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BOWLING GREEN — The success of Bowling Green State University football team’s 2013 season will be determined next week, when the Falcons play at Buffalo with the Mid-American Conference’s East Division title in the balance.
BG still has a game before that as it travels to Eastern Michigan in a 1 p.m. contest.
“If this was the NFL, you’d rest your vets, knowing your ‘big’ game was next week,” Bowling Green coach Dave Clawson said. “But this is not the NFL. In college football, every game matters.
“We know there’s a big game ahead of us, and that is all that matters. Every game, every win, counts. This could play to where we go to a bowl game — or if we go to a bowl game.”
Eastern Michigan has struggled to a 2-8 record in a season filled with adversity. In October junior wide receiver Demarius Reed was shot and killed, and earlier this month coach Ron English was fired.
The Eagles are 1-5 in MAC play, but that record deserves as asterisk since they are the only team that will face all seven league teams that currently have MAC records of .500 or better.
“Eastern Michigan is a team whose personnel is better than their record,” Clawson said. “The schedules in the MAC are uneven, and if you look at who Eastern Michigan has played, they have played teams in our conference that have good records that we respect.
“They have played Rutgers, and they played Penn State. They have had a challenging schedule.”
EMU’s offense ranks eighth in MAC at 362.4 yards per game. The key is a rushing attack that averages 164.2 yards per contest thanks to juniors Bronson Hill, who ranks fifth in the league with 103.1 rushing yards per game, and Ryan Brumfield, who adds 44.4 per contest.
Freshman Brogan Roback, a St. John’s Jesuit grad, is expected to start at quarterback. He has completed 44.2 percent of his passes for 497 yards and three touchdowns with three interceptions in seven games.
“Their numbers on offense are very good — they have moved the ball against pretty much everybody,” Clawson said. “They line up in sets that are difficult to defend: They line up in double-wing sets. They present a lot of challenges on offense.”
On defense Eastern Michigan has struggled, ranking last in the 13-team league in both points (44.2) and yards (518.0) allowed per game. The Eagles also have forced just eight turnovers, fewest in the MAC.
“They play some ‘three-down’ [linemen] and some four-down, and they have some different blitzes,” senior guard Dominic Flewellyn said. “The challenge is to block a lot of different looks, being able to adjust to the things they throw at us.”
Clawson said he has seen no sign his team is looking past Eastern Michigan to the Buffalo contest.
“Good teams practice well — and we practice well,” Clawson said. “Our worst practice this year is better than our best practice three years ago [in 2010, when BG was 2-10].
“We have a mature football team with 18 seniors. They enjoy the feeling in the lockerroom after winning a football game, and they realize the commitment and investment that goes into winning a football game.”
Flewellyn, one of the team’s captains, said he and his teammates are focused only on the task ahead.
“We take it one week at a time – it’s a one-week season,” he said. “So Eastern Michigan has our attention. We know that, to have momentum going into the next game, we need to win this game.”