The 2007 season was a big one for BGSU football coach Gregg Brandon, but not because the Falcons went undefeated or added any hardware to the trophy case. This year was a big season for Brandon because the Falcons needed a turnaround.
When a college football team wins 37 games over a four-year period, the bar for success becomes a little higher. That’s what the Falcons did during the first four years Brandon coached at Bowling Green, the first two as offensive coordinator under Urban Meyer.
In his first two seasons as head coach, Brandon rolled up a 20-6 record that included a division title and two bowl wins. But in 2005, the Falcons slipped to 6-5. The 2006 season was a nightmare resulting in a 4-8 record. On top of the frustration were three straight losses to archrival Toledo. The drop in performance would make any booster restless.
The average fan doesn’t care that Brandon had to replace five assistant coaches, the team played eight road games in 2006 or that it was forced to play a total of 27 freshmen, 13 of which were true freshmen, during the season. The average fan only cares about wins, and a 4-8 record doesn’t cut it anymore at Bowling Green.
Brandon had another potential problem: a new athletic director that showed little interest in retaining the men’s basketball coach he publicly chastised. New athletic directors often like to put their own “stamp” on their athletic programs, which might not mean good news for a coach coming off a 4-8 season.
The 2007 season was Brandon’s fifth as the Falcons’ head football coach. That means no one can say you won with someone else’s recruits. So if a turnaround was to happen, it would happen because of Brandon.
When a turnaround happens, the last place you see it is in the win-loss column. Brandon said all along that improvement was coming. The coach was right.
The 2007 season started with a 32-31 upset win at Minnesota in overtime. Minnesota proved to be the Big Ten doormat in 2007, but the win showed three things: Brandon was aggressive as ever in gambling the game on a two-point conversion; the Falcons had found their quarterback in Tyler Sheehan; and the turnaround was underway.
The turnaround was not without a few bumps in the road. After falling apart in a 47-14 drubbing at Miami, the Falcons rebounded with a road win at Kent State only to see their division hopes go down the tubes with a disappointing loss at home to Ohio. At 4-4, BG could have packed it in, but they didn’t. The Falcons responded with wins over Akron and Eastern Michigan, but that wasn’t good enough for Brandon. He challenged his defense which was last in the MAC against the run, and again the Falcons responded by winning 31-17 at Buffalo and getting the Toledo monkey off their backs with a 37-10 drubbing of the Rockets.
“Thank God I’m a patient man,” joked Brandon of the turnaround. “We needed to stay the course. The pieces are in place for continued success.”
The truth is that Brandon willed that win in Minnesota, the same way he has willed a turnaround at BGSU. The rewards of a four-game improvement include the best overall record in the MAC, another bowl game and hopefully a new contract. Congratulations, Gregg, on a “big season.”
Norm Wamer is program director of Sports Radio 1470 “The Ticket” WLQR-AM and co-hosts “The Front Row” weekday afternoons from 3 to 6 p.m.