NCAA Football

           ***** NCAA Football Preview - Bowling Green Falcons *****
 By Lucas Gulotta, Associate College Football Editor
 Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
 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.
 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
 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.
 08/20 10:44:14 ET

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