Falcons' coach looks at MU opener as key test

Two new head coaches will square off at Faurot Field Saturday in Columbia. Urban Meyer took a few minutes this week to talk with the local sports editor at the Bowling Green Sentinel, Jack Carle, and discuss his views of the game.

Saturday's matchup between Bowling Green and Missouri is not the end all for the Falcons.

"We have not set our season around beating Missouri," said new head coach Urban Meyer. "What we have set our season on is playing extremely hard,learning the new offense, playing team defense, taking care of the football and playing good special teams."

"That plan was put in place in December and that plan won't change whether we're playing the Green Bay Packers, the Missouri Tigers or Buffalo next week."

Kickoff Saturday is at 7:30 p.m. at the 68,349-seat Memorial Stadium in Columbia, Mo. It's the first game for Meyer as BG's head man. He replaced Gary Blackney who resigned after 10 years as the Falcons head coach.

The 37-year-old Meyer is the second-youngest head coach in Division I-A football this season.

"My main concern is just getting these guys to play hard," Meyer said,"(and) understand the work ethic that is demanded of them. Last night (Monday) we had a great practice, one of our better practices of the year," he continued.

"They're improved. I think they are buying into it. We just have to find out who good we are."

"We are going into this game with a bunch of guys who want to play hard."

Meyer said the Monday night practices will be a weekly thing, and could be under the new lights at Perry Stadium if needed.

GERLING TO START: Kurt Gerling, a 6-foot-2, 195 pound senior, will start at one of the receiver spots on Saturday. He is back in the lineup less than five months after undergoing surgery to repair a torn ACL.

"It makes me feel good that I was able to accomplish my goal, coming back from the injury and starting right away," Gerling said Tuesday afternoon."

"I'm just going to go out there and play the game like I know how and use these new techniques and tools the coaches have given me."

Gerling is eighth on BG¹s career list for receptions with 116 and seventh in career receiving yards with 1,755. He has caught at least one pass in each of his 29 games as a collegian.

"To start is a testimony as to what kind of kid he is," Meyer said. "It's not by accident that he's ready. It's not one of those things where you handed him a workout, and say we'll see you back here in August. The kid went nuts for three months, four months and he¹s going to be ready to go."

FILM EXCITEMENT: Meyer says he is excited after watching the game film of BG's 34-23 win over Toledo in 1999. Gary Pinkel, Toledo's head coach at the time, is now the head coach at Missouri.

In the 1999 game, current Falcon quarterback Andy Sahm was 20-of-30 passing for 302 yards with two TDs and no interceptions. Gerling had five catches for 79 yards and a score and Robert Redd, also expected to start Saturday, added eight catches for 128 yards and a TD.

"I didn't see one game like that last year as far as execution, effort and intensity by the offensive team," Meyer said. "I really studied (the 1999 game) because of the style of defense we're going to face."

INJURIES: Godfrey Lewis, expected to start at tailback, and Jason Van Dam, expected to start at tight end, are both out of Saturday's game. Lewis, 5-9, 190 junior, will be out for two to four weeks after undergoing arthrosopic surgery to repair a torn lateral meniscus in his knee.

Joe Alls, 5-10, 190 junior, and John Gibson, a 5-10, 220 senior, are the top options at tailback. Van Dam, 6-6, 260 sophomore, is sidelined with a concussion.

D'Monn Baker, 6-4, 260 sophomore, and Craig Jarrett, 6-2, 230 sophomore, a converted fullback, are the top tight ends this week.

TOUGH TO FOLLOW: Each of the last six Falcon head coaches have walked off the field with a victory in their Bowling Green debut. The victories range from Doyt Perry¹s 40-0 win over Defiance in 1955 to Blackney¹s 17-6 victory over Eastern Michigan in 1991.

ROAD WOES: This is the sixth straight season the Falcons open on the road. BG is looking for its first opening game non-conference road win since defeating Fresno State, 35-27, in 1983.

The Falcons are scheduled to open at home the next two years, (in 2002 against Tennessee Tech and in 2003 against Louisiana-Monroe).

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