Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Reaction to the Win

(Photo: Falcons rush field as gun sounds. Recently emptied seats sit in mute testimony to Pitt's frustrations).

One of the really fun things when we nab one of these upsets is to go and see what they're local paper has to say. Since no one expected BG to win when they looked at Pitt's schedule (me included), its always fun.

First, let me say that we had a great time in Pittsburgh. Everyone was very nice and pleasant, and it is truly a beautiful city. Honest to god, I've only been there one other time, and each time, I think, this is one of the best kept secrets in the country.

We'll start with PittBlather, the lead Pitt blog, who we swapped questions with early in the week. He notes that the doubters in the Pitt program scored a point Saturday. He made the following salient comments, though I recommend you read his entire post...

From a marketing standpoint, this was an abject disaster. Bordering on a worst case scenario. The one thing that could not happen was Pitt to come out and flop. To lose at home to start the season. A team that showed very little that could be considered a positive. The team’s performance completely lost the crowd and turned them. A crowd that was looking to support, felt let down.


Pitt players and the defensive coaches did not adjust to the short tosses and having receivers all over the field. That’s why they call it a spread offense.


It’s hard to pinpoint when Pitt let the game get away from them. It was a slow fade. Started well, missed an opportunity, but still up 14-0. Then the Falcons found what was working. The short, underneath passes. Getting the ball in Turner’s hands.


This Pitt team came out and faded. They showed no heart, no pride and no clue. They seemed unprepared to actually battle for an entire game. They were a complete disappointment.


I also checked out the comment threads on PittBlather. You can see the game thread here, and the post-game thread here.

General themes....

Wannstedt must go.
Cavanaugh must go.
Rinse and repeat.

That's why winning these games feels sooooo good. Because they don't think we should be able to win even after we did it.

Now to the MSM.

Joe Starkey had written coming in that the honeymoon was over, it was time for Wannstedt to produce. Today, he wrote about the "stone age" offense, and I think hit a major issue on the head----an NFL mindset with Wannstedt and Cavanaugh in a different game.

Once and for all, guys, this ain't the NFL. It isn't a field-position game, where any drive that ends with a kick is cause for celebration. It's a scoring contest.

Twice in the first quarter, the Panthers punted from Bowling Green territory -- once on fourth-and-7 from the 34; once on fourth-and-5 from the 35.

Wannstedt said he considered going for it both times but chose to punt because "we were playing the field-position game."

Bowling Green coach Gregg Brandon, whose creative offense provided a stunning counter to Pitt's, said his defense "blitzed on almost every single play."

Kevin Gorman hops in and notes that the momentum from the WVU win is now gone. Keyword: deflated.

The program-changing momentum from Pitt's monumental victory over West Virginia last December has disappeared -- with its national ranking sure to follow.

"We felt like we were doing what we had to do to win the game," said Wannstedt, who twice elected to punt from Bowling Green's 35 in the first quarter. "Then, we made some mistakes. They gave us some unusual formations, which we knew they would do. We had a tough time adjusting. That was the difference in the game."
Bowling Green coach Gregg Brandon, a disciple of Florida's Urban Meyer, unveiled formations that left the Panthers guessing on which receivers were eligible and who would cover them. (My note: this is MUSIC to my ears).

Paul Zeise called it the "fruits of caution."


One last thing. Ryan in The Blade had an excellent blog post, as well.

Call it an upset if you want, and technically you’d be right, but BG is clearly better than Pitt. Not just on this day, but almost all. The Falcons were another score away from being able to label this one a whooping.
Every time BG needed a big play something unordinary was devised
Diyral Briggs completely wore out the right side of the Pitt offensive line.

Oh the Sweet Smell of Victory!

Here, you see (from the Blade) Tyler Sheehan racing into the end zone with what ended up being the winning touchdown in yesterday's thrilling win at Pitt.

I'll have more--much more--coming up in the next two days, but first a post on some overall impressions.

It was a great day to be a Falcon. On this Sunday morning, I am hoarse from yelling for our team. I am very, very proud of the effort our team put forward, even with the suspensions and the issues. And let's not forget, but for an inadvertent whistle, this game is a laugher.

There were a few keys to the game. The most obvious was the three critical turnovers Pitt made (I know there were four, but the last was while the game was over.) Pitt won most of the stat battles, but the early fumble in their own territory that allowed BG to tie the game and the late fumble deep in their own territory that allowed BG to take the lead were both very costly and BG made them pay.

Even the Kenny Lewis fumble--absent the TD--was critical, because it stopped a Pitt drive.

So, turnovers were probably the difference. BG took care of the ball, turning it over once.

I am so proud of our team for the adjustments we made. The first few minutes of this game were AWFUL. Pitt ran right over us, took at 14-0 lead, and you were beginning to feel like it was BC and Tulsa all over again. And, the offense was stagnant as anything.

But, things turned around. First, we did what all the best offenses in the Brandon/Meyer era have done when we took the ball off the second touchdown, and stuck it right down the field into the end zone. That drive was vital for re-establishing the game.

On offense, we found some things that worked, and we got it done. On the whole, it was not a great offensive performance. We only made 15 first downs, and had only 254 yards. That's only 3.6 yards per play. Running, we were only 24-81 (if you take the four sacks out), which is obviously not particularly strong, and when you take out a 36 yard run by Bullock, you have 23-45 for the rest of them.

But, Bullock DID break that run and put us in a position to score, we were able to run the option for third and fourth down conversions, and the direct snap played worked a few times, AT scored in the red zone and so did Tyler. So, the overall numbers weren't eye-boggling, but we had the runs when we needed them.

Tyler was just over 50% passing. There were some drops. Obviously, we hope to see that number improve in the future, but again, on key drives when we needed it, he was making the throws. We had 24 completions to 9 receivers.....are you kidding me?

Best of all, we were very resourceful. We ran a flood right in the red zone, but drifted the TE the opposite way. We have used this play often to score, and it is almost always wide open. And it was again.

