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WVU football notebook: Bowling Green one of youngest teams in nation

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- Bowling Green comes to Mountaineer Field on Saturday, a week after a win against the 2010 Mid-American Conference champion established the Falcons as one of the  better MAC teams.

They happen to be one of the country's youngest, too. Bowling Green features 54 sophomores and 27 freshmen. The two-deep has 17 sophomores and 18 freshmen.

ROOT Sports will televise the 3:30 p.m. game against West Virginia.

"When you have a young football team, the whole key is to get them to go 100 mph," said third-year Coach Dave Clawson, whose team is 3-1 after beating Miami (Ohio). "Sometimes they might not all be going in the right direction, but if they're playing with effort, if they're playing hard and if they love to play, if the technique isn't perfect - maybe a guy doesn't have his left foot where it needs to be or his right foot where it needs to be - sometimes it covers up for those mistakes."

The Falcons have committed 11 turnovers and 25 penalties this season, but are also ranked No. 21 nationally in passing, scoring and total offense as well as No. 22 in total defense, No. 35 in scoring defense and No. 11 in pass efficiency defense.

Bowling Green, which plays a 4-2-5 scheme, is likely to start three sophomores and two freshmen in the secondary against WVU's third-ranked passing offense.

"They're very young in the secondary, but they've got a good defensive line coming back," Mountaineers Coach Dana Holgorsen said.

Defensive end Kevin Moore is a fifth-year senior and 6-foot-1, 295-pound junior Chris Jones got Holgorsen's attention as soon as he saw the Falcons on film. Jones has three sacks and 5.5 tackles for a loss this season.

"The guy that sticks out is Chris Jones," Holgorsen said. "He's a big, old dude in the middle there."

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THE FALCONS have 23 non-conference wins since 2001, the most in the MAC. Included are wins against BCS teams Missouri and Northwestern in 2001, Missouri and Kansas in 2002, Purdue and Northwestern in 2003, Minnesota in 2007 and Pitt in 2008. Bowling Green won road games against Missouri, Northwestern, Kansas, Purdue, Minnesota and Pitt.

The Falcons have won their last three games against Big East Conference opponents with the last loss coming to Pitt in 1999. The 22nd-ranked Mountaineers will be Bowling Green's 10th ranked opponent since 2003. The Falcons are 3-6.

"There are a lot of good, quality MAC opponents that aren't as quality as this one," Holgorsen said. "These guys have won a bunch of MAC championships, been to a bunch of bowl games the last 10 years and won a whole bunch of games against (BCS conference) members. It isn't a fill-in game. It's a quality opponent."

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WVU HAS had its special teams problems this season with college football's worst net punting and two return touchdowns by opponents, but the Falcons have had costly issues, too.

They scored a touchdown with 2.1 seconds to play at home against Wyoming to make the score 28-27, but Kyle Burkhardt missed the extra point.

It was the sixth time in the past 17 games when the outcome was decided on the final play. Bowling Green lost all six.

Burkhardt then missed his first extra-point attempt last week against Miami and Clawson switched to Stephen Stein. He made four extra points and a field goal in the 37-23 win. With that change came another, though. Clawson had to change holders and swapped Bart Tanski for fellow receiver Alex Bayer.

"Sometimes kickers can be a little high maintenance," Clawson said. "I think back to the baseball teams that have a pitcher who likes to have a certain catcher. Our kickers are like that.

"Burkhardt likes Tanski. Stein likes Bayer. They have a good rhythm with one another. When Stein got in there to kick, we made the change to the bullpen and brought Bayer in as the holder."

*  *  *

WEST VIRGINIA is No. 55 in third down conversions (24-for-55). The Falcons are No. 2 in third down defense (13-for-57) ...  The Falcons offense already has 22 plays of 20 or more yards, including eight touchdowns. WVU's offense has 21 20-yard plays and four scores, but the defense has allowed 13 20-yard plays and two touchdowns ... WVU is No. 101 in time of possession (27:14). Bowling Green is No. 14 (33:24) and 3-1 when it has the ball 31 minutes or more, including a win when it had the ball 40:19 in a 32-15 win at Idaho.

Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at mikec@dailymail.com or 304-319-1142.


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