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BATTLE OF I-75

For Falcons, Toledo is more than another game

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    Bowling Green's head coach Mike Jinks calls out to his players during a game in September.

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    Bowling Green's head coach Mike Jinks embraces Josh Cleveland before the start of a game against Michigan State.

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BOWLING GREEN — Bowling Green State University football coach Mike Jinks knows that this week is different.

And even if he didn’t, all he would have to do is walk around the city of Bowling Green to learn that when the Falcons face their archrivals from the University of Toledo, the intensity rises.

“You walk into SamB’s, or Kroger, or any of those local spots, and fans say, ‘I know it’s been a rough year, coach, but get this one,’ ” he said.

That will be a tall task as Bowling Green has lost the last seven meetings against the Rockets, the longest streak in the series since the Falcons won 12 straight from 1955 to 1966.

RELATED: 3 things to look for when BG has the ball ■ BG players to watch

“When you win your rivalry game, sometimes all is forgiven,” Jinks said. “But we know that’s not the case.”

That's because BG carries a 2-8 record into the contest, including a 2-4 mark in Mid-American Conference play. The Falcons will not play in a bowl for the second year in a row after making four straight bowl appearances.

But ending that long losing streak to the Rockets would mean a great deal to the entire team, especially the 20 seniors who will be honored before their final home game at Doyt Perry Stadium.

“Personally, it’s eating at me a lot,” senior linebacker Nate Locke said when asked about the losing streak in the series. “Even going two or three years back to guys I am close with, they were not able to beat them.

“So it’s a goal that’s very high on our list — if not the highest goal. It would mean the world to us to pull this game out.”

Locke said his advice to younger teammates playing in the game for the first time would be to relax and focus.

“This is a game where you can’t let your emotions get out of hand,” he said. “This will be one of the bigger, louder atmospheres we’ll play in. ... It’s easier said than done — I was the same way as a freshman. But you have to keep your emotions in check.

“And you have to do what you’re supposed to. You can’t do something you’re not supposed to just to try to make a play. You’re more likely to make a play if you stay in the position the coaches have placed you in.”

RELATED: Plenty at stake for Toledo

But would a win against Bowling Green’s rival erase the stigma of this season?

“[Wins like this] don’t completely erase what’s happened because we need to look back and focus on what we could improve on,” Locke said. “But honestly, this would lift a huge weight off our shoulder.

“We could look back and call the season a success because we were able to pull off the biggest win in a couple of years. ... It would be a season-defining moment for us, for sure.”

Senior offensive lineman Ryan Hunter agreed that a win against Toledo could be the high point in a season that already has had plenty of lows.

“It’s not the season we were working for, that’s for sure,” he said. “But it would help end the season on a positive note, and it would help the guys coming back next year come back with some positive momentum. ...

“The key is to believe. Last year we were 30-point underdogs, and the game was still tied with 30 seconds left. Anything is possible.”

Contact John Wagner at jwagner@theblade.com419-724-6481, or on Twitter @jwagnerblade.

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