BOWLING GREEN — Last year, Bowling Green State University’s Brian Schmiedebusch was the best punter in the Mid-American Conference, and one of the best punters in the country.
This year? Early in the season, the junior from Ottawa-Glandorf High School was struggling.
But in recent weeks Schmiedebusch has returned to the form that made him a weapon for the Falcons last season.
“I think I’m finding my groove now,” Schmiedebusch said. “In the Eastern Michigan game I started to get some good punts, and I thought against Ohio I had some great punts.
“I knew it was a big game, and field position can change games. So I just tried to do what I can do.”
In the Ohio contest Schmiedebusch punted the ball six times for 303 yards, an average of 50.5 yards per punt. Five of his punts traveled at least 50 yards, and four were downed inside the Bobcats’ 20.
“Brian has been punting much better lately — he’s been killing it in practice,” BG coach Dave Clawson said. “I think a punter’s stroke is a little like a golf stroke: When you get on the tee and you’re comfortable and confident, you have a better idea of where it will go and drive the ball better and with more consistency.”
Last year Schmiedebusch was voted the MAC’s top punter by the league’s coaches after averaging 45.3 yards per kick, fifth-best among FBS kickers.
This season the left-footer punter is averaging 42.7 yards per boot on 55 kicks, with 17 traveling at least 50 yards and 19 downed inside the opponent’s 20.
“We’ve also punted a little more inside the 50 than we did last year, so that plays into it,” Schmiedebusch said about the lower average yards per punt. “In that [situation] I’m trying to pin them inside the 20.
“In the Ohio game I only had one punt inside the 50, so that gives you a chance to pound it.”
But the only number that matters to Schmiedebusch is six, which is the number of consecutive wins the Falcons take into Saturday’s noon contest against Kent State.
“The less I’m out there on the field, the better the offense is doing,” Schmiedebusch said. “I’d love to not punt during a game, honestly.”
INJURY UPDATE: There was good news and bad news for BG on the practice field Wednesday.
The bad news was that junior safety BooBoo Gates, who sprained his ankle at Ohio, tried to practice but was limited. Clawson said Gates’ availability for the KSU game would be a “game-time decision.”
Defensive end Bryan Thomas, who has a knee injury, was back in practice but wearing a yellow “do not hit” jersey. Defensive tackle Ted Ouellet, who was injured late in the Ohio game, practiced without restrictions.
“Ouellet should be good to go,” Clawson said. “And I think we will have Thomas for Kent State.”
PULLING RANK: The Golden Flashes are ranked 25th in this week’s Associated Press poll, making them the first ranked team to play at Doyt Perry Stadium since Boise State, ranked fourth nationally at the time, faced the Falcons on Sept. 26, 2009.
The last time BG beat a ranked team at the Doyt came in 2003, when the Falcons knocked off No. 12 Northern Illinois 34-18.
Contact John Wagner at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6481, or on Twitter @jwagnerblade.