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November 30, 2023

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Week 3 Preview: Falcons prepare for top five matchup in Ann Arbor

Keira Ellenberger

Week three of college football is already here, and Bowling Green football is prepping for a game that many folks have had circled since the schedule released earlier this year – a road trip up to Ann Arbor to take on the No. 2 Michigan Wolverines.  

It’s not every day that a school like Bowling Green gets the opportunity to matchup against one of the top ranked programs in the country. 

“It’s an amazing opportunity to go out and play in front of probably 100,000 people, a night game in Michigan, against an amazing team,”  said sophomore cornerback Jalen Huskey at Monday’s press conference. “These kinds of opportunities are what look for to see where we’re at, not just for our season, but who we are as people.”  

100,000 people is a very big crowd, and it’s something Bowling Green isn’t accustomed to. Doyt Perry stadium has a capacity of only 24,000, not even a quarter of ‘The Big House,’ the nickname given to Michigan’s stadium.  

Even the record attendance for a Bowling Green football game (33,572) would only fill up a touch over a third of Michigan’s stadium.  

However, the team does have experience playing in bigger venues than the Doyt each of the last two years (Tennessee in 2021, Mississippi State in 2022), and handled it to the best of their ability.  

“Our kids walked into an awesome environment down in Tennessee, and I thought they handled it really well,” said Scot Loeffler Monday. “Cam [Orth] last year, played at Mississippi State, which is probably one of the most hostile and annoying, God-awful environments you could ever play in. So, our kids have handled playing in big environments, just like I said, you’ll run on that field, you’ll see it for a second, then as a football player, you start just playing football.” 

But Michigan Stadium can fit the most people of any college football stadium in the country.   

“You’ve got to be able to manage the environment – you’ve got to handle to crowd noise. You’ve got to walk in there and the respect that there’s 112,000 people there. At the end of the day, after the first snap, it’s playing football,” said Loeffler. “You generally lose sight of the fans and how big the place is. We’ve got to walk in there, handle the environment, really lock in on what we need to do, and go play our best game.”  

So how is the team going to go about drowning out the noise of the Michigan faithful?  


“Not every game is going to be the same,” said Huskey. “We’re not going to have the same crowds for every single game, but if you prepare and focus on doing your job on every single play, I think that can lessen the effect of how the crowd plays into it.” 

The crowd noise might not even be the biggest worry on the minds of the Falcons. 

Maybe it’s the offense that averaged 32.5 points per game through the first two games and that features as much firepower as a combustion engine. Or even the defense that has allowed opponents to score only 10 points through two weeks.  

“We’ve got our hands full; we look forward to the challenge. Super excited for our kids to go into that great stadium and compete against a National Championship type of team,” said Loeffler. “There’s not a position on the field that you see that has weakness.” 

Junior quarterback JJ McCarthy leads the charge for the Wolverines. He’s currently second in the Big Ten in passing yards (558), tied for the lead in passing touchdowns (5), and has the best quarterback rating in the entire conference.  

“He’s really good. I think the quarterback coach and obviously Coach Harbaugh, being a quarterback guy, has done an excellent job with him,” said Loeffler when asked about McCarthy. “He’s got a lot of weapons around. The run game is ridiculous, the offensive line is their strength without a doubt. He’s accurate and athletic. He’s one of those special ones at that position.”  

Joining McCarthy in the backfield is senior running back Blake Corum, who seems to be back to the player he was prior to a season-ending injury suffered late last season. Corum is top 10 in the conference in rushing yards (153), in a three-way tie for the lead in rushing touchdowns (4), and is fifth in yards per carry (6.1, minimum 15 carries). 

“Whenever you stop the run game, which is a challenge in itself. You’ve got to try to slow down their run game and try to get them in a situation where it’s a one-dimensional game,” said Loeffler.  

Not to mention their receivers, who have NFL written all over them.  

Two of the top five receiving yards leaders belong to the Wolverines. Roman Wilson ranks fourth, with 167 yards on just 10 catches, as well as being on the receiving end of five touchdowns, which comfortably puts him in the front of the conference in that category.  

His running mate, Cornelius Johnson, sits just 14 receiving yards behind him, good enough for fifth in the Big Ten (153).  

“It’s going to be an amazing opportunity just to see where we’re at as players. We haven’t really faced anybody of their nature yet this season, so I think it’s an amazing opportunity for us,” said Huskey.  

The secondary especially will be relying on the pass rush to get to McCarthy and force him to make some errors. According to, in Michigan’s Fiesta Bowl loss to TCU last season, McCarthy struggled when facing pressure. He completed just three of his eight pass attempts for 20 yards and a touchdown when the Horned Frogs brought the heat. When the pocket was clean, McCarthy only missed 10 passes, throwing for 323 yards and a touchdown on 17-27 passing.  

