BOWLING GREEN — The Bowling Green State University football team has had more than a week to prepare for Saturday’s rivalry game than Toledo.
Still, those preparations were dealt a blow when it was announced that sophomore wide receiver Chris Gallon was lost for the season because of a knee injury suffered in the Mississippi State loss.
While coach Dave Clawson said losing Gallon was a setback for his team’s offense, he hopes it’s something his 5-2 team can overcome.
“That position in our offense for years was the focal point,” said Clawson, in a nod to standout receivers Freddie Barnes and Kamar Jorden. “The great thing about the development of Shaun Joplin and Ryan Burbrink, and the play of Ronnie Moore, is our offense has been more spread out.
“We’re a more equal-opportunity throwing team now. If you can get open, and the coverage dictates you should get the ball, so be it. We don’t force the ball to that position as much as we did in the past.”
Gallon led the Falcons in receptions last season with 54, good for 720 yards and six touchdowns. In seven games this year he caught 24 passes for 232 yards; he ranks second in receptions and third in yardage.
“He’s a big target and he’s got great hands,” quarterback Matt Johnson said of Gallon. “We’re missing a big playmaker in Chris.”
One player who should see a bigger role in the offense as a result of Gallon’s injury is junior Jared Cohen, who redshirted last season after catching 47 passes for 625 yards and 12 TDs at Golden West Junior College in Cypress, Calif., in 2011. So far this season Cohen has nine catches for 100 yards and a score.
“He had a shot against Kent State and made a huge play for us,” Clawson said of Cohen. “He’s a guy that, even before going into the Mississippi State game, we talked about rolling him in there. … He should be more prepared because we [prepared him more] last week.
"But obviously this will be his first start – and it’s quite a week for that to happen.”
The injury to Gallon also has changed the status of true freshman receiver Teo Redding.
“We wanted to redshirt him, but with Chris’s injury he has come along,” Clawson said of Redding. “He’s a playmaker, and we’ll see what happens.
“If we can stay healthy he might redshirt. But we’re getting pretty thin there now. As we push forward with our goal of winning the MAC, if we need to play him, we’ll play him.”
Joplin leads all Falcon receivers with 29 catches for 453 yards, while Burbrink is next with 17 catches for 286 yards. But the freshman Moore (12-19), junior Heath Jackson (4-33) and sophomore Herve Coby (1-12) also may receive a greater opportunity because of Gallon’s injury.
“It’s nice to have trust in all [the receivers] — even the back-ups when they come in,” Johnson said. “A great example is Heath Jackson. A couple of weeks ago, when [Burbrink] got hurt, he stepped right in with some big catches and a touchdown.
“It’s nice to know that guys who aren’t getting all of the reps still understand the playbook and have stayed locked into the game, so that if something like this happens, they can step right in.”