Know a foe — Storyline and insight you need to know, to know the enemy
Matt Sussman, a Bowling Green graduate and proprietor of the Hustlebelt blog was kind enough to join us for this week’s opposing perspective.
Vandal Nation: What’s the mood around the Falcon fan base about the Idaho program? Obviously the H-Bowl loss spiraled Bowling Green in to a dismal 2010 season, but after dismantling Idaho in the 2011 opener the Falcons got back on track just a little. Is there still a little bit of a grudge there for the Vandals? Or is this just a winnable out of conference game after the money game at Florida?
Matt Sussman: At least for me, the Humanitarian Bowl loss was tempered by the fact that Freddie Barnes set the NCAA record for receptions in a season that game. But the loss still sucked, and the following year was expectedly painful given all that outgoing inherited talent such as Barnes and Tyler Sheehan. I was really excited at the Idaho victory last year, yes because of a slight revenge factor, but we saw new dimensions in their game such as, jeez, an actual no-foolin’ running game. (I was also partial to the 81-yard punt that rolled through the end zone.) UI’s loss to EWU definitely perks up the confidence for fans at least, but even they know a bad game on BG’s part can lead to an obvious loss.
VN: Tell us about Matt Schilz a little bit. He put on a deep ball clinic at the Kibbie Dome last season and looked fairly effective. He put the ball in the air 49 times at Florida and completed less than half of them. Put that performance into context a bit for us.
MS: I’d say the jury is still out on Schilz as a quarterback that can lead this team to a division title. He put together a great 12-play, 89-yard touchdown drive against UF. On other possessions he just couldn’t find the right guy to save his life. And on other plays, there were just some ridiculous drops by de-facto primary receiver Shaun Joplin. That’s another monkey wrench thrown into this equation: they didn’t lose many seniors, but those that did leave were mostly wide outs. UI will be a good test for everybody on that offense.
VN: The directions of both programs since the H-Bowl in 2009 seems pretty similar. Both programs had a season where they missed a bowl game by one game, and both programs had a 2-10 dismal year. Both programs enter this game at a 0-1 clip. It seems like from the outside looking in that Dave Clawson needs a bowl game for people to feel good about him coming back next year, as is the case with Robb Akey in Idaho. And this seems like a swing game that both programs need to get there.
MS: You always want a team with a losing record to improve, and improving from 5-7 would almost guarantee a bowl (given all the sanctions fluttering around the country). Any other finish to the season and the mood sours on Clawson, which has never been all that negative in the first place. If they lose to Idaho, depending on the type of loss this could certainly put some urgency on the program to do well in MAC play to save Clawson’s hide.
VN: How is Bowling Green defensively? Florida’s offensive struggles throwing the ball are well documented, but Bowling Green was still able to keep the Gators in check for most of the game until late. Are you surprised by that defensive performance?
MS: For the first time since I’ve cared about the team (12 years), this defense fascinates the heck out of me. They return 18 players on their defensive two-deep but they’re still incredibly young (Phil Steele rated their roster as 10th youngest in FBS). I’ve just never heard of those two things together before. What they’ve been relatively good at, even last year, is third down, and we saw that against Florida, too (5-for-16 against). But they are prone to allowing the big run or the big play, and that always hurts them. Given their relative experience, I knew their defense would be an emerging positive but despite the loss, holding UF to 27 was a big win.
Sean Kramer can be reached at email@example.com