Toledo coach Matt Campbell talked during the preseason of lightening the load on David Fluellen, his talented senior running back out of Lockport. And the Rockets have gone easy on Fluellen, as a runner anyway, while making greater use of him as a receiver out of the backfield.
Fluellen doubled his career high with 10 receptions good for 100 yards in Saturday’s 38-23 loss at Missouri. He also rushed 17 times for 111 yards after carrying just nine times with three receptions in a season-opening loss at Florida.
“He had a tremendous game,” Campbell said on Monday’s Mid-American Conference coaches teleconference. “David I really feel is one of the premier running backs in the country. He’s a young guy where you ask, ‘What does David do well?’ He does everything well.”
“He catches the ball extremely well out of the backfield. He’s certainly a talented runner when he has the ball in the running game. On top of that, he’s a great blocker. So when you have a young guy who can do all three of those things and schematically they gave us the ability to get the ball to him … and certainly we were able to take advantage of it.”
Fluellen (6-foot, 215) was placed on the Doak Walker and Maxwell Award watch lists before the season. The former All-WNY and all-state back was eighth in the country in rushing last year at 124.8 yards a game.
Falcons’ QB issue settled
There’s a strong case that Alex Neutz should have been MAC East Offensive Player of the Week. The UB senior torched 23rd-ranked Baylor for six catches good for 197 yards and a touchdown Saturday. He barely played in the second half.
But when one considers the magnitude of UB’s defeat (70-13), the MAC made the solid choice going with Bowling Green sophomore quarterback Matt Johnson. Making his first career start, Johnson completed 19-of-25 throws for 357 yards and two scores as the Falcons, down five late in the first half, opened conference play with a vital 41-22 victory at Kent State.
BG head coach Dave Clawson (Lew-Port) let the QB competition play out late into training camp before naming fifth-year senior Matt Schliz the starter. He had a change of heart on the third series of the season opener against Tulsa and Johnson has rewarded his coach’s openness to change.
“With our quarterback situation, the one thing that helped us is the skills set of the two quarterbacks is just roughly the same,” Clawson said. “Both of those guys kind of do the same things. Matt’s just executed the offense very well and he’s made some plays with his feet that have really helped us and that’s something, that’s a dimension I think he’s given the offense that maybe we didn’t have as much of.”
Kent shredded Bowling Green’s heralded defense for 22 first-half points even with dynamic Dri Archer (foot) a scratch. Once adjustments were made, BG (2-0) dominated the second half and look like the team to beat in the East.
It’s a process
Western Michigan showed better than advertised in its season-opening 26-13 loss at Michigan State. And then what happened? The Broncos dropped their home opener to FCS Nicholls State, 27-23, before a crowd of 24,163. WMU fell behind, 21-9, rallied to lead, 23-21, and then surrendered two fourth-quarter field goals.
“One thing about this football team, we got to learn how to win,” first-year coach P.J. Fleck said. “We’re very young, very inexperienced. Not an excuse, just we know who we are and we are who we are.”
The Broncos were driving for a go-ahead touchdown when Tyler Van Tubbergen was intercepted at the goal line on a second-down play from the Nicholls State 24 with 33 seconds left. Van Tubbergen, a senior, was just 24 of 43 for 254 with two picks after missing the second half of the Michigan State game with a concussion.
“Tyler’s our starting quarterback and to be honest the two picks were not Tyler’s fault,” Fleck said. “He threw two good balls to two open guys and the receivers, we weren’t aggressive enough. We drifted on our routes and let the defender cut underneath us. Tyler did a nice job with the reads all game.”
Here’s the MAC Players of the Week beyond Johnson:
East: Defense—Jovon Johnson, LB, Ohio, with a fumble recovery and a 42-yard pick for a TD against North Texas. Special Teams – Miami punter Zac Murphy averaged 47.6 yards on six kicks against Kentucky.
West: Offense—Ball State QB Keith Wenning went 23-32-325-2 in a rout of Army. Defense – Ball State’s Nathan Ollie produced eight tackles and a sack. Special Teams – Jeremiah Detmer of Toledo made three field goal attempts, two of them over 40 yards, at Missouri.
Games of the week
Bowling Green, now receiving votes in the national polls, risks that momentum when it plays at Big 10 Indiana at noon Saturday (ESPNU). Even though it’s a step up in class for the Falcons, a loss wouldn’t wear well after the Hoosiers fell at home to Navy Saturday.
On the flip side, nothing’s a given when Toledo hosts FCS Eastern Washington on Saturday night. The Eagles of the Big Sky Conference knocked off then-No. 25 Oregon State, 49-46, in the season opener and are averaging 46 points through two games.
What has all this up-scheduling done for the MAC (Kent’s at LSU Saturday, WMU at Northwestern, Akron at (cough) Michigan? It’s the only FBS conference in the country with five teams winless after playing at least two games (Buffalo, WMU, Toledo, Massachusetts and Miami).