season during fall drills, and WR Bart Tanski, who continues to rehab a broken collarbone, BG expects to be at full strength against the Rockets.
What's more, Clawson said that WR Heath Jackson, who did not dress for the Falcons' first two games, has been cleared to play against Toledo.
Contact John Wagner at: email@example.com, 419-724-6481 or on Twitter @jwagnerblade.
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