We also had Freddie in the direct snap, but used him to throw twice, sucking everyone in for the run and then making a little shovel pass to the TE for the TD. We ran the option-pitch a few times, then (again in the red zone) when Pitt over committed to the outside, Sheehan run for an untouched 12 yard TV.

I can't say anything but this---our coaching staff maximized the players we had on the field, and we were ready to make plays when we needed them. Given the new OC team, I am very proud of our effort. Again, not overpowering. But winning.

On defense, one word sticks out.....PLAYMAKERS. We had guys who made plays on defense.

Is Kenny Lewis incredible or what? Did it help he was playing in his hometown--maybe, but he has done this before. Six tackles, one INT, one FR, and a defensive TD called back on an inadvertent whistle.

How about Jahmal Brown? 11 solo tackles, 14 total, and a pass break up.

Antonio Smith--12 tackles, 9 solo. Caused the key play of the game on a crushing corner blitz and a Stull fumble. Also two tackles for loss and a pass break up.

How about two sacks for Diryal Briggs? And three hurries. And I know he won't celebrate again.

How about Dozier? Six tackles, forced a fumble, broke up two passes, and had a QB hurry.

Just remember, it was 14-0 and Pitt only got 3 after that. We adjusted on D, starting tackling, and yes, our playmakers got loose. It was an incredible performance.

Certainly, we got an assist from Wannstedt, who punted twice inside our 40 when they had the momentum. And, they rarely if ever threw downfield until late in the game, though when they did, I think you could see why....Stull's deep throws were wild and ineffective. And, their receivers had a lot of balls run through their hands. But, our defense made lots of plays and can only be thrilled with their effort.

LaSean McCoy only averaged 3.1 yards per carry, and had no run over 12 yards. That's impressive. Stephens was ripping us apart (7-71) but luckily, Wannstedt decided to stop using him. It helped immensely that the passing game was short, because we could crowd up to stop the run and the short pass.

Stull threw 51 times (I'm sure that wasn't included in any winning game plans for Pitt), was sacked four times and hurried 8, based on the stats. BG was resourceful and found ways to pressure the QB, even though our D-Line was thin.

Pitt did not complete a pass over 18 yards the whole game.

Special teams...we won that battle too. Pitt's kicker missed a key FG, and Iovenelli was great punting. He had a 79 yarder that was kind of lucky, but nailed them deep twice and backed the returner up a couple times. Our only special teams miscue was coaching related, when we gave Pitt the field position for their 2Q FG on a squib kick I don't understand. We covered kicks real well all day and Vrvilio ripped a couple.

One last note for now. A team which is (in theory) less deep is aided by the game being on TV. Those TV timeouts give everyone a chance to rest, especially when it is as hot as it was.

So, much credit all around. We were better than Pitt on their field. Tyler Sheehan could play for Pitt tomorrow. Our worrisome line play showed signs of hope on both sides of the ball. We were resourceful and found ways to move the ball and make plays on defense. We took the opponent's mistakes, and turned them to our advantage.

A great day to be a Falcon. More to come.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Reaction to the Day's News

I can't really say how disappointed I was to see the news on Ryan's blog this morning that we have three more players involved in criminal activity.

I have always said that I would prefer the team lose than I would to see us involved in this kind of activity. And, I don't mean minor, petty criminal activities. That is natural, they are college kids. Get caught with a joint, punch a bouncer...who cares? Its not an indictment of anything other than that our guys are all in college.

But, home invasions and credit cards...that's different. Those are overt criminal acts not done in the heat of the moment, but thought out. They are things that the vast majority of the students at BG would not even consider doing. And, they reflect very poorly on our program.

I don't believe that you have to choose between winning and doing things right. I just don't. In the MAC, you should be able to win and not have a problem with arrests, dismissals and academic eligibility.

I'm truly sorry that this is bound to reflect on the majority of our football team, most of whom I believe are good people doing the right thing. And I do not condemn them in anyway.

But the direction of the program has to be questioned. In Ryan's blog, he traced a couple recruiting classes that are slowly melting away. Any reasonable fan has to ask this question:

In our quest to win, is our football program recruiting too many players with character or academic issues that make them unfit for being intercollegiate athletes?

I understand all the excuses. The coaches don't get to spend time with the players. You can't tell what people are going to be like. No coach can control 100 individuals.

Those are all valid to a point. Its the reason why I was willing to accept that a few incidents might happen. But, its becoming too prevalent, and the question at least has to be asked.

Ryan also notes that the AD weighed in on the press release concerning the suspensions, and that this is unusual. I hope that the AD is concerned about this. As a lifelong Falcon fan and alumnus, one of the reasons I enjoy following the MAC is that I think our guys are purer student athletes than at the big schools. And, I could feel good about watching, supporting, and involving my son in our program.

I'd hate to see us lose that. Both because I care about the university, and because its simply the wrong way to do things.

Ryan also notes that its a good thing Coach Brandon got his contract extension before this all came out. I was thinking the same thing--that its a good thing for Coach Brandon. All of this would not help his case.

I'm not losing perspective. I'm still willing to be convinced that this is just an unusual combination of events masquerading as a trend. And I understand many of the allegations have not been tested in a court of law. But, it raises doubts, and doubts are insidious things. Its hard to make them go away.

You know what else is insidious? Compromise. You take the first guy you shouldn't and you get away with it. Then you do it twice. Then, there's a new standard. One minute you're taking off with frozen o-rings. Then, you decide its nothing to worry about. Then...... And they call it an accident.

I also understand that the players are perfectly capable of turning things around in their lives. All of them could someday say, "you won't believe the really stupid thing I did when I was in college." I hope they do. But, 99.9% of the young people in the world don't do these things....too many on one team makes you wonder.

You start to think about Coach's relationship with Gary Barnett. And you wonder.

I do think Coach generally responds to these things correctly. He doesn't fall into a dopey zero tolerance thing. Its certainly a tough job. But, something isn't working.

We're still going to Pitt, and we'll still be at the games, rooting for our team. Until I am convinced otherwise, I'm going to assume that our athletic program is run by people who are better than this, and that they're going to fix what needs to be fixed.

