Bowling Green coach Dave Clawson didn’t patronize his team when it went into its bye week at 3-5 about a month ago.
He knew that if the Falcons were going to have any shot of going to a bowl game in his first season as head coach, they’d probably have to win-out.
“I think they knew exactly what they were up against,” Clawson said. “When we were 3-5, I said, 'Guys, we probably need to get to 7-5, but the only way we can get to 7-5 is first by being 4-5.' We just kept our approach that it was a one-week season.”
While the Falcons didn’t have any teams with winning records remaining on their schedule, they weren’t exactly running away with wins. So, they had to get focused and use all that they learned during their previous eight games and apply it through the stretch run.
With one game against Toledo remaining in the season, Bowling Green is 6-5 and one game away from realizing its goal.
“The way the national landscape is setting up with the possibility of at-large teams at 7-5, I don’t think there’s going to be a lot of them,” Clawson said. “There’s certainly no guarantee, but it looks pretty promising that at 7-5 we would be in a bowl.”
Bowling Green could take a lot from its losses because every single one was to a team that’s now bowl eligible and four of the five were to teams with seven or more wins. The Falcons only lost two of the games -- against Boise State and Central Michigan -- by double-digits. The other three losses were by a touchdown.
“We never felt like a losing football team,” Clawson said. “We always practiced hard. I’ve coached teams where maybe the frustration of not winning a couple in a row affects how you practice. Our Tuesday practices have been really good practices even when we lost a couple in a row in September. As long as you practice well, you have a chance to get better and you give yourself a chance to win games.”
Now, the Falcons have a chance to claim that seventh win against rival Toledo. The two teams play for the Peace Pipe; they’ve been doing so since 1919. Toledo leads the series 15-14, but Bowling Green has won the past two contests in impressive fashion. The Rockets are playing their third quarterback this season as the position has been decimated by injuries. The team has lost three of its last four.
“It’s been a very rewarding season,” Clawson said. “It was really neat to see our guys fight back from 1-4 to now get ourselves bowl eligible at 6-5 and now finish off with a huge, huge football game against a well-coached and very good team.”