BG running back John Pettigrew scores a touchdown during the Military Bowl on Thursday. The Falcons won seven of their last eight regular-season games.
WASHINGTON — Jordon Roussos was part of the 2009 Bowling Green State University football team that played in the Roady’s Humanitarian Bowl. So he knows, through first-hand experience, the work that went into the Falcons’ return to a bowl game this season.
“I think we got spoiled [in 2009],” Roussos said. “We came in as freshmen and played on a bowl team, and we really didn’t know what it took to be a good team.
“It’s been a wonderful ride. Everybody put in a lot of work to get us where we are, and that’s what I’m most proud of.”
If BG was spoiled in 2009, the Falcons paid for it in 2010 with a 2-10 record, the most losses in school history. But that season was the first step back towards respectability, since it was followed by a 5-7 mark in 2011 and this year’s 8-5 record, which included Thursday’s 29-20 loss to San Jose State in the Military Bowl.
“Two years ago we were 2-10, and we were awful,” Bowling Green coach Dave Clawson said. “Last year we made a nice step, and we went from being awful to being average. I thought this team was one that could make that next step, and we won three more games.
“As a program, last year we won five games but had a chance to win seven or eight. This year we took a step and won eight, but we had a chance to win nine or 11. This year we found a way to get from five to eight. Next year we have to find a way to get from eight to 11.”
This season included a bowl bid, a run for the Mid-American Conference title — the Falcons finished 6-2, good for second place in the East Division — and wins in seven of the team’s final eight regular-season games.
But there were disappointments as well. Bowling Green couldn’t overcome mistakes in a season-opening loss at Florida, a game in which the Falcons had a reasonable chance of winning entering the fourth quarter. Sub-par performances held BG back in losses to Toledo and Virginia Tech, and a lack of big plays at crucial times cost the Falcons potential wins against Kent State and San Jose State.
“The step we made [from last year] was to win those games against teams in the middle of the conference,” Clawson said. “Against the elite teams, we came up a little short.
“We came up short against Kent State and Toledo, we came up short against Florida and we came up short against San Jose State. We lost five games, and in four of those games we were in tight games where the other team made a few more plays than us.”
The potential for success in 2013 is there, though. Bowling Green loses just two starters from a defense that ranked among the best in the country: Defensive tackle Chris Jones, an All-American who was the MAC’s defensive player of the year, and linebacker Dwayne Woods, who was a three-time All-MAC pick.
The only starter lost on offense is Roussos, an All-MAC lineman, although graduation also will take away a key performer at running back (John Pettigrew) and depth on the offensive line (Chip Robinson and Dominique Wharton).
On special teams the Falcons will lose kicker Stephen Stein and long-snapper Cory Johnson, but replacements are already in the pipeline.
At this point BG will return 19 of 22 starters, including seven All-MAC players. The Falcons’ defensive two-deep shows 22 of 24 players coming back, while 22 of the 27 players listed on the offensive two-deep are back.
Factor in the potential for continued development for the entire team through conditioning and spring ball, and it’s not unrealistic to imagine the Falcons as the preseason pick to win the league’s East Division — and perhaps the MAC Championship game.
“It has been so exciting to see these young guys play so well,” Jones said. “I think there’s a great future for all of them. Next year is going to be a wonderful year [for them] — I can’t wait to watch it.”
Contact John Wagner at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6481 or on Twitter @jwagnerblade.