Not to be missed

Ryan did confirm that Adrion Graves has transferred from Xavier to BG and will play for the 09-10 season.

Hodges, Geter, Lorenzi

Don't have time for lots of commentary right now....if you want the basic facts on this situation, here is what I recommend.

Ryan's first blog post which includes excerpts from the BGPD Police report.

Ryan's second post which chronicles our disappearing recruiting classes.

Problems in Program continue....Geter to miss Pitt Game

Yesterday, I blogged that Adrien Hodges had been involved in a stolen credit card and would miss the first game. Now, Ryan reports today that Willie Geter and Robert Lorenzi will also be suspended for the Pitt game. More later, but this is extremely disappointing....now that AT has moved to WR, we are very light at RB, (thought AT could move back)....anyway, just to get the news out.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Radio "Network" on critical list

A few years ago, we fired our longtime radio announcer in favor of the new thing....a radio network. The deal was made with Clear Channel, and all kinds of promises were made.

  • A major presence in Lima! (a new market) with the flagship station.
  • Higher technical sophistication.
  • Solid coverage into the BG through stations licensed in Detroit and North Baltimore.
Clear Channel brought in their own announcer, etc. At the time, I posted in strong terms on AZZ.com that this was a bad deal, that Lima was a poor place to try and generate attendance, because it is Buckeye Central. Also, that Clear Channel could not be trusted, that it was stupid to have the flagship station in Lima, and, finally, that BG fans would end up getting the worse end of the deal, to the detriment of the majority of the fans.

Just before I move on, I believe Todd Walker has done a fine job. He is a good announcer, and I have often felt sorry for him while he was in a far MAC outpost doing another basketball blowout. He's a quality announcer. Some of our ex-jock talent has been a little sketchy, but that's not Clear Channel's fault.

Note: Todd Walker has his opportunity to explain in today's Sentinel.

Well, the Lima thing didn't even make it through the first season. You can have Coach Brandon and Dakich on the morning shows till you turn blue, those people are Buckeye fans. And today, we see in the game notes, that the station in North Baltimore, the one that had strong signal into Bowling Green, will not carry the games because it is in "transition."

Whatever. That leaves BG fans listening to 1230 AM out of Toledo, which has poor signal coverage to the south. Of course, you can always listen on the Internet....which works only some of the time and is not good if you are in the car.

I think its unfortunate for the program. There was never much upside to any radio network....you can't tell me anyone is going to form an attraction to a team over the radio in today's world. And, we've now isolated ourselves with a partner that is slowly bleeding away. I'm not sure we could get WFOB back if we wanted (without buying the time).

Anyway, I think its a good example of what you have to watch for when you're looking at shiny new objects. Because home fans are now worse served than they were before, and nothing gained.

Adrien Hodges Charged with Misusing a credit card, suspended

Adrien Hodges, a reserve (2-deep) WR, has been charged with misusing a credit card, according to this story in the Sentinel today. (You have to scroll down to see the story). He will be suspended for Saturday's game.

Quick Hoops Note

Chatter (including on azz.com) is getting higher that BG has landed Adrion Graves, a transfer from Xavier, as mentioned previously here. Let's keep our fingers crossed.

Game Notes Out

Oh, wallow in the sweet minutae, bathe in the data, let the anecdotes flow like rivers of milk and honey.

Oh yes.

So, the first game notes are out. I'm going to take a closer look soon, but a quick note to look at my favorite part....the depth chart.

A couple things....

I have been saying our O-Line is young. Actually, four of the five starters are in their fourth or fifth year in the program. (Only C Ben Bojicic is a R-Fr). And, I'd like to say they are unseasoned, and that's more true (like 60% true), as we look at their starts.

Curtis 13
Steffy 12
Minturn 4
Fink 3
Bojicic 0

What I think I mean to say when I say that I am worried about our line isn't that they are young or unseasoned, but that they're NOT THE GUYS WE HAD BEFORE. Coach thinks they are jelling, I hope he's right. I don't know if "coming around" is Coachtalk for "Oh Shit" or not.

The front 4 on D is just as bad. Diryal Briggs has 16 starts, but Nick Davis, Michael Ream and Joe Schaefer collectively have 8.

The Back 7 of the defensive is pretty experienced though, though not particularly deep.

There are only three true Fr on the depth chart--Adrien Spencer (CB), Keith Morgan (S), and Chip Robinson (G).

Meanwhile, there are 16 seniors on the 2-deep.

Most of the other stuff was covered in the press conference. Marques Parks beat out Chris Wright but that may be good or it may not.

I'll have some more observations on the game notes. Meanwhile, for me, the anticipation just continues to build.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Weekly Presser, labor intensive version

OK, the weekly presser used to be the highlight of, well, my week. The U would print transcripts and I would reprint them here with snarky, uninformed wise ass comments spread throughout.

Well, the University has gone all high technical on us, and now is putting the AUDIO of the presser up on their website...no transcript.

Never fear, however. I will do what it takes to be as snarky and uninformed as I was last year. Or more.

So I actually listened to the presser. Don't get me wrong, its better and more interesting. Here's a rough outline of what was said. My snarky comments will be in orange, as always.

First, Coach said that practice last week was very physical and that we are ready to hit someone else (He said this several times. We're all looking forward to it, in fact).

Q: What about Turner and Parks in the rotation at WR.

Coach said (and I think this is interesting) that Turner would play WR and QB, which means the direct snap is still in play. Which also means he can pass from that formation, as he did a couple times last year. I'm happy about that. I was worried we weren't making the best use of his versatile skills to get the defensive on the, you know, defensive.

Coach then said that you gotta be better than the other team for 3.5 hours (this kind of stuff is why he is a coach) whether you played Pittsburgh or Pittsburgh State. He lamented that we weren't playing Pittsburgh State. While the media scoured their guides trying to find out who exactly Pittsburgh State was, he took a rip at Iowa State for playing South Dakota State ("they're D-II aren't they?" he asked)

Note, here's a link to Pittsburg State, which is in Oklahoma or Kansas or something. Maybe Texas. Their nickname is the Gorillas, and they exhort their alumni with "Once a gorilla, always a gorilla." Some stuff you can't make up.