“We always love, especially in the back end, when you get a good rush. It helps our position be a lot easier,” said Huskey.  

Defensively, the Wolverines might be even tougher to handle than the offense.  

The unit returns three members of an All-Big Ten team, one at each level of the defense. They also had three all-conference honorable mentions.  

The unit stops the run, they stop the pass, and they hardly allow any points.  

Graduate defensive back Mike Sainristil is one of those players who was named an honorable mention last season. He was named a captain for the 2023 season. He’s tied for third on the team in tackles and has the team’s only interception this season.  

Graduate linebacker Michael Barrett was another honorable mention, and he, like Sainristil, was named a 2023 captain. He leads the team in total tackles and was named the team’s Defensive Player of the Week after recording five tackles against Michigan’s week one victory against Eastern Carolina.  

“They’re loaded in the back end. That’s what’s impressive,” said Loeffler. “Up front, they’re powerful. They play with their hands really well. The linebackers can run, but their secondary, I think, is one of the better secondaries I’ve ever seen. We had, when I was there, some excellent, excellent guys in the back end. I think they’re as talented as they’ve had there.” 

Luckily, Bowling Green rosters someone who has played against Michigan in his career and can hopefully share his experience with the coaches and his teammates to gameplan better. 

His name is Connor Bazelak. 

Last October against the Wolverines, Bazelak completed 25 of his 49 pass attempts for 203 yards, one touchdown and one interception as a member of the Indiana Hoosiers. Indiana lost the game 31-10, but he still put up a respectable stat line.  

The only issue: that game was played at Indiana. And Michigan still has their notes from the last time they faced off.  

“I feel like the biggest thing for us is just knowing that when he’s under pressure situations, last year we got a ton of pressure on him. He did a great job of just dumping the ball out of bounds,” said Sainristil on Tuesday. “We’ve just got to make sure we keep the main thing the main thing, make sure our coverage is tight. Help the D-line get a good rush. That’s what they’re known for.”  

Saturday will also mark Scot Loeffler’s first time back at The Big House as a head coach. He played quarterback for the Wolverines from 1993-1996 and coached there from 1996-1999 and from 2002-2007.  

Some of his closest friends are still involved with the Michigan program and his best memories from his time there are the relationships he made and has kept since then. 

“It all started with Coach Schembechler. Coach Schembechler is from my hometown, it’s probably the biggest reason I went to Michigan. Obviously, Coach [Larry] Moeller recruiting me. Lloyd Carr, who I consider a father figure without a doubt,” said Loeffler. “My roommate in college is the defensive line coach, Mike Elston, who’s a great man, great memories. Mike Hart and Ron Bellamy, who I coached that are the running back and receiver coaches. Dave Abaulf, who’s the media guy. Phil Johnson, who’s now the head trainer. Phil Bromley’s still the video guy. So, there’s a lot of people that are still there from when I was fortunate to be in those doors.”  

But despite the fact that he’s revisiting his old stomping grounds for the first time as a visiting head coach, Coach still means business. 

“You know, it’s a special week and all that, but at the end of the day it’s a football game. You got to go in, you got to prepare like heck, and the challenge we’re going to have is that I want to have the best Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday practice we’ve had. These last two weeks, we have not put those back to back,” said Loeffler. “When you’re playing the teams that we’re about ready to walk into, you’ve got to be on point.”   

Crazily enough, he’s not the only coach in this matchup with history the opposing school. 

Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh has his own ties to Bowling Green.  

His father, former Western Michigan and Western Kentucky head coach Jack Harbaugh, attended Bowling Green back in the 1950s. He played football under legendary head coach Doyt Perry and was on the 1959 championship team.  

After his playing career, he got his start in coaching as an assistant down the street at Perrysburg High School. 

Jack and his wife Jackie met at BGSU. Both Jim and his brother John were born while Jack was coaching at Perrysburg.  

After a few years away, they relocated back to Bowling Green when Jack took an assistant coach job at the university in 1968.  

“I could sing you ‘Ay Ziggy Zoomba’ if you want me to. Or he (Jack) can. That’s something that we’ve been around since we can first remember anything,” said Jim Harbaugh at Michigan’s Monday press conference. “My dad has been right there now for a couple of weeks telling us, ‘Bowling Green is going to come up here and kick your ass.”  

While the game itself isn’t the biggest storyline of the week, it’s the only one that’s going to matter come 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, September 16.  

For more stories related to BGSU Athletics, follow Falcon Media Sports Network on X (@bg_fmsn)

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