Posted by ESPN.com’s Graham Watson
During the past two weeks of the season, Bowling Green has proven itself to be one of the more surprising and formidable teams in the Mid-American Conference.
The Falcons recovered from a 14-0 deficit to reigning Sun Belt champion Troy on the opening weekend to win 31-14, and had No. 25 Missouri on the ropes late in the fourth quarter before losing 27-20.
First-year head coach Dave Clawson isn’t ready to say his team is better than he thought it might be when he took the job, but he has been impressed with the work ethic his team has shown the past couple weeks.
“The expectation that I had is that I just want our guys to play hard,” Clawson said during the MAC teleconference Monday. “I think if we go out there and we play hard and we have attention to detail and we take care of the football and play the field position game, I think we give ourselves a chance against anybody we play. We did that against Troy, we did that against Missouri for three quarters.
“I did think we got better from Week 1 Troy to Week 2 Missouri. Even though we didn’t win the Missouri game, we clearly made progress on both sides of the ball and special teams. And now we just want to continue that upward trend.”
Clawson pointed to third downs -- both offensively and defensively -- that changed the landscape in both games. Against Troy, the Falcons were able to convert third downs in the second half while keeping the Trojans off the field. Against Missouri, the Falcons held the Tigers to no third-conversions in the first half, but in the second half Missouri's defense started to hold the Bowling Green offense in check, which kept the Falcons defense on the field too long.
“It was a matter that we had some chances to make some plays that we didn’t make,” Clawson said. “In the Troy game we made those plays to get off the field in the second half. We played more plays than we wanted to on Saturday. Missouri has a very physical offensive line and they started taking a toll on us. Then we couldn’t get off the field when we had to.”
Clawson said despite the loss, his team showed great resiliency during its Sunday practice and he’s encouraged going into this week’s rivalry game against Marshall.
After Marshall and Bowling Green spent years battling each other in the 1950s, 60s and 70s, the two teams have met just six times since and haven’t played since 2004. Bowling Green holds a 20-7 advantage in the series, but are just 2-4 since the 1970s.
Clawson has seen his team handle the high of winning a big game and now he’s eager to see its response to a loss in a close game. He said if the Falcons could ride out the ebb and flow of the season that they’d have a good chance to be playing for divisional title, a bowl game or both at the end of the year.
“There’s certainly some positives we can take out of that [Missouri] game,” Clawson said. “We said when the year started, before the Troy game, that you go through the course of the football season and hopefully there’s going to be some really high moments and there’s going to be some low moments. The teams that are able to focus week-to-week, get better every single week, not get too high with the high and low with the lows, are the teams that usually end up standing at the end with a chance to play for something in November and that’s what we want.”