BOWLING GREEN — The Bowling Green State University football team entered Saturday’s game against Eastern Michigan minus arguably its top offensive player, running back Anthon Samuel.
“We just said, ‘JP, it’s your game,’ ” BG coach Dave Clawson said of senior running back John Pettigrew. “And he did enough for us to win.”
Pettigrew posted a career-high 136 yards on 24 carries while catching a pair of passes for 21 yards to ably replace Samuel in the Falcons’ 24-3 victory at Doyt Perry Stadium.
“Once I found out it was my turn to start, I was excited,” Pettigrew said. “I knew I had to come out with a focus, to be ready to play to step up to the challenge.”
While Pettigrew came into the game second on the team in rushing with 252 yards, his action before Saturday’s contest had focused on short-yardage plays.
“It was excited to be a part of a wide range of plays,” he said. “I was happy to help my team in this game.”
Not only was the senior’s rushing total a career high, it eclipsed the 92 yards he had posted in his three previous seasons at BG.
“I couldn’t be happier for John,” Clawson said. “He was a highly recruited guy out of high school. He didn’t necessarily put in the work during his first two years here, but the last two years he has.
“As a coach, it’s great to see a guy who has really worked for everything he has achieved. He has become a really good player for us.”
Samuel suffered a back injury in the first half at UMass last week. While he returned to that game in the second half, the injury limited his practice time this week.
“He tried to practice Thursday, but he just didn’t feel good,” Clawson said of Samuel. “Could he have played? Maybe. But I just didn’t want to take a chance, play him, and maybe lose him long-term.”
Besides Pettigrew, the Falcons got contributions at running back from Jordan Hopgood, who finished with 61 yards rushing and also completed a 53-yard touchdown pass to Shaun Joplin, and freshman Andre Givens, who ran for 29 yards, including a 27-yard TD run in the first quarter, before suffering a scary injury.
Givens was tackled hard midway through the third period and wasn’t able to return to his feet. An ambulance came onto the field to take Givens to Wood County Hospital, but he was released early Saturday evening.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Most weeks, the effort Saturday by senior defense tackle Chris Jones would earn him Mid-American Conference East Division defensive player of the week honors.
But even though Jones had 2.5 sacks and a fumble return for a touchdown, he wasn’t even the top player on his own team’s defense.
“[Gabe Martin] got a turnover and created a turnover, had the same amount of sacks and more tackles,” Jones said. “It’s got to be Gabe.”
Martin forced the fumble that led to the TD by Jones and also had an interception to go with his seven tackles, which included 2.5 sacks.
Martin confessed that the interception came when Eastern Michigan quarterback Tyler Benz basically threw the ball directly to him.
“I’m going to go out on a limb and say I took a good drop,” Martin said. “I looked back at the receiver, and that sped my drop a little bit. But then I turned back, and voila.”
“It was a Christmas present, but I’ll take it.”
Martin was diplomatic when asked who BG’s player of the week nominee on defense would be.
“I guess we’ve got to wait and see,” he said.
JONES FOR PREZ? Among the signs at the Doyt Saturday was two that hyped Jones for President and the Heisman Trophy.
“Those were my buddies who brought the signs,” Jones admitted, who then was asked with award he would prefer. “If I have to choose one, I’ll take the Heisman. President is too much for me — I’m in football right now.”
MONTGOMERY OUT: Sophomore TE-DE Kendall Montgomery was suspended one game for a violation of team rules. He was not in uniform for Saturday’s game.