"Its called football" he concluded. That's just too easy.

He isn't worried about playing in Heinz Field, most of the people travelling have played in many big venues.

We only have a handful of guys on the 2-deep, which is how he wants it.

He was asked if we would have a similar gameplan to Minnesota last year (ie, throw throw throw throw throw) and Coach said we would do what we had to do. (We all hope so).

He emphasized turnovers. In our 8 wins, he said we won the turnover battle and in the five losses we didn't. (In actuality, we won the EMU game despite making the game's only turnover and in several games it was tied. Our real stinkers--BC and Tulsa, certainly were turnover driven, and the tragic OU loss certainly had turnover issues. Taking care of the ball: I'm for it.)

He noted, it was nice to have the flexibility to throw 50 times if you had to.

He was asked about our inability to stop the run.

He said that next to turnovers, this was the most important thing.
We improved our depth along the defensive front (this is one of those statements that must have been intended for a parallel universe. If this is true, why is Sanderson playing LB and not Stanley. Huh?)
He does note our front 7 is seasoned, which I guess is true.

He says Nick Davis is ready to go, but declines to say he is 100%. Says it will be a "test."

He was asked how we would prepare to defend McCoy. In response, he cited other big RBs we have played against and defended succesfully (?), and then said you have to "line up and play."

He did not mention Brian Calhoun.

Eric Ransom had surgery and is out for the season.

Derek Brighton is expected back.

More on AT. This is interesting.

We have to find ways to get him onto the field, he said. He doesn't want him standing next to Brandon on the sideline.

I applaud this way of thinking. Later, he said that we think of players first, and then plays. I think we were innovative in how we used Turner last year, and I would hate to see us (as I mentioned before) short-change his talent by restricting his role.

Same with Barnes and Geter who are equally flexible. (The question contained a slash metaphor in honor of the Pitt game).

Coach was asked if having a pass coordinator, a run coordinator, a former Head Coach in charge of QBs and a former OC at Head Coach might be too many cooks in the kitchen.

Surprisingly, Coach acknowledged that was a legitimate question. He also said that the game is called early in the week during the planning phase, and everyone can have input there. He has worked on making adjustments when something isn't working--even with the coaches during scrimmages. This is good....we have tended to stick to things that aren't working too long in the past.

He said Robert Lorenzi, a 2-deep DB broke his leg and is out for the season.

If you are intersted, Z and X WRs tend to be on the outside, E and H on the inside, and T is the running back. Unless they aren't.

He notes that the MAC is balanced now. There are fewer really good teams, and yet fewer really awful teams....I guess. Last year, I think we were ranked the worst conference in D-I. Phil Steele says we will be the most improved conference this year.

He was asked about the big number offenses from the good old days, with Josh and Omar and Cole and Chuck and PJ. Did this team have that potential?

He said he thinks "quietly" about that.

He was asked if we have more weapons than ever.

Coach obliged by listing a few--Veteran QB and skill guys, comparable to 03-04.

Jack Carle of the Sentinel pushed back a little here, saying (correctly) that our guys haven't put the numbers up that Sharon (our all-time leading receiver) and Magner and others did, and Coach acknowledged that was true.

At this point, I was gesturing wildly at the keyboard. What about the line? Those teams also had really good lines, including one stud NFL-drafted lineman (Mruzukowski).

Next question: how is the line coming?

He said it has come together, nice job, etc. Said they have all played except Bojcic, who is playing C and the most important position in our offense. He laughed wryly and said that Bojcic was in for a test because Pitt's inside guys are like "fire hydrants" the most obscure reference since Randy Walker called Brandon Hicks a "rolling ball of butcher knives."

He said that of the young lineman, Chip Robinson had made the most progress but that he hoped to redshirt them all. I was happy to hear this. If that happens, it means our veteran guys performed like we hoped, stayed healthy, and didn't need to be switched out.

Blog Swapping, return visit

Pitt Blather has posted my answers to his questions, which you can see here.

Thanks to him for doing this....its always fun. And, for this....


Bowling Green may be in the MAC. They may have a stadium that seats 24,000 (115th out of 119 1-A). That doesn’t mean they don’t have passion and pride...

He will be coming to the ‘Burgh with his son to see the game this weekend. A spirit of support and a painful morning drive that shows the kind of loyalty you have to respect. If you see a father and son walking around in orange and brown, be nice.

Blog Swapping....

This is the second time we've had the chance to exchange blog questions with an opponent blogger. Today, we are trading information with Chas from Pitt Blather, the leading Panther blog. I was impressed at the depth of his responses. I will put them down here, and then I'll follow up with a couple comments of my own....

1. We're familiar with LeSean McCoy at RB, but I think Falcon fans would be interested in knowing who some of your other offensive players to watch are.

And by offensive players to watch, I'm assuming you don't mean the intricacies of line-play. Surprisingly, there is a lot to watch on the offense. Nothing about QB Bill Stull -- rhymes with dull -- will wow you. He's not fleet of foot. Not a big hulking presence of a QB. He's just smart, consistent and knows the offense and his own limitations. The thing is, that despite a run first offense there are a lot of receiving weapons for him.

At tight end and on the Mackey Award watchlist, Nate Byham is a big strong target. Great hands and runs crisp routes. He is actually complimented by Dorin Dickerson who is converted from tailback/wideout. He's got tremendous size and speed to create more match-up problems with the linebacker forced to cover him.

At the WR, the depth is there with Derek Kinder and Oderick Turner, but the player to fear is freshman Jonathan Baldwin. A highly athltetic, 6-5, strong freshman with big leaping ability. When Pitt gets in the red zone, expect him to be lined-up to just try and get open in a corner. He has Pitt fans already putting him in the same category as Antonio Bryant and Larry Fitzgerald.

2. On the Coaching Front, two questions. First, what changes, if any, do you expect with the new DC. And, on a more broad basis, what do people there make of Dave Wannstedt. He's a big name, but do people think he will deliver a winner at the college level.

