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Defense toughens up, hurt by deep ball

EAST LANSING – Through two difficult games, the BG defense has shown that they’ve made some definite strides from last season.

One week ago against Minnesota, the defense did all they could, but the Gophers’ power-running game of Amir Pinnix and Adam Weber caused a 21-0 BG lead to completely evaporate to 24-24 and spill into overtime. However, the Falcons’ ability to hang tough on both sides of the ball allowed them to win the game in overtime.

On Saturday, Michigan State presented an even bigger offensive challenge than Minnesota. 67,276 football fans packed Spartan Stadium in East Lansing, with a 55-18 drubbing of Alabama-Birmingham the week before fresh in their minds.

Throughout the game, BG would show MSU that it was a far cry from a matchup with UAB.

For the second week in a row, the Falcons hung tough on defense, making the Spartans work for every first down, every score. The game was closer than the 28-17 final.

“Our guys played with a ton of heart,” head coach Gregg Brandon said. “They kept hitting and sticking, and even got us the ball back at the end.”

After giving up a total of 239 total rushing yards to Amir Pinnix and Adam Weber a week ago, the Falcons came into Saturday’s game looking to stop the run more efficiently, which they did. They held the MSU power-running duo of Javon Ringer and Jehuu Caulcrick to a total of 136 yards, more than 100 yards less than a week before.

“Our game plan was to stop the run, make them beat us with the passing game,” said defensive lineman Sean O’Drobinak. “They’re a Big Ten football team, and they strive on power run, power run. That was our main goal, to stop it.”

With the MSU running game held in check for most of the game, quarterback Brian Hoyer had to deliver in the passing game to lead his team to a win. After giving up only 188 yards through the air to the Golden Gophers in week one, the Falcons surrendered 250 yards and two touchdowns to the Spartans Saturday.

Big plays were key at the beginning of the game and in the second half. MSU wideout Devin Thomas caught a Hoyer pass for 76 yards late in the first quarter. The huge gain set up the Spartans’ first touchdown, making it 7-0.

Midway through the third quarter, Thomas hauled in another deep pass for a 42-yard gain, setting up another score. MSU would not relinquish its lead after going up 21-14.

Even in a tough loss, there were still plenty of positives to look at. Linebacker John Haneline continued to come up big with 10 tackles, a sack and a forced fumble. As a whole, the Falcons forced three MSU turnovers.

BG held its own defensively for most of the game, and went into halftime tied at 14. Going into a bye week with the home opener against Temple and the start of Mid-American Conference play inching closer, there are plenty of things to build on.

“We have to get ready for MAC play,” Brandon said. “They were fighting through the end.”

“There were two plays [by Thomas]. He made a freak catch at one end and another down at the other end. He ran by us, he out-jumped us, and made two great plays. That’s it. I don’t think there was anything they executed offensively other than the two big plays,” he said.

“Still, we had our chances.”

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