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We're talking big uns. By passing for 221 yards in leading Bowling Green to a 34-14 win over Northern Illinois on Saturday, Brian McClure, the Falcons' 6'6", 230-pound quarterback, moved to within sight, though probably not grasp, of immortality, leaving himself and his team un, un, un, un and un—undefeated, untied, underrated, unranked and, say some, untested. The last three of which are unfathomable to the Falcons and McClure. Understandable.
Consider that when McClure hit split end Stan Hunter with a 21-yarder in the third quarter, that yardage made him the second leading college passer of all time, moving him past Ben Bennett of Duke and to within 960 yards of alltime career leader Doug Flutie of Boston College. When, on the next play, McClure found Hunter again for 19 yards, it marked an NCAA-record 30 games in which he has passed for 200 or more yards, breaking by one the record held by Stanford's John Elway. McClure has also passed for 2,000 yards for the third straight season. By the end of the game, the Falcon quarterback was within 921 yards of Flutie's 10,579-yard record, but with only two games left, he probably will come up short.
"I put myself at the same level as Chuck Long and those guys," says McClure. "I don't think they're any better. But people look at me and say, 'Yeah, he's doing well, but look where he's playing.' "
Where McClure and the Falcons are playing is in the 10-team Mid-American Conference, which, although it's an NCAA Division I-A league, hasn't had a member in the nation's Top 20 since Miami of Ohio in 1975. Unimpressive.
"It's the BYU syndrome," says Bowling Green coach Denny Stolz, explaining the Falcons' and McClure's lack of national attention. "Because of the league they play in [the WAC], BYU had to win a lot of ball games before people believed in them. We're going to have to wear the voters down."
The Falcons and their quarterback must have won a few voters on Sept. 14 when McClure completed 30 of 48 for 309 yards and three TDs and directed a 76-yard scoring drive in the last two minutes to give Bowling Green a 30-26 upset of Kentucky. "They thought Bowling Green was in Kentucky," says McClure. Unforgivable.
The Kentucky game was typical of McClure's strong showing against top opponents. McClure and Bowling Green are likely to take the nation's longest undefeated streak (they are tied with Air Force at 12) to the comparatively obscure California Bowl ( MAC champ vs. PCAA champ) on Dec. 14 in Fresno. They will probably face currently undefeated (7-0-1) Fresno State in the only postseason clash of the unbeatens. And the unrecognized. It may be that McClure will get the recognition his abilities seem to warrant when he gets to the NFL. Unpredictable.
There is one theory that McClure's size (he is taller than any current NFL quarterback) may be the key to his success in the pros. Besides the obvious advantage of being able to see over the rush and not getting many passes blocked, McClure feels his frame "gives me extra strength. I get my body behind my arm. I can throw well even off balance." But that same body is a huge target for charging linemen. While Flutie used to duck under the arms of defenders like a kid slipping under a turnstile, McClure says, "When I duck, I'm Doug's size." Not that he has to duck much. The Falcons' superb offensive line has limited opponents to 13 quarterback sacks, while play-action passes with fakes to running back Bernard White, whose 17 touchdowns leads the nation, tend to confuse the rush. But, should the pocket break down, McClure lacks the speed to get himself out of trouble. Unsettling.
"He's in for culture shock when he gets up here," says the Denver Broncos' coordinator of college scouting, Reed Johnson. "Linemen and linebackers are better than what he's seeing now. The trend is toward the mobile quarterback who can avoid the rush."
"I'm not an outrun 'em kind of guy," says McClure of his 5.25 speed.