Here are a few notes and quotes as the Falcons prepare for Saturday's contest against UMass at Doyt Perry Stadium ...
- Most of the injury news regarding the Falcons has been good. Freshman offensive tackle Jacob Bennett, who was injured in the Akron contest, has practiced all week and is probable for Saturday. Quarterback Matt Johnson, who had his hand stepped on during the Akron contest, also has participated in practice this week and is expected to start against the Minutemen.
Senior safety Josh Pettus, who has missed the last two games with a knee injury, is doubtful for Saturday, while senior defensive tackle Ted Ouellet, who did not play against the Zips, is questionable for UMass. The Falcons also expect to get freshman running back Fred Coppet back for the UMass contest. Coppet has not played since suffering a hip injury at Indiana.
And sophomore cornerback Darrell Hunter has officially been lost for the season. Hunter, who has not played because of a wrist injury suffered during fall drills, will redshirt this year.
- Sophomore running back Travis Greene said he was struggling when the Falcons were struggling early in the Akron contest. “I was a little frustrated at first, but you have to hold those emotions inside,” he said. “After halftime we came out and executed better than we did in the first half.”
- Junior rover Gabe Martin explained why the Falcons defense didn't panic when Akron scored touchdowns on its first two drives. “They didn’t give us anything we hadn’t seen,” Martin said of the Zips. “We just weren’t fitting things the way we were supposed to. We weren’t playing aggressive enough. … And we were making plays on first and second downs, then giving up cheap penalties [on third down]. We were killing ourselves.”
- Sophomore quarterback Matt Johnson said he wasn't frustrated by the play of the offensive line in the first half of the Akron game, even though he was sacked six times. “If anything, I was frustrated with myself,” Johnson said. “I was missing some open throws, and I was a little bit banged up.”
- Coach Dave Clawson said BooBoo Gates is a player who has grown in his time at Bowling Green. “BooBoo has always been a guy who loves football,” Clawson said. “He brings energy to our practices every day. Where he has grown is in his overall understand of the defense. He always was physically talented; now he has become a smart, headsy player. He’s grown up off the field as well. He’s one of our best players, and he has become one of our best leaders. If we could have 20 of him, I’d take him.”
- Clawson also had praise for senior wide receiver Shaun Joplin, who has grown up a lot since coming to Bowling Green. “Right now he is our most productive receiver," Clawson said of Joplin. "He has made big plays … And the third-and-14 that we converted was as big a play as there was in the football game. That one play sort of shows Shaun’s development: three years ago he would have run the wrong route, two years ago he would have run the right route but wouldn’t have gotten to the sticks, and a year ago he may have done all that but not caught [the ball]. He ran the perfect route at the exact depth to get the first down, and he made a fingertip catch. He’s made a lot of those plays for us.
“When Shaun came out of high school, he had the skill set to be a receiver, but he was a more natural track athlete or basketball player. Football some times takes time to learn. He has had the skill set, but he had to learn coverages and how a defensive back plays you and how to release people, some players have to work at it. Shaun has worked at it. Maybe Shaun could have done this more last year if we had thrown the ball more, but he’s doing a great job for us.“I watched last year’s UMass game, and very early in the game we threw a bomb to him down the left sideline – and it went right through his hands. He was a basket case for the next half hour; he was almost inconsolable that he had dropped the ball. And that’s part of playing this game: You have to play the next play and put the last one behind you. He has grown a lot in the last year … On the second play of the [Akron] game we threw a slant to him, right on the numbers, and he dropped it. But he came back and made a lot of plays after that that were big plays for us.”
- UMass coach Charley Molnar said the Falcons improvement on offense starts with the play of quarterback Matt Johnson. “Their quarterback is where it really begins,” Molnar said. “Matt Johnson is a dual-threat quarterback. He really throws the ball well; his completion percentage is really over the top. He has a good command of the offense, and very rarely are they in the wrong play.”
- Molnar also joked when asked about what could be learned from last year's game. "I hope they watch the game film from last year, because that will make them really complacent,” he said.
- Molnar said there isn't much difference between the Falcons' defense last season and this year. “I thought they were the best in the league last year,” Molnar said. “And I would find it hard to believe there’s a better defense in the Mid-American Conference. Their guys are really playing well. They pursue the ball; they are gap sound; very rarely do they make mistakes, and rarely are they out of position. Rarely do they make mistakes that lead to big plays. And they play hard."
- Finally, Molnar said he feels the team isn't burdened by an 0-4 start or its poor record since he took over as coach last season. "This is a remarkably resilient group of young men,” Molnar said. “After every loss, the players have really shouldered the blame, and they put it upon themselves to get better every week.
“We have gotten better every week. It isn’t reflected in the win-loss column, but for a program like ours, where the players are so young, being consistent in our play is critical moving forward. … I think we will play better as the season goes on.”
- Clawson talked about the slow start against Akron, and about how he wasn't worried even when the Falcons fell behind 14-3. “A lot of the credit goes to Akron, which came out with a good plan and executed it well,” Clawson said. “We didn’t execute well. Certainly the positive is how we responded. I saw some real leadership in our program. There wasn’t finger-pointing on the sidelines; there wasn’t a sense of panic when we were down 14-3. In the last three quarters we executed much better.
“At halftime, Alex Bayer got the whole offense together [and said], ‘Guys, they aren’t stopping us. We’re better than this.’ And they were challenging each other in a positive way rather than getting on each other in a negative way.”
- Clawson said one position where the team has started slowly in recent games is on offense with the two freshman tackles starting. “Some of our guys start the game by feeling their way through early. For our tackles, it’s a new experience for them. They are redshirt freshmen who had only played four games – and Akron’s ends were good. They figured that out after the first series. … I think they got a little overwhelmed by the matchup. And instead of doing things the way they were coached, they tried to improvise – and that made problem worse."