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BOWLING GREEN — Bowling Green State University football coach Dave Clawson isn’t threatening to turn into Lou Holtz.
The former Notre Dame coach was well-known for singing the virtues of whatever team the Fighting Irish faced next — to the point where even a decided underdog turned into a threat to knock off the Irish.
Clawson isn’t saying that the Falcons opponent this week, a UMass squad that is 0-4 this season and 1-15 since joining the Mid-American Conference last year, is a threat to push Alabama for the national title. What he has said is that the Minutemen may not be as bad as their record makes them sound.
“Some times a record is a function of schedule,” Clawson said. “When you play Wisconsin, Kansas State, and Vanderbilt as three of your first four games to start the season, you’re not exactly scheduling for success.”
Clawson noted that while the Falcons shut out UMass 24-0 last season, the game was much closer than the final score indicated. BG’s lead stood at 7-0 before the Falcons scored a pair of touchdowns in the final four minutes of the third quarter to pull away.
“Last year we struggled to move the ball against them,” said Clawson, noting that his team finished with just 94 yards rushing and 282 yards of total offense. “We completely relied on our defense to win that game.
“They were young in the secondary last year, and they have a lot of those guys back. We didn’t throw the ball very well against them, either.”
The key to BG’s win last season was a suffocating performance by its defense, which limited UMass to just 118 yards of total offense and intercepted four passes, returning one of those thefts for a TD.
“I thought they were the best [defense] in the league last year,” UMass coach Charley Molnar said of the Falcons. “And I would find it hard to believe there’s a better defense in the Mid-American Conference. Their guys are really playing well.
“They pursue the ball and they are gap sound. Very rarely do they make mistakes, and rarely are they out of position. Rarely do they make mistakes that lead to big plays. And they play hard.”
Molnar feels his team has dealt with its lack of success as well as can be expected.
"This is a remarkably resilient group of young men,” he said. “After every loss, the players have really shouldered the blame, and they put it upon themselves to get better every week.
“We have gotten better every week. It isn’t reflected in the win-loss column, but for a program like ours, where the players are so young, being consistent in our play is critical moving forward. … I think we will play better as the season goes on.”