Aggression and turnovers. New DC Phil Bennett (former DC at K-State and HC at SMU) has already been stressing the need to generate more turnovers. Pitt didn't do a lot of that last year. The defense may have had good numbers in terms of yards allowed, but only 4 games had Pitt on the plus side of turnovers, and the defense allowed more points than in the prior 2 years when the defense was statistically worse.

As far as attacking more. This doesn't necessarily mean blitz -- though more of that is expected. It does mean being more aggressive. Bringing the safeties up more in running situations. Taking advantage of the strong defensive line. Not being continually in a "read and react" defensive scheme that was much more passive. It didn't allow the big play as much, but a thousand paper cuts of frustration.

As for Coach Wannstedt. He's a Pitt guy. Born and raised in the area and still has the accent. A former player. He's great with the media and the alumni. He showed as soon as he took the job that he was an excellent recruiter. He's been everything the fans and school has wanted with that.

Now, it's time for him to show the game day coaching and preparing the team week-in-week-out. That hasn't happened and only the most rose-colored glasses can provide a view that doesn't at least raise those questions. He can't have this team come out flat for any game this year. The talk has to translate.

That said, there is a belief that he can do it. That this will be the team that at the very least will establish that Pitt is moving towards winning and winning big.

3. What is the word on your QB? He was injured last year, is he fully healthy? What kind of style can we expect from him.

Stull is all the way back from the torn thumb ligaments. He was healthy in the spring and aside from some bruised ribs has been fine in the training camp. As I said earlier. Stull is a smart QB.He's not a scrambler or some gun-slinging strong-armed QB. He knows OC Matt Cavanaugh's West Coast offense cold. He's been in it since a freshman and is now a redshirt junior. He will make the smart play, and stay within the system and himself.

4. Similarly, is Derek Kinder healthy and back to full strength?

I'm less certain about Kinder. He tweaked his knee again in the beginning of camp. While the end of camp reports were that he was getting back to form, it seems that it has been a big psychological battle to trust his knee on cuts.

5. How are special teams shaping up?

Well, straight kicking is fine. Conor Lee hasn't missed a PATs in a couple years. He is solid on field goals up to 45 yards. Punting, Dave Brytus (a transfer from Purdue) was actually a little disappointing last year, but looks much more precise and with more leg strength.

As for returns, there was the loss of freshman Cameron Saddler in camp. The 5-7 back was supposed to be a big return guy, but he tore his ACL. That leaves Aaron Berry who is also a cornerback on punts. He's the leading returning punt returner in the Big East

On kick returns it's likely going to be RB LaRod Stephens-Howling and a couple other back-up backs.

Coverage should be improved as there will be more experience. It will also be interesting because Coach Wannstedt has taken direct control of coaching special teams.

A few comments.....

  • I had no idea Matt Cavanaugh was the OC at Pitt.
  • A head coach with direct responsibility over special teams. I love it.
  • On the head coach, I didn't anticipate the affection Pitt fans seem to have for Wannstedt. He's not just another coach, and they are pinning lots of hope on his success.
  • As for defense, it is endlessly frustrating to watch your team play bend but don't break, don't make any mistake defense. I am sure they will enjoy the aggression a lot more.

Well, thanks to Chas. I'm going to send my answers to him, and publish them here when he has the chance to publish them on his site.

We're heading over for the game, and looking very forward to seeing a game at Heinz Field and seeing our Falcons again.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Ryan Blogs some training camp news....

Read here, but most noticeably...

  • Two walk ons are excelling, one of whom was just awarded a scholarship.
  • The Football team is going to have a blog...no really!
  • There is still a competition at LT for the O-Line. I hope that's a sign of strength and not a sign that neither player can seize the position.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

What, in my uninformed opinion, does BG have to do to win against Pitt?

What does BG have to do to win the game?

  • Play turnover free ball and get a couple turnovers from Pitt.
  • Control the ball to keep McCoy off the field.
  • Get an early lead to force Pitt out of the running game.
  • Keep enough pressure on the Pitt D to keep our young O-line off from being under pressure from the Pitt front 7.
  • Score out the butt.
  • Surprise me by stopping the running game at least once in a while.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

The Pitt Panther Preview

By this time next week, we'll know how the season is going to look and we'll know how the first game went. Let's look ahead and preview our opponent....

I have read the Pitt blogosphere, and a few newspaper reporters, and the basic storyline behind the Pitt program seems to be:

"We've been waiting for Dave Wannstedt to do something, and we believe our program turned the corner on December 1 with the upset win in Morganhole."

I had to go back and check my recollection....because what I remembered was hardly a stunning triumph that signals a turnaround program....what I remembered was a Pitt team that beat a WVU team that had a major injury to its QB and a PAINFUL game to watch where neither team could move the ball.

And that's what the record shows. So, you'll forgive me if it doesn't look like much of a turning point.

Don't get me wrong, Pitt is a good team, better than last year, likely to make a bowl, playing at home and likely to beat us.

But, I don't see the game as unwinnable and I don't see Pitt as destined to be on the cusp of some breakout season, and I certainly don't think the win against WVU proves anything.

(Phil Steele, the all-knowing one, believes that Pitt will be one of the surprise teams in the country).

Last year, Pitt played 11 I-A games, and scored 20 points or less in 7 of them. They were in the lower half of all major offensive categories in the Big East.

However, this year promises to be better.

  • Their QB is back, who was injured in the opening game.
  • Their Stud RB, LeSean McCoy, who had the best FR year as a RB in conference history, should only get better. He should run effectively against us--until I see otherwise, I will assume that he will like everyone else has.
  • They have an injured receiver back, which should give them a more two-dimensional attack.
  • Their O-line, a weakness last year, remain a question mark. However, they have a new line coach imported from the NFL (ok, imported from the Jets) and they have some guys back and they will be bigger than us, at any rate.
Defensively, they were better and at least in the top half of their conference, and occassionally top ranked. Phil Steele says that this year they have the conference's top defense, esp in the front seven, where they can hope to feast on a Falcon offensive line still getting its sea legs.

Here are some sampling of Panther Blogs and what they have to say....

