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BOWLING GREEN — Two of the most important players on the Bowling Green State University practice field this week were Jamel Martin and Jhalin-Nashid Croley.
The role Martin and Croley played in practice was the same: Help the Falcons prepare to face two of the Mid-American Conference’s best players.
Martin played the role of Kent State’s Dri Archer, an early Heisman Trophy candidate who is one of the MAC’s most-dangerous offensive threats, while Croley served as KSU’s Roosevelt Nix, one of the best defensive players in league history.
The Falcons will need to control both if they hope to win their MAC opener, which kicks off at noon today at Dix Stadium.
Kent State coach Paul Haynes said Archer, a senior running back, is day-to-day after suffering a twisted ankle in the Golden Flashes’ season-opening win over Liberty. Reports from Kent are that Archer has not participated in practice much this week, but that he is not wearing a protective boot or walking with a limp.
“We’re prepared to play against him,” Bowling Green coach Dave Clawson said of Archer. “They know what’s at stake in this game, so if they can have him healthy for only one week in the next three, it’s going to be this game.
“We’ve got to prepare for him. I’d be very surprised if he’s not out there running around before the game, preparing to play.”
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Last season Archer ran for 241 yards and scored on TD runs of 79 and 72 yards, key plays that led the Flashes to a 31-24 victory over BG that clinched the East Division title for KSU.
Nix is a senior defensive tackle who was the MAC’s defensive player of the year as a freshman, and he’s been named first team All-MAC each of his first three year. In the 2011 contest Nix picked up a fumble and ran it back for a touchdown in the waning moments to clinch a 27-15 win.
“He’s been there forever, and he’s a really good player,” Clawson said of Nix. “He plays with a high motor, is very athletic and physical.”
Senior guard Dominic Flewellyn said the biggest challenge Nix presents is that he’s quick off the ball.
“We watched on film that he moves from side to side really quickly,” said Flewellyn, who has faced off against Nix three times. “So our challenge is to stay [in front] and use our strength against his quickness when we can get our hands on him.”
Nix isn’t the only weapon the Golden Flashes have on defense. Another is Luke Wollet, a safety who has 10 career interceptions, including one in the waning moments of last year’s BG game that wrapped up the win.
While the Falcons have dominated this series through the years, the Golden Flashes have had the upper hand in recent seasons.
In fact, no one on the current BG roster has played in a game against Kent State and won.
Flewellyn said that trying to stop a three-game losing skid isn’t the team’s motivation this week.
“The motivation is that this could be a MAC championship game,” he said. “We have to come out with the mindset that we need to win every game.
“If we come out with that mindset, we don’t need the motivation of the three losses prior — although that [losing streak] does add a little fuel.”