2011 SEASON IN REVIEW:The Falcons had a rebuilding year in 2011 as they struggled with injuries. Bowling Green finished 5-7 overall and 3-5 in Mid- American Conference action, as 13 true freshmen saw action.
Dave Clawson opened up his third season as head coach of BGSU with two straight victories over Idaho (32-15) and Morgan State (58-13). The Falcons then lost a thriller to Wyoming (28-27) at home before traveling to Miami-Ohio to defeat the RedHawks (37-23).
BGSU was blown out in both of its ensuing road games versus West Virginia (55-10) and Western Michigan (45-21). The friendly surroundings of Perry Stadium were not enough to allow the Falcons to keep up with Toledo (28-21) and the losing streak grew to three. BGSU snapped its losing skid by upsetting Temple (13-10) at home, but then lost its next three games to Kent State (27-15), Northern Illinois (45-14), and Ohio University (29-28). BGSU ended on a positive note though, when it topped Buffalo (42-28) on the road in the regular-season finale.
The Falcons showed improvement despite being hindered by injuries in 2011. It should be interesting to see how Clawson's team does at full strength with its now experienced backups.
S 1 at Florida S 8 vs. Idaho S 15 at Toledo S 22 at Virginia Tech O 6 at Akron O 13 vs. Miami-Ohio O 20 at Massachusetts O 27 vs. Eastern Michigan N 7 at Ohio University N 17 vs. Kent State N 23 vs. Buffalo
OFFENSE: QB Matt Schilz TE Alex Bayer OG Dominic Flewellyn C Chip Robinson OG Jordon Roussos
DEFENSE: DT Chris Jones LB Paul Swan LB Dwayne Wooods CB Cameron Truss CB DeVon McKoy S Jerry Gates S Ryland Ward
SPECIAL TEAMS: PK Stephen Stein P Brian Schmiedebusch
OFFENSE:The pass happy Falcons hope junior Matt Schilz can turn the corner and develop into an All-MAC caliber quarterback. The signal caller had impressive numbers last season (3,024 yards, 28 TDs) but threw double-digit interceptions (13) for the second year in a row. Offensive coordinator Warren Ruggiero would like to see his quarterback protect the ball better, but he is pleased with his development.
Six wide receivers graduating after last season left BGSU slightly thin at the position. Junior Shaun Joplin, Chris Gallon, Heath Jackson, and Michigan transfer Je'Ron Stokes will all be a part of the wide out rotation.
Tailback Anthon Samuel showed during his MAC Freshman-of-the-Year season that he is a special player. Samuel picked up the offense very quickly and displayed lightning quickness while finishing third among freshman in yards per game (93.8). Although the Falcons had a brilliant rookie running back, they averaged just 122.9 yards per game on the ground. Four returning starters to the offensive line should be helpful to the rushing production.
DEFENSE:BGSU returns seven starters and a whole lot of experience to its defensive unit. The Falcons were unable to stop the run and allowed 27 points or more in six of their eight league games last year. Junior safety Jerry "BooBoo" Gates is the lone upperclassmen starter in the secondary. Gates switched positions from rover to safety (73 tackles, two INTs) and will need to develop into a leader after being a first-time starter in 2011.
The 4-2-5 defensive system should improve as a handful of younger players gained experience playing within it last season. Senior defensive tackle Chris Jones (47 tackles, 8.5 sacks, 11 tackles for loss) is one of the best players in the conference. Middle linebacker Dwayne Woods (111 tackles, 4.5 sacks) is very productive and able to make plays all over the field.
"Going 2-10 two years ago and last year going 5-7 really takes a toll on you. Losing is not anybody's favorite thing," said Jones. "It's probably my least favorite thing. This year being my senior year I really want that MAC Championship."
SPECIAL TEAMS:Senior Steve Stein (8-of-11 FGs, 24-of-25 PATs) is hoping to be the starting placekicker on opening day once again, however nothing is promised. Redshirt freshman Tyler Tate and incoming true freshman Anthony Farinella are both going to challenge for the position. Brian Schmiedebusch finished sixth in the nation in 2011 in punting average (45.3). His ability to steal extra yards away and pin opponents inside the 20-yard line with precision makes him quite valuable.
OUTLOOK:The off-season development of the returning players is going to a vital component if the Falcons are going to return to the bowl season. The offense is led by one of the conference's top quarterbacks and the defense is taking steps in the right direction.
"We've played so many younger players and we've got so many guys that it's just brewing and brewing," said Clawson. "I think we have 15 or 20 guys that could really take a major step and become really good players."
BGSU is scheduled to open on the road against the Florida Gators and will also travel to Blacksburg to face Virginia Tech on September 22. The crucial games for the Falcons are within conference play. Clawson's squad avoided some of the top level competition within the league this year which sets it up nicely to make a run. The Falcons will play two of three games at home before facing Buffalo on a neutral field in Columbus in the regular-season finale.
The success of the defensive unit will make or break BGSU's chances at an appearance in the MAC Championship Game. The Falcons should be able to avoid their third straight losing season thanks to improved play by Schilz and a manageable schedule after the first couple of games.
By Lucas Gulotta, Associate College Football Editor