First, is Pitt Blather, who supposedly is going to exchange Q&As sometime next week).

Bowling Green is actually a decent challenge to open the season. They are expected to be the team to beat in the MAC East with 17 starters returning.
This comes from the Pitt Post-Gazette blog....

The Panthers are expected to have one of the best defensive lines in the country and they certainly lived up to the billing during training camp, particularly tackle Mick Williams and ends Greg Romeus and Jabaal Sheard. The unit should give every offensive line everything it can handle.
Here, the Pittsburgh Sports Report has Coach Wannstedt saying the right thing...

"The truth of the matter is that win [the WVU win] won't have anything to do with us beating Bowling Green," he said, turning his attention to the '08 season opener. "We've got to go out and tackle and block and protect the ball to win that first game."
Pitt Panther Prowl has taking a cautious view of the high expectations....

For the last three years we have tempered our expectations. Many of us are still doing so this year, believing that 8 wins is both achievable and a realistic expectation. With the national media jumping on board, there is only one thing left for Wannstedt and this Pitt team to do: win!!


The Trib-Review also has a review of Fan Fest...

* Bill Stull drew the first round of applause when he threaded the needle between cornerback Jovani Chappel and safety Dom DeCicco to find Oderick Turner in the middle of the end zone for a touchdown.
Cat Basket is not worried about a recent injury at LB...

This week, Shane Murray (reportedly) sprained his knee. Fortunately for our Panthers, we have recruited hard and recruited well at the linebacker position. Given that we finally have some solid depth at that position, it made sense that Tristan Roberts would be one of the guys stepping up to replace Murray. When you think about it, there are also some other guys who have played the linebacker spot and could step in such as Greg Williams, Nate Nix, Brandon Lindsay, Max Gruder, Greg Williams, Steve Dell, Joe Trebitz, and the highly recruited Shayne Hale.

Interesting...they seem to be reasonable fanbloggers in fact. Hopeful, but waiting to see it in action and not be disappointed again. Tomorrow, what does BG have to do to win the game....

Friday, August 22, 2008

2008 Game By Game....

OK, bring on the pain....I'm going to try and pick how each Falcon football game will turn out---now, before the season even starts. I'll list the games, and then some explanation to follow.....

Date Opponent / Event Location Time/Result
08/30/08 at Pittsburgh TV Pittsburgh, Pa. L
09/06/08 vs. Minnesota TV Bowling Green, Ohio W
09/13/08 at Boise State Boise, Idaho L
09/27/08 at Wyoming TV Laramie, Wyo. W
10/04/08 vs. Eastern Michigan Bowling Green, Ohio W
10/11/08 at Akron Akron, Ohio W
10/18/08 vs. Miami Bowling Green, Ohio W
10/25/08 at Northern Illinois DeKalb, Ill. L
11/01/08 vs. Kent State Bowling Green, Ohio L
11/08/08 at Ohio Athens, Ohio W
11/21/08 vs. Buffalo Bowling Green, Ohio W
11/28/08 at Toledo TV Toledo, Ohio W

So, I'm saying 8-4, and 6-2 in the MAC, and as I said before, a MAC East Championship.

Here's the rationale.

I don't think we win on the road against Pitt or against Boise-----until I see otherwise, I am going to assume that their stud RBs will rack the yards up against us and control the ball enough that they win in the end.

I think Wyoming will be tough, but I'm going to take a road win there, and I'm going to hope that the Doyt Mojo works and we take Minnesota down in front of a huge crowd, much as we did against Missouri all those years ago.

In the conference, I see us losing twice. I don't think we can run the table on the road, but also think we should beat Akron and Ohio U, and that leaves a loss to Toledo or to NIU. I'm not picking us to lose to Toledo (I'm just not) so NIU it is.

At home, I think we beat everyone except Kent--there, I'm going to call for Eugene Jarvis to top 200 yards and beat us. The key game is obviously Miami, and I wrote about that earlier in the week. I'm going to figure that Miami also loses twice, and Kent loses 3 somewhere along the line, in case anyone is keeping track.

We'll check back in December to see how that worked out....

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Falcon Updates

Jack Carle in the Sentinel has this, with Anthony Turner talking about being a WR. He gets to run around a lot, and get hit, and he seems to be taking to it pretty well. As I've said before, I hope we get AT onto the field, because I think he makes us difficult to defend, and he saved last season.

The official depth chart isn't due until Monday, but Ryan in his Bladeblog makes his predictions, which you can see by clicking here. A couple notes:

  • He sees AT pretty far down the WR rotation.
  • Jarrett Sanderson looks to be starting at LB....man, how depth has hit us there.
  • Brady Minturn has beaten out Aaron Kent at LT.
  • I'm not sure how deep we are in the defensive backfield.
Ryan also has a story on Tim Martz, son of evil offensive genius Mike Martz. Tim is serving as a grad assistant on the Falcon team this season. Note this:

Tim, 26, did not have much of a resume. So Tim loaded up his truck and traveled across the Midwest and along the Eastern Seaboard, promoting himself as a worthy college coaching candidate.
Welcome to the Falcons, Tim.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Oh Yeah....

I did promise to compare how we did with the media, other MAC bloggers, etc.

Here's a spreadsheet I built with the picks in it. We'll look again in December

And.....the East

I've put lots of thought into this pick. Of course, my heart desperately wants to see Bowling Green play for the MAC Title. And at the end of last season I was pretty sure we would win this year, with what we had coming back.

  • Then, the debacle in Mobile.
  • Then, a thin D-line corps is thinned out more.
  • Then, a key LB leaves school.

And I started to wonder.

Its incredibly close. Both BG and Miami have 17 starters back. And while we had the better record, the RedHawks beat us like a rented mule in our head to head meeting.

There's more. In our cross-over games, we BOTH go to Toledo and NIU. We both host Kent and Buffalo. I just think there is a razor's edge between these two teams.

I am picking BG, call me a slappy if you like. The reasons are:

  • Miami plays BG in BG.
  • Miami plays Ball in its third crossover game while we play EMU.
  • BG is stronger at QB in a QB's game.

