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Flying high, but well-grounded

By Myron Medcalf

Star Tribune

Bowling Green pulled off an upset during college football’s opening weekend with a victory at then-No. 25 Pittsburgh. And even though in their home opener Saturday, the Falcons face a Gophers team they defeated a year ago on the road, they don’t want to become overconfident.

"It is going to be a big game," Bowling Green receiver Anthony Turner said. "We’re going to have a nice atmosphere, and the big thing for us right now will be trying to keep everyone focused. We need to kind of forget what happened this past weekend and move on to the new task at hand. But it’ll be hard. It’ll definitely be hard."

Bowling Green defeated the Panthers 27-17 — the first time Pitt had lost at home to a Mid-American Conference team. The Falcons capitalized on Pitt’s four turnovers, scored 27 of the game’s final 30 points and held the Panthers to 46 rushing yards in the final three quarters.

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"At halftime, we were talking about going out there and shutting them out in the second half, and if we could do that then we’d win this game," Bowling Green coach Gregg Brandon said. "We were ready to go out and surprise people."

That season-opening victory — Bowling Green received votes in both national polls this week — coupled with the Gophers’ 32-31 overtime loss to the Falcons a year ago sets the stage for the third matchup between the teams.

The Gophers’ trip to Bowling Green will mark the first time that a Big Ten squad has faced the Falcons on the road in more than 40 years. But that history — and last season’s — doesn’t concern a Gophers team that is coming off a 31-27 victory over Northern Illinois that ended a 10-game losing streak. But Minnesota knows it won’t be easy.

The Falcons return seven offensive starters and eight defensive starters from 2007 and appear to be a more polished group than they were a year ago, when they jumped to a 21-0 lead against the Gophers. Tyler Sheehan, who passed for 388 yards against Minnesota in his first career start last season, returns to pose a major threat to the Gophers’ secondary. The Gophers appeared improved overall on defense against Northern Illinois but were victimized by big passing plays.

Gophers coach Tim Brewster said his team must pressure Sheehan.

"Against these guys, we’ve got to get around Tyler because if you don’t get around him and disrupt him, get him off his rhythm a little bit, you’re probably not going be very successful," he said.

The Falcons aren’t the only team entering Saturday’s game with confidence. The Gophers also got off to a solid start last weekend with a victory in their opener, after going 1-11 last season.

Steve Davis, a senior linebacker, said his team enters Saturday’s game with a different attitude than it did last year.

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"It’s a lot more different" than going into last season’s game,’’ Davis said, "You’re confident; you’ve got a win under your belt."

For that reason, Brandon has encouraged the Falcons to put the Pitt victory behind them. That’s hard to do but necessary, he said.

"Well, we just watched Minnesota, and we won’t let down," he said. "They’re a vastly improved team. ... They’re built for the Big Ten. Again, we can’t be thinking about Pitt for too long or Minnesota will knock us in the jaw."

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