When 6-foot, 180-pound senior wide receiver Odieu Hiliare transferred to Bowling Green State University to play football, it was the Falcons’ gain and Alabama A&M’s loss.
During three seasons and 22 career games at A&M, Hiliare had 103 career receptions for 1,365 yards and 13 touchdowns.
In a single game, Bowling Green’s 42-35 victory over Toledo at the Glass Bowl on Tuesday, Hiliare made eight catches for a career-high 246 receiving yards and two touchdowns.
The 246 receiving yards are third all-time on the BGSU single-game ledger and are the second-most in the nation this season, just one yard shy of Ole Miss’ Jonathan Mingo’s efforts against Vanderbilt last month.
Despite the win over BGSU’s rival from 25 miles north, Hiliare said it’s on to the next game.
“That’s big (defeating Toledo). That’s great, but you’ve got to keep moving,” Hiliare said. “One thing about college football, there is a new Saturday (game) coming up, you’ve got to forget about that, watch film, fix those mistakes and go on and try to build on that.
“There are a lot of things we did in that game that need to be fixed, honestly, so we just go in and watch film, fix those mistakes and try to build on that,” Hiliare continued.
Hiliare has a catch in 33 straight games, which includes his career at A&M. It is tied for the 12th-best active streak in the nation. The A&M transfer now has 153 career receptions for 2,061 career receiving yards and 19 receiving touchdowns.
Hiliare, nicknamed “O.J.” by his teammates and the coaching staff, is just one among several talented receivers that senior quarterback Matt McDonald can throw to.
Junior wide receiver Tyrone Broden, the tallest in the nation at 6-7, 210 pounds, currently has 1,085 career receiving yards, reaching the 1,000-yard mark in the win over Western Michigan.
C.J. Lewis, a 6-3, 215-pound senior transfer from Boston College, has 80 career receptions for 1,155 receiving yards and eight touchdowns.
“I’ve been a part of really good wide receiver rooms,” BGSU coach Scot Loeffler said. “There were opportunities for O.J. this week. It could be opportunities for C.J. or Broden. That’s how the game goes.
“Not to talk about the past, but in the Western Michigan game, C.J. Lewis could have had as even an explosive game as O.J. did, and we just didn’t execute. We didn’t protect. We didn’t do this. We didn’t do that.”
BGSU is talented, Loeffler said.
“Tyrone Broden and O.J., and (6-2, 210 senior) Austin (Osborne) — they’re all really good players and we’ve got real good tight ends,” he said. “That’s the cool thing about the game. You don’t know who they’re going to take away. You don’t know who they’re going to double. I’m glad that we have other wide receivers besides O.J.”
Loeffler recognized that what Hiliare did against Toledo was extraordinary — something that will rarely be accomplished. Now he’ll have a target on his back when the Falcons play at Ohio University on Tuesday.
“Now, to take away from what O.J. did? Absolutely not,” Loeffler said. “But how about if we go down to OU and they double him? Someone’s got to step up.
“Tyrone Broden has to step up. CJ Lewis has to step up. Austin Osborne. That’s why you can’t get worried about the noise of what’s out there and all that other stuff. You have to focus on your job, locked in.
“O.J. would tell you the same thing. I mean, that’s football. He had great opportunities a couple days ago. I just know that your mind has be right because you never know in this game when it’s going to be your turn to have an explosive evening.”
Hiliare said that BGSU’s deep and talented receiving corps has helped him continue to grow as a player.
“It helps me grow tremendously because we come in, we compete every day,” Hiliare said. “For our receivers, its ‘let’s be better as a unit,’ because it takes everybody to win a game.
“That’s helped me grow tremendously as a player because every day C.J., Broden or Austin is going to give me their best, so I have to give it my best. It’s the only way you get better.
“It’s been a great experience. We are all from different playing experiences, we are all from different backgrounds, and I’ve learned a lot of things from those guys, and they’ve learned a lot of things from me.
“We are coming together, we are playing beautiful football right now, and that was the goal for us.”
Because they are transfers, Lewis and Hiliare joined the BGSU team this year, but as a senior and experienced player, Hiliare has already taken on a leadership role, which he relishes.
“Most definitely, but our leadership council is also a very big help so we have a lot of leaders on that team who also help me and we help each other, too, to get everybody else on the same page to go into those games to execute and get a win,” Hiliare said.
The final regular season game Tuesday at Ohio University’s Peden Stadium will help determine whether BGSU (6-5 overall, 5-2 MAC), Ohio (8-3, 6-1) or Buffalo (5-5, 4-2) will represent the East Division in the MAC championship game.