It would not surprise me if Miami wins the East, but I'm going to pick BG

1. BG
2. Miami

See above.

3. Kent

Two years ago, Kent was on the comeback trail. Then, shit happened. They were ravaged at QB last season. They have the league's best running back in Eugene Jarvis. They had some close losses...I think Kent could challenge to win the East. They play @Miami and @BG in consecutive weeks, which is part of why its hard to see them winning.


4. Temple

Temple is on the rise. They are a year away. Temple will win a MAC division title within three seasons. QB is still weak, but the defense will help.

5. Buffalo

Buffalo is coming on fast. They also have BG and Miami on the road and have a really poor defense. Still, they are dangerous.

6. OU

Got Frank? Got no offense. Defense only average.

7. Akron

Wow, how quickly this happened. They lost a lot of guys off an average team. I always thought Brookhart could coach, so I'm going to assume that he will turn things around, especially with better facilities on the way next year.

New Football Verbal, Patrick Nicely

Via the Plain Dealer, we have a new Falcon verbal recruit to the football team. He's Patrick Nicely of Willoughby, a QB who seems to have generated some buzz. Rivals says he is a three-star QB and a "super steal" for the MAC program. ESPN also has good things to say and ranks him #100 at QB. If nothing else, he's 6'4 and 217, though he is listed as a "pro style" QB. See below.

Nicely passed for 1,700 yards, 12 touchdowns and 12 interceptions on a 3-7 team last season.
Welcome to the Falcons, Patrick.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Another humbling Day, as I pick the divisions, starting in the West

Of course, what's the point of being a blogger if you don't get the opportunity to toss around your uninformed opinion all the time? My guess is as good as anyone's as to who will rule the MAC......(and that probably isn't very good.) Here, with accompanying rationale, are my picks for the MAC this year, starting with the West.

1. WMU

That's right, you heard me. Right out of the box, I'm going against the wind and picking Central to get beat this year. Here are my reasons.

  • Winning three times is very difficult.
  • WMU was darn close to being really good last season.
  • WMU has a good D and a good enough O to torch CMU's D.
  • Yes, the two teams play in Mt. Pleasant, but CMU has not historically been that tough at home and I think WMU can pull the upset.

2. CMU

See above. Injuries, karma, etc, come back to keep CMU from doing it all 3 years in a row.

3. Ball State

The current darling program, I believe they will take a step back this year. They benefited from a ridiculous turnover advantage--that usually doesn't happen twice, and, Phil Steele says that something like 1/3 of these teams (with big TO ratios) have worse records the next year. I think Ball steps back a little this season.

4. UT

The Rockets are on their way back, but they won't be back yet. I'm not convinced that their QB play is championship caliber, and I don't think their front 7 is there yet. These other teams are simply too strong. If they upset Ball State early in October, things could be happening. They will have to win in November at WMU.

5. EMU

This might be EMU''s best team in recent memory, which, while not saying much, is something. They are improving, and I think they will surprise people this year with an upset or two.

6. NIU--While Phil Steele really likes NIU, I just think NIU has too far to come against the competition in this division, especially at QB. They host both Miami and BG and will have a huge role in deciding who wins the East.

Tomorrow.....The Beast that is the East

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Snort, giggle, laugh, etc



Went to see the Tigers today, and what did I see? (Besides the Orioles kicking the crap out of the Tigers?) A super-life sized portrait of Dan Lefevour attempting to get Detroit football fans to drive to Mt. Pleasant to watch the Chips.

Riiiiiiggghhhht.

I looked it up. Its 154 miles from Detroit to Mt. Pleasant. The football ain't gonna be that good. This would be a doomed effort if Mt. Pleasant was 50 miles away.

In fact, just to dumb the effort down even more, the poster uses lots of automotive metaphors....."high octane" and "more miles to the game." Because, well, you know, Detroit is the Motor City. That's the kind of thing they respond to, right? Verrrry clever.

(Maybe they should have tried something like "our Mayor has never been in jail" or "only our offense is deadly")

And then, there's a slap at the Lions, too, (and the poster is at the entrance just across from Ford Field. "Champions come standard here." (OK, that's a combo--a Lions slap and a dumb car pun.)

You know, you keep hearing that MAC teams have to do something different to draw crowds. Apparently that is a dangerous message. I hope CMU is trying just as hard (or harder) to improve their fan base in Saginaw (50 miles) where they can get a better return.

Meanwhile, it gave me a good laugh, so it isn't all bad.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Notes from the the Media

Ryan is back in his blog, and Jack Carle has an informative article in the Sentinel.....let's review.

First, Ryan carries on about how he doesn't like fantasy football. He also doesn't like blogs...well, except one.

But maybe I’m being a little too critical of blogs and bloggers. This guys does great work … http://www.orangeandbrown.blogspot.com/

And we thank you for the compliment, sir.

Jack has a long story on the end of two-a-days, and talks with Coach Brandon. The biggest NEWS is the announcement that DJ Young, a OL that we moved over from DL has left the program. This is a shame, since it hits us right where we are lacking depth and experience. Safety Giovanni Fillari has mono....I'll be completely honest. I didn't know we even HAD Giovani Fillari.

Other things from the story:

Bowling Green is "light years ahead of where we were last year at this time and two years ago" as two-a-day football practice sessions end today.
We certainly hope this is true. It could easily be coach-talk, too.

Brandon said junior quarterback Tyler Sheehan has made significant progress from last season. He completed 63.7 percent of his passes in 2007, throwing for 3,264 yards with 23 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.

"He's more accurate. He's quicker with his reads. He's seeing things better," Brandon said.

The importance of this cannot be over-stated. I noted in an early season review that we need to score even more and stay on the field in order to win the MAC this year, and a deadly effective Sheehan is a perfect antidote. And quick reads will be really important give our offensive line's youth.

Brandon also likes the progress of quarterback Andrew Beam, a junior college transfer.
Cool.

Also, sophomore Willie Geter has stepped to the forefront at running back.

Ditto.

Freshmen offensive linemen Charles 'Chip' Robinson, Tim German and Marc Stevens, and Dbackers Keith Morgan and Marquese Quiles could contribute, too.

