BOWLING GREEN — The Bowling Green football team was 1-3. The Falcons had already lost to rival Toledo. They had just dropped a 37-0 decision at Virginia Tech, managing just 266 yards of offense and being, well, rather noncompetitive.
There was a lot left to the 2012 season, but no guarantee the performances would get any better or the outcomes any different. From the outside looking in, this might have been a team ready to wave a white flag.
From the inside looking out it was a different story. Maybe we’d have known had we been at the regular Monday breakfast with head coach Dave Clawson and BG’s six team captains.
It is mid-November now and the Falcons have rather handily won six straight games, setting up a huge clash Saturday against Kent State at Doyt Perry Stadium. The winner has the inside track to the MAC East title.
From 1-3 to 7-3, that doesn’t happen everyday.
How did Clawson do it?
“As much as I’d like to take the credit, it goes to our captains,” BG’s coach said. “I left that Captains Breakfast a couple days after the Virginia Tech game feeling pretty good. The guys were on point to where we needed to go. I could tell our leaders hadn’t given up on their goals, I knew everyone else would follow.”
These weekly meetings at a BGSU dining hall — Clawson goes to the players on their turf — keep the lines of communication open. “Being a captain is a difficult position,” Clawson said. “They represent the team to the coaches and the coaches to the team. It can’t be a popularity contest. It has to be guys who are comfortable in their own skins; guys who will do what is best for the team.”
The Falcons’ captains have never had a more important breakfast than on Monday, Sept. 24. After that loss at Virginia Tech, the season could well have been slip-sliding away.
“It was tough because of the way we played,” said captain and linebacker Paul Swan. “They moved the ball on us at will, we had turnovers and penalties, something just wasn’t right that day. It was just a bad game. And we also knew that wasn’t the real identity of our team.”
Swan is joined at The Breakfast Club by fellow captains Dominic Flewellyn, Ronnie Goble, Chris Jones, Matt Schilz, and Bart Tanski.
“We had to regroup and refocus,” Swan said. “Coach Clawson stressed that day that everybody had to do a better job studying film and game plans. We all bought into that. It’s important that the captains set the tone. We’re the voices of the team. And when we got back with our teammates we could tell they were hungry to get back out there.”
The worst was over, including a brutal opening stretch that included games at Florida, Toledo, and Virginia Tech.
“Bottom line, we had to survive September and then keep pushing forward,” Swan said.
And here they are, 7-3 overall and 5-1 in the MAC with a defense that has grown into one of the stingiest in the nation. That unit is led by Swan (55 tackles), Jones (an astounding 17 tackles for losses), and do-everything rover Gabe Martin.
Swan knows his group will be sorely tested by a Kent rushing attack that has produced a whopping 235.7 yards per game.
“We know what’s out there … all our goals,” Swan said. “Kent first, then Buffalo, then the MAC championship game, then a bowl game. But it all depends on beating Kent. It’s all we’re focused on.”
That and, he hopes, a tasty breakfast on Monday.
Contact Blade sports columnist Dave Hackenberg at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6398.