STARKVILLE, Miss. — Less than a month ago the Bowling Green State University football team, riding a two-game winning streak, faced a BCS automatic qualifier school with plans of pulling the upset.
Then Indiana dominated the Falcons, scoring five unanswered touchdowns to post a 42-10 win.
“That game is something we have to get off our chests,” senior defensive tackle Jairus Campbell admitted as the Falcons prepare to play today at Mississippi State. “There’s no way we can go there with the same mindset we had against Indiana and play with them. We would get destroyed.
“We have to come in with the same mindset we had against Florida: To attack on every play for four quarters.”
Last season BG opened at Florida and gave the Southeastern Conference team a battle. The Falcons trailed just 17-14 entering the fourth quarter before an interception ended a potential scoring drive, and the Gators eventually won 27-14.
“The Florida game proves we can stay on the field with a top-tier team,” senior tight end Alex Bayer said. “But this is a new season with a new group of guys.”
And a new challenge with Mississippi State. The Bulldogs are 2-3, but have challenged SEC rivals Auburn and LSU before losing; in its two wins, MSU outscored Alcorn State and Troy by a combined 113-14.
“On film, you can see that [Mississippi State] clearly [plays at] a different level,” BG coach Dave Clawson said. “If the first guy doesn’t make a play on [one of their offensive players], the band is going to start playing and it’s going to be loud.
“If you make a mistake, they’re not going to gain 10 yards — they’re going to score a touchdown.”
The Falcons say they enter today with a different, and better, mindset than they had at Indiana. In that game BG was coming off a 41-22 win at Kent State, and that performance may have led to some overconfidence.
“That was the best offensive performance we had since I have been here,” Bayer said of the Kent State win. “We had such high confidence — and the next week we didn’t have a good week of practice. We thought we were just going to show up and do the same things we did against Kent State.
“We’ve had a good week of practice this week, and I think that will help us out on Saturday.”
Campbell agreed, adding, “Our confidence is definitely back. I would say it was never gone. The coaches say that football can be a humbling game, and in that [Indiana] game we got humbled. That happened, so we just have to put it behind us. After every game, win or loss, you have to keep moving forward.”
The Falcons know they are an underdog in today’s contest, which kicks off at 7:38 p.m. They also feel last year’s game at Florida and this season’s Indiana loss have taught them what to do — and what not to do — when facing a team from a BCS automatic qualifier conference.
“In these games you always find out a lot about your team,” Clawson said.
“The bottom line is that’s a great opportunity for our football team. We’re playing on national TV in an SEC stadium against a very good football team. We get one or two of these shots every year, and to give yourself a shot you have to play really, really well.”