When Bowling Green State University football takes on Ohio University Tuesday night in Athens, the Mid-American Conference East Division title is on the line.
Few saw the Falcons getting a shot at any kind of championship — during preseason media voting, BGSU received only one vote to win the division.
Most of the media may have not believed, but the Falcons did.
“(Coach Scot Loeffler) kept telling us that if we played our best, we could do anything, so to be in this situation now is kind of like unforeseen,” said D.J. Taylor, a 6-foot-1, 235-pound senior linebacker.
“So, it’s probably good that we are in this situation because everything we had planned at the beginning of the season is still right in front of us.”
Odieu Hiliare, a 6-0, 180-pound senior wide receiver, says not to even be pretentious. He said this team always had destiny that has become apparent in November.
“For us as a team, we just see it as that is how it is supposed to be, you know what I’m saying?” Hiliare said.
“In November, you are supposed to be playing beautiful football. Right now, we are playing beautiful football, and that’s the way it’s supposed to be, so no pressure or anything like that.”
The problem is, if BGSU (6-5 overall, 6-2 MAC) does beat Ohio (8-3, 6-2) at Peden Stadium’s Frank Solich Field (7 p.m. kickoff), they are going to need some help from Kent State when the Golden Flashes meet Buffalo (5-5, 4-2) on Nov. 26.
Originally, Buffalo was going to have to beat Akron and Kent State, but the Akron-Buffalo game Saturday was canceled because of severe weather, so Buffalo just needs to beat Kent State and hope BGSU defeats Ohio.
Unless, the Akron-Buffalo game is rescheduled, which could mean the MAC championship game scheduled for Ford Field on Dec. 3 would have to be pushed back. Toledo (7-4, 5-2) has already clinched the MAC West championship.
A decision regarding rescheduling the Akron-Buffalo contest will be made during the upcoming week, the MAC said.
For now, the Falcons are focused on beating the Bobcats and letting the chips fall where they may. That is all they can do.
They admit to being on a little bit of a high after defeating rival Toledo, 42-35, in front of a national television audience last Tuesday, so Hiliare said the Falcons will have to return to being grounded.
“We try to make every game like any other game. Our next game is our biggest game no matter who the opponent is,” Hiliare said.
“We are going to go into OU just like we are going to go into Toledo. We are going there to play a big game, and we’ll just try to do our best. Do better than last time — that’s what it is.”
Bobcats are challenging foe
On the season, the Falcons are averaging 24.7 points per game; their opponents have been averaging 32.8 points per game.
BGSU averages 105.6 rushing yards per game, while putting up an average of 237.5 yards per game through the air.
Currently, the Bobcats average 33.6 points, 138.1 rushing yards and 304.6 passing yards per game.
In the air, Ohio 6-5, 215-pound quarterback Kurtis Rourke, a Canadian native, is 244-for-353 for 3,256 yards and 25 touchdowns. Rourke has four rushing TDs on 249 yards.
On the ground, 6-0, 200-pound freshman running back Sieh Bangura has net 788 rushing yards with 10 touchdowns.
Sam Wiglusz, a 5-11, 185-pound graduate student receiver, leads the receivers with 65 catches and 10 touchdowns on 794 yards.
Keye Thompson, a 6-0, 230-pound senior linebacker, leads the defense with 85 tackles, 43 of which are solo. He has five pass breakups, three quarterback hurries, one fumble recovery and one forced fumble.
Bryce Houston, a 5-11, 235-pound senior linebacker, has 58 tackles, eight tackles for loss and six quarterback hurries while 5-10, 187-pound sixth-year safety Alvin Floyd is just behind him with 57 tackles and four pass breakups.
“They are a great team,” Hiliare said. “Their defense flies around, they have great linebackers, great DBs, athletes on the field. They play sound football, very technical football. We have to come in and prepare really well for them.
“It’s college football. It happens every week. You go in to win, you ride highs and ride with the lows, so for us, it’s just let those bad things go and try to fix them and go into OU and try to make that game a meaningful win,” Hiliare continued.
Loeffler said the Falcons will have to be up to the challenge on both sides of the ball.
“Our defensive line is the strength of our football team. As we all know, they’re pretty good. They have to play great, and it all starts up front,” Loeffler said.
“We have to play great with our offensive line, our defensive line, because I think they’re both really, really good. They’re well-coached and tough. We’re just really fired up for the opportunity to play.
“Not only are they good, but you can also see on tape they’re a first-class organization. There’s zero bickering back and forth.
“I’ve got great respect for (former) coach (Frank) Solich and how he built that program, and his counterpart (Tim Albin) is doing the same exact thing. They are first-class, they play hard and I’m excited. I just want to go down there and play our best and see what happens.”