Here is the injury report, as well as quotes and notes for the Falcons as they prepare for Saturday's contest at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass., against the University of Massachusetts.
- First is an update on sophomore running back Jamel Martin, who will not play Saturday. Coach Dave Clawson said Martin suffered knee ligament damage in the win over Miami and is done for the season.
- Much of the rest of the news from Wednesday's practice was good, at least on an injury front. Senior linebacker Dwayne Woods was wearing a yellow "do not hit" jersey but was involved with drills. He was working with the second team, with junior Paul Swan and sophomore D.J. Lynch running with the first time. Clawson said Woods "is improving, and is a lot better than at this point last week," and Clawson is optimistic Woods will be available for the UMass game.
- Junior TE Alex Bayer also was on the practice field Wednesday, also wearing a yellow "do not hit" jersey. Clawson said Bayer "looks better" than he did earlier in the week, and Clawson is optimistic Bayer will be available for Saturday.
- The Falcons also had two players back this week who were NOT wearing the yellow "do not hit" jerseys for the first time in a long time. Junior running back Jordan Hopgood seemed to be at full strength, as did senior wide receiver Bart Tanski. Clawson said both are at "full go" for Saturday.
- UMass coach Charlie Molnar announced Wednesday that he has lifted the suspension of one of the three players who did not play at Western Michigan Oct. 6. At this point, starting wide receiver Alan Williams and starting right guard Nick Speller remain suspended for the contest. Click here to read the story about these two suspensions.
- I have a feature on junior NG Ted Ouellet running in Thursday's paper, since Ouellet is a Massachusetts native who grew up roughly 15 minutes away from Gillette Stadium. I asked Ouellet what he thought the reason for BG's defense success has been, and he said, "We’re starting to hit our stride because I think people are getting more comfortable; they don’t have to think as much. You can play a lot faster and be more physical that way. I think we’ve been wearing teams down; in the second half you can sort of feel the other team quit.”
- Clawson said the victory over Miami might have been the Falcons' best "team" win this season. "Offensively, we had good balance: we ran the ball well, and we were very efficient throwing it," he said. "We did a lot of good things. On defense we did a nice job of shutting down their running game and making them one-dimensional, and I thought we did a great job of getting pressure on Miami and defended them pretty well.
"When I say 'team' win, both sides of the ball contributed to the other side having success. For instance, our offense had the ball for 37 minutes, and so when you keep a good offense off the field it helps you play well on defense. And conversely, the defense probably did the best job they've done all year of creating turnovers and creating field position for the offense. That was probably the most encouraging thing about that game: It seems that, for four quarters, both sides of the ball were in sync with one another and setting each other up for success."
- Clawson was asked about playing in Gillette Stadium, an NFL venue that will probably seem fairly empty for Saturday's game. "Our players enjoy playing in front of big crowds, whether it's home or away," he said. "We played at Temple two years ago, and it was a very similar set-up: We played at the Eagles Stadium, and they drew a nice crowd for a MAC team ... And in that stadium, it just seemed empty. I don't know if that creates an advantage for us.
"You've got to be ready for it. You've got to create your own juice and bring your own energy. You have to know they're not going to boo you too loud to motivate you, either."
- Clawson was asked if he was surprised by the development of the offensive line, which has three first-time starters in freshman Fahn Cooper and Alex Huettel along with junior-college transfer David "Chief" Kekuewa. "I'm not surprised by their progression, he said. "With three new starters there we knew there might be some growing pains. But looking at their 'strength' numbers, I knew this would be the strongest, firmest, most explosive line we've had since we've been here.
"In 2009 we had a very good offensive line, but we were really good at 'pass pro' -- that wasn't a group that really knocked people off the ball. With [Tyler Sheehan] and Freddie Barnes, they really didn't need to do that. This is a more physical group.
"When you play a freshman you know they're going to struggle early. You hope that, by the second half of the season, they're no longer freshmen. I think Alex has done that, and Fahn Cooper has progressed. I give a lot of credit to Dominic Flewellyn and Jordon Roussos. Those are the two guys who have played [before this year], and we told them early, 'It's your job to develop them.' Part of the reason we have moved people around is that I wanted Dominic between Chief and Cooper, because I thought he could help those guys, and Roussos is next to Huettel, and those guys can be very physical next to one another.
"I love our O-line, I really do. The cohesion, the chemistry in that room is the best it has been since 2009. ... The O-line is the heart and soul of a team. They are the heart, and all the blood flows through them. When that group is unselfish and tough and physical, and plays with great emotion and passion, that carries through the whole football team. That is something we have missed the past two years, and we have it again. And it's awesome having it."
- Flewellyn said the offensive line became a more cohesive group because of their work in the summer. "During the summer workouts we had to push each other," he said. "And we also had fun with each other, going to each other's house to eat or to play a game. I think everyone has respect for one another and the job they have to do. And when you have a group that is all friends and who respect one another, it's going to be easier to play together."
- Did going to a more run-oriented offense suit the offensive linemen? "I think so," Clawson said. "I don't know an offense who doesn't prefer [run blocking]. When you ask an offensive lineman, 'What is your favorite thing to do?' and they say, 'Pass pro,' I get a little nervous. And good O-lineman worth his salt wants to get low, fire out and knock people off the football.
"I always have loved the O-line. When I pop into meetings, I'm probably in the O-line meeting more than any other position group because I enjoy it so much. Those guys don't care how many touches they get or getting the ball; they just go play. There's no drama in that room this year. They show up and go."
- Flewellyn said the offensive linemen have enjoyed the recent opportunity to run the ball more. "In years past we couldn't put [the offense] on our backs because we weren't a strong running team," he said. "This year they are depending on us to make things happen for the team, and that's what we've been asking for. That's what every offensive lineman wants."
- Clawson said he was impressed with UMass on film, particularly their performance against Ohio. "They have some talented players there," Clawson said of the Minutemen. "Watching their Ohio game [on film], that wasn't a fluke. They didn't get lucky -- they went toe-to-toe with a nationally ranked team.
"[In that game] their quarterback played really well. They are playing a freshman quarterback, and he was on fire -- he made every throw. They have wide receivers who can do things after they catch [the ball] and they had good balance. [Their quarterback] looked really good in that game. When you play a freshman quarterback, you're going to experience some ups and downs. We went through that with [Matt Schilz] two years ago, and even a little bit last year, although less so. Their quarterback is going to be a very good player, and in that game you could see it."
- Junior linebacker Paul Swan said the Falcons have to ignore the winless record when preparing for UMass. "They are physical and very athletic," Swan said of the Minutemen. "Their quarterback is very skilled, and they have some weapons at running back and receiver. They are going to be a tough offense to stop, so we're going to have to bring our 'A' game.
- When Flewellyn was asked about having a "mean" attitude, I asked him if he has "mean" in him. "Yeah, I play offensive line -- I have a little bit of meanness," Flewellyn said. "But off the field I'm pretty nice."