BOWLING GREEN — The Bowling Green State University football team may face more than just Rhode Island on Saturday.
In fact, the Falcons' biggest opponent in their Homecoming contest, which kicks off at 3:30 p.m., may be a dwindling level of confidence following back-to-back disappointing performances in losses at Toledo and Virginia Tech.
So far, coach Dave Clawson and his players say their confidence remains high.
"It's discouraging to lose games, but even though we're 1-3, we go into each game confident, level-headed, and ready to play," junior safety BooBoo Gates said. "You can't let last week's loss beat you again [this week]; you've got to put it behind you.
"We have to get our confidence back during the week and get ready to play.
Clawson cited the 2009 team as a group that kept its confidence despite a poor start — and was rewarded with a bowl bid.
"In 2009, we had Troy here, which was a good team, then were at Missouri, at Marshall, and had Boise State here," he said. "That was a veteran team with 16 senior starters, and after the Boise State game, a lot of them said, ‘Guys, let [this loss] go, we'll be good in the MAC.'
"It was mature of them to say, but on a certain level I wasn't OK with it because we want to win every game we play. At the same token, our primary goal is to do well in the conference, and we still have all of that ahead of us."
While the Falcons are preparing to host Rhode Island on Saturday, the Rams do not dominate their focus.
"Our focus is on us — we have to get better," Clawson said. "I think at times we have performed at a high level, but the last two weeks we haven't. We need to get back on track, have a good week of practice, and play well this weekend."
Especially troubling has been the struggles on offense. While Virginia Tech has a fine defense, BG managed just 266 yards of total offense and was shut out for the first time since the 1998 season.
"When you look at the tape, there were a lot of opportunities to score points," Clawson said. "Against a team like that, if you have six plays like that, you'd better hit four or five of them — and we didn't hit any of them. There were plays to be made, and we didn't make them.
"I believe that we have the ability to make those plays. … As we play teams where I think the matchups will be better, hopefully there are 15-to-18 of those plays that you can make. And if you hit six or seven of them, you can win, and if you hit 10 of them you really win."
Sophomore running back Anthon Samuel said he and his teammates on offense still have a positive attitude.
"You can't let this knock you down," he said. "Coming into the season everybody on the team knew that September was going to be a meat-grinder. We didn't expect any easy wins.
"I think September can make us. We see what our team is, and we see the type of players we have. I feel very confident about the rest of the season."
Samuel said the confidence comes from the way his teammates have responded to this adversity.
"We still come to practice and practice hard," he said. "You don't see anybody put their head down, like the season is over.
"The season is a marathon, and we have a second part of the season that I feel confident we're going to be successful in."
INJURY UPDATE: Most of the injury news for the Falcons this week is good as three players who were injured at Virginia Tech — cornerback Cameron Truss, linebacker D.J. Lynch, and defensive lineman Charlie Walker — all are expected to play on Saturday. Wide receiver Shaun Joplin, who saw limited action last week, will play against the Rams.
Wide receiver Ryan Burbrink, who strained a hamstring at Virginia Tech, is doubtful for Saturday's game and defensive lineman Jairus Campbell, who suffered a foot injury at Toledo, has been lost for the season.
Contact John Wagner at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6481 or on Twitter @jwagnerblade.