CAPTAINS: Offensive linemen Jeff Fink and Brandon Curtis, wide receiver Corey Partridge, cornerback Antonio Smith and linebacker John Haneline have been elected captains by their teammates.

INJURIES: Brandon hopes running back Eric Ransom can come back this season, but said "he's going to be out for a while," after suffering a knee injury in practice last Friday.

Too bad. What a shame.



Friday, August 15, 2008

Pre-Season Blog Poll

Ah, yes. The Blogpoll is back. One of the things that makes college football fun is the ability to participate in the Blogpoll...a fun attempt by lowly bloggers to show up the media and coaching experts who produce the polls you see in the paper.

In case you are curious, here is what the Blogpollmaster, Brian of mgoblog.com has to say about the philosophy behind the poll....

The BlogPoll's concept of the best team in a sentence: the BlogPoll attempts to rank teams in order of season quality. This is impossible to do before the season and silly to do in the first few weeks, and at these times the poll should be regarded as an approximate guess of which teams will end the year with the highest season quality.
Therefore, for example, I think Utah might very well end up in a BCS game. But, I don't see the quality of their season being that strong at this point. Time will tell.

I like Florida. I like Urban Meyer. I think OSU could easily end up in the BCS game, both because they are an outstanding, well-coached football team, and because the Big 10 is a relatively easy road to walk. But, I think Florida is absolutely loaded this year.

Other notes:

  • Gary Pinkel. Top 10 again. Can you believe it?
  • I think MSU is a sleeper. I like their coach.
  • I think Texas Tech is a little overrated. They have a tendency to suck really bad like twice a season.
  • Penn State...no kidding. I didn't believe it myself, but if you look close, well...who is better?
  • South Florida could also run the table, very easily. BCS sneak-in alert, there.
  • No MAC teams. Gotta be true to my poll. The Poll of integrity. Stuff like that.

OK, enough. Here is what I think...enjoy, comment, laugh.

RankTeamDelta
1 Florida 25
2 Ohio State 24
3 Georgia 23
4 Southern Cal 22
5 Oklahoma 21
6 Clemson 20
7 Missouri 19
8 Auburn 18
9 LSU 17
10 Texas 16
11 West Virginia 15
12 Penn State 14
13 Texas Tech 13
14 South Carolina 12
15 South Florida 11
16 Tennessee 10
17 Wisconsin 9
18 Oregon 8
19 Brigham Young 7
20 Virginia Tech 6
21 Florida State 5
22 Kansas 4
23 Utah 3
24 Pittsburgh 2
25 Michigan State 1

Dropped Out:

Xavier transfer coming to Bowling Green?

Via Azz.com, there is chatter on some Xavier blogs that we may get a hoops transfer from that program. Largely speculative at this point....

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Couple decent MAC Blog posts

Hey, just to draw attention to a couple decent MAC blog posts that didn't come from here, HA!

First, is from Red and Black Attack (NIU fanblog), looking at 5 non-MAC teams that will hate the MAC--ie, will struggle against MAC competition.

A couple comments. I don't think NIU will beat Minnesota, and I'm not as confident as he is that BG will either. And I don't think Michigan will lose to a MAC team this year.

But, its interesting to think that Indiana could very easily lose to two MAC teams this season since they play BSU and CMU. Has that ever happened? Both games are in Bloomington, so its hard to see them losing twice at home.

The other post is from Doug Zaleski
from the paper in Muncie. He notes something that I think is true, though we don't like to talk about it. Defense and the MAC appear (at least currently) to be two great tastes that don't go together.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Ryan's Blog updates Injury situations

The first confirmation of the Eric Ransom injury comes in Ryan's Bladeblog.....also, Derek Brighton, a WR is injured. He had a big game at MSU, if you recall, though he was pretty quiet after that.

Turns out Eric Ransom re-injured his knee Friday at practice. Coach Brandon said they are awaiting the results of an MRI, but obviously this doesn’t sound good. Ransom is easy to cheer for. Talk to him for a minute and you realize how much pride he has. Such a shame.

Also, Derek Brighton is out 6-8 weeks after undergoing surgery on his ankle today. Coach Brandon believes the injury occurred during the summer and worsened once camp started.

Beyond rooting for both these guys, I wonder if the Ransom injury will bring Anthony Turner back to RB?

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Ransom Down?

I don't usually report rumors, but there appears to be strong reason to think (via a normally reliable Azz.com poster) that Eric Ransom was injured again at practice, and it could be serious. That would be a real shame--he has been chased by injuries since he came North.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Former Falcon Does Right


Here's a great story by Shawn Windsor in the Free Press about Mike Weger and Lem Barney.Weger and Barney were the first inter-racial roommates in the NFL. When Barney fell on hard times, Weger was there to help.

"He called me out of the blue and said, 'I (screwed) up.' I told him I never stopped believing he was a good person. And he went about changing his life around."

Click the link to read more. It made my heart feel good.

Falcons Ink New Recruit for Hoops

The second verbal of the 2009 class is now, well, verballed. He's Luke Kraus from down the road in Findlay. He's a PG, third-team all-Ohio as a junior, and two-time player of the year in his conference. There's more in Ryan's Blade story here. Recruits are always hard to tell. I hope with an early verbal our coaches are pretty sure he can play in our conference, especially from an athletic standpoint. He did have some D1 offers from back East.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Lanner Falcon


Lanner Falcon
Originally uploaded by Pickersgill Reef
I will leave you with this image of a Falcon while I go on vacation. This blog will update against after August 10. Enjoy everyone.

Friday, August 01, 2008

20 Random Summer Thoughts, Musings, Ideas and Brain Farts on BG Football #3

Looking around at the predictions from our schedule. The Big 10 doesn't pick more than the top three. Wyoming is supposed to be fifth in the MWC. And Boise is a co-favorite to win the WAC.

And Ian Johnson is STILL playing at Boise? Are you kidding me? How long is that guy going to stay in college? He may gain a thousand yards this year....against us.

OK, a little black humor never killed anybody.