Defense saves its best for last

Senior defensive end Sean O’Drobinak was on what he described as the highest of highs Friday night, and it had nothing to do with the Peace Pipe Trophy that the Falcons won back from Toledo. It will serve as a lasting physical reminder of what happened.

The 2007 rollercoaster was over, and BG had accomplished several missions in just one 60-minute stretch.

First, there was the decisive 37-10 victory over archrival Toledo. Then, with the victory, came the assurance that the Falcons will be playing in a bowl game somewhere in the near future. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, O’Drobinak and the rest of BG’s seniors were able to end their college careers at Doyt Perry Stadium on the best note possible, beating Toledo for the first time in three years.

“There’s no other feeling,” O’Drobinak said. “Last time we beat [Toledo] I was just standing on the sidelines. To actually contribute in this game and get the victory, I’m on cloud nine right now.”

The win served as BG’s defensive statement game, the one they’ve been striving for all along. It could be considered their best outing of the season. And it came at the most important time and against their biggest rival.

The Rockets came into the game as a force on offense. Running back Jalen Parmele was second in the Mid-American Conference in rushing with 1,429 yards and 14 touchdowns. As a team, Toledo featured the best total offense (459.9 yards per game) and best scoring offense (35 points per game) in the entire conference.

But in the game, BG was able to brush the statistics aside. Parmele, who averaged 129.9 yards a game all season, was held to just 82 and never reached the end zone. Three other UT rushers were held to -16 yards in total.

“The [defense] stepped up big time,” said BG coach Gregg Brandon. “Toledo’s offense has just been dynamic, scoring points and rushing the football, total offense. We really shut down the running game. I thought the kids did a great job stuffing the running game.”

Toledo’s passing game was a bit of a question mark coming into the game. Starting quarterback Aaron Opelt was out with an injury, so freshmen D.J. Lenehan and Clint Cochran split time under center.

Lenehan started the game but didn’t last too long, as BG pressure led him to some difficult throws. He exited the game with six completions for 54 yards. In stepped Cochran, who went 15 for 29 with 202 yards and a touchdown.

According to sophomore defensive lineman Michael Ream, the defense, especially the line, knew how to play.

“We knew if we could get in there and get the quarterback moving and not let him sit in the pocket and just pick us apart it would be hard for him to complete passes and get the offense going,” Ream said. “We knew stopping the run and getting pressure on the quarterback were the keys to shutting down that offense and that’s what we did.”

At the end of the day, the defense was playing not just for the win, but for one another. Not lost on their minds was O’Drobinak, one of their recently appointed team captains, a career tight end turned defensive end who has tried all season to lead by example.

“We challenged ourselves and told ourselves that we were going to play for O’Drobinak up here, knowing it was his last time to beat Toledo,” Ream said. “We all went out there and played for him.”

O’Drobinak wanted to do the same for the underclassmen.

“I played this game for my seniors, and I played it for the freshmen too,” O’Drobinak said. “They’re 1-0 against Toledo and they’ve got the opportunity to go 5-0 against them.”

“From here out, it’s their opportunity and I think the eleven other guys that I’m with, we showed them what to do.”

As a unit, BG had five tackles for a loss, a fumble recovery, six pass breakups and three sacks. Safety P.J. Mahone had two interceptions and 10 tackles. Freshman linebacker Glen Stanley led the team with 11 tackles.