Finishing strong

From time-to-time the impact of a college football game extends outside the boundaries of the field and spills into the lives of those involved. For a few different reasons, when BG takes on Miami (OH) at 7 p.m., it will be just that type of game.

For 10 seniors, the game marks their final appearance at Doyt L. Perry Stadium, as the team wraps up its home schedule in front of a national audience on ESPN2.

But while some focus on the national audience, countless others are more concerned with the local audience. The game will need to pull in 22,000 paid ticket sales in order to avoid possible NCAA sanctions.

Still, players and coaches are focused in on one single objective – beating the conference rival RedHawks to send the seniors out of Doyt L. Perry in style.

“There is a lot to play for against Miami,” said senior defensive tackle Brad Williams. “There is a lot of history between these two teams – it’s a great rival, and they are looking at it the same way.”

Today’s game marks the 63rd meeting between the two teams, who first began their rivalry during the 1941 season. Since then, it’s been the team to the south getting the better of BG. The RedHawks own a 38-19-5 series edge.

Miami has not lost on the road to BG since 1997 and is riding a four-game winning streak in Doyt L. Perry Stadium.

Meanwhile, BG (4-6, 3-3) hopes to recover from its three consecutive road losses and earn a win in front of thousands of Falcon fans. Coach Gregg Brandon stresses the importance of players and fans buying into what this team has been about since the beginning.

“We’re not changing or we’re not going to throw stuff out just because we lost a couple games,” Brandon said. “That’s just the way it is right now.”

Despite some inconsistencies, the Falcons currently lead the Mid-American Conference in rushing offense (191.5), first downs (194) and third down conversions (42.6).

The RedHawks (1-9, 1-5) are also in the midst of a tough stretch. They have lost their last three games by a combined total of just 15 points. Regardless of records, Brandon states this is a great rivalry come kick off.

“I know they’re 1-9, but they’ve been competitive and that’s a storied program too,” Brandon said. “They have great tradition down there just like we have.”

BG will have to be especially careful with Miami’s standout receiver/kick returner, Ryne Robinson. Robinson is the nation’s active career leader in receiving yardage [3,520] and ranks among the MAC’s top five in both all-time receiving yards and receptions [241]. Last week he became the first receiver in Miami history to record consecutive 1,000-yard receiving seasons.

The coaching staff and team will prepare for Robinson much like they did for Ohio State’s Ted Ginn, only this time they’ll allow Robinson to return punts instead of kicking out of bounds.

“He’s a legitimate threat and we’ve been down this road before,” Brandon said. “Our staff has been in discussions about it.”

Rece Davis will handle the play-by-play while Mark May and Lou Holtz provide color analysis on ESPN2. Players insist they’re approaching the game as they would any other, but hope that the national spotlight and the home crowd will give them that little extra boost.

“Any time you play on national television it adds fuel to the fire and is extra motivation to go out there and play hard,” Williams said.

Offensive lineman Kory Lichtensteiger emphasized that with so many young players on the roster, closing out the season with success is the first step to getting the team motivated for next season.

“We really need to get things going right now,” Lichtensteiger said. “It’s not so much about accomplishments for this year, it’s about the future and getting this program back to where it needs to be.”