Well, the midweek game last week, combined with men's basketball games on both Monday and Tuesday (on the road) certainly has blown up my week this week. Better late than never, here is the injury report, as well as a few other notes for the Falcons as they prepare for Saturday's contest against Kent State at the Doyt.
- First is a bit of bad news regarding junior safety BooBoo Gates, who was injured in the Ohio game. Coach Dave Clawson said Gates tried to practice on Wednesday but was "limited." By the time I reached practice, Gates was on the sidelines. Clawson said Gates would be a "game-time decision" for the Kent State game, with Josh Pettus replacing him at safety.
- Among the players who wore yellow "do not hit" jerseys on Wednesday were Gates and sophomore defensive end Bryan Thomas. Thomas is coming back from a right knee injury, and Clawson said "I think we will have him" when asked about his availability for Saturday's game.
As for other injuries: all of the other potential injured players that have been talked about on recent days -- RBs Anthon Samuel and Andre Givens, DL Ted Ouellet, and anyone else you can think of -- practiced Wednesday and at this point are going to play Saturday.
- Coach Clawson talked about the difference between this year's 7-3 team and last year's 5-6 club. "Right now we're a team that's finding a way to win as opposed to a year ago, where we a team that found ways to lose," he said. "Part of it is maturity -- kids being older and having more experience. But I also think the investment our players are making each and every week is really showing up on game day."
- Clawson talked about the reason for the Falcons' success on defense against the Ohio offense. "I thought the key was that we limited their explosive plays," he said. "Ohio has a lot of very explosive playmakers. Certainly the quarterback [Tyler Tettleton], containing him was critical. I thought our defense did a great job of following the plan and executing the plan. And we made a lot of plays on the perimeter."
- While much has been made about the running games of the two teams, Clawson also talked about the quarterback play Kent State has received from Spencer Keith. "Their quarterback is playing really well," Clawson said. "Keith is a four-year starter for them. I think at a point last year he was more of a game manager, and now he has become a playmaker. He makes plays with his feet, he's throwing the ball better than he has in the four years we have faced him, and he hits the open man. I think he gets them into the run plays they want to get in to, and when the box is outnumbers he'll check out of it and get to pass plays. I think he is playing at a high level."
- Clawson characterized the Kent State defense as "disruptive." "They bring more safeties and corners and zone blitzes than any team we've played," Clawson said. "It really starts inside for them. Their two tackles, [Roosevelt] Nix and [Dana] Brown I think are as good as any combo we have faced in the league. At the second level [MLB Luke] Batton and [C.J.] Malauulu are very good players. And in the back they've got two all-conference guys in [cornerback Norman] Wolfe and [safety Luke] Wollet. At every level of their defense they have an all-conference player."
It's not hard to see what Clawson meant when he called the Flashes "disruptive." Kent State has forced 30 turnovers this season, and no FBS school has created more. KSU is plus-2.00 in turnover margin this year, and that is tied for the best mark in the country. Who are the Golden Flashes tied with? Kansas State, the No. 1-ranked team in the country.
"If you look at their [2-deep], their defense is senior, senior, junior, senior," said TE Alex Bayer about the Flashes, who have seven seniors, three juniors and one sophomore listed as their starters. "They have a lot of experience, and it's a big reason why they have had success this season. Kent State has a very good defense. They pose a lot of problems because they like to move around and they like to do a lot of twists and disguise their defense."
- Clawson was asked if focus was a problem as BG enters a game against a nationally ranked team in the spotlight of the MAC title chase. "I think it's actually easier to keep that focus," Clawson said. "When a team is going well and has good leadership, which this team does, this job becomes a lot of fun. Our team leaders take care of so many problems and handle so many issues and control the lockerroom in such a positive way ... Two years ago, when things weren't going as well, that's when the job is hard. That's when you really have to coach.
"When you have created the right culture in your lockerroom, and you have the right people in place ... this is fun. ..."
"This team is fun to coach, not just because of the ability levels, but because of the type of people they are and the type of young men that they are."
- For more on this topic, make sure you check out the column by The Blade's Dave Hackenberg that will appear in Friday's paper.
- BG tight end Alex Bayer was asked about playing such a "big" game at this point in the season. "I think for the last six weeks, each game has been like a MAC Championship for us," he said. "We couldn't be in this position this week if we didn't win last week, and that's the way it has been the last few weeks. That has been our mentality. ... Obviously the stakes are a lot higher than they were six weeks ago, but we're making the same preparations and using the same work ethic we have all season long.
"We wish it was Saturday right now -- we want to play. This is my fourth year here, and I've never played in a game of this magnitude here -- and same with a lot of the guys on this team. It's a big game, and we're all excited, but we can't overlook the little stuff -- we still have to come here on an everyday basis and have a good practice, a good lift and good meetings. If you do all that, you'll have a successful game on Saturday."