Bowling Green’s Barnes close to making history | NevadaAppeal.com

Bowling Green’s Barnes close to making history

Tim Booth

BOISE, Idaho (AP) – Everyone knows Freddie Barnes is going to get the ball.

And yet, no one has come close to stopping the Bowling Green receiving star.

About to play his final college game in Wednesday’s Humanitarian Bowl, Barnes has a chance at an NCAA record that’s stood for 20 years. Already with an eye-popping 138 catches this season, Barnes is five grabs shy of breaking the NCAA record for receptions in a single season (142) set by Houston’s Manny Hazard in 1989 as part of the Cougars’ run-and-shoot offense.

If Barnes is just average against Idaho (7-5) – he’s averaging 11.5 receptions per game – he could finish the year with 150 catches.

“The only time I ever think about it is when I get asked about it,” Barnes said Monday. “Other than that I’m constantly focused on what I can do to help us win.”

While Barnes might not be thinking about the numbers he’s posted, his presences is a giant headache for defensive coaches. The Falcons use Barnes in numerous formations and run him on a variety of routes – deep throws, short crosses, bubble screens – understanding that getting the ball to their 6-foot senior is the best motor for their offense.

Coach Dave Clawson didn’t plan on Barnes being THE Bowling Green offense when he took over the Falcons (7-5) last December. He understood during spring practice the talents Barnes possessed, but didn’t intend to develop his offense around a receiver.

Then injuries hit the Falcons’ receiving corps, with Clawson saying they lost four of their top five receivers for parts of the 2009 season. That’s led to the BG coaches having to become more creative to get Barnes free from defenses and in turn, making Barnes’ numbers even more impressive.

“He’s a great athlete and he finds ways to get open but the coaches do a good job of game planning and hiding him as much as possible,” BG quarterback Tyler Sheehan said. “Putting him in different positions as much as possible, putting him in different places so defenses can’t key on one area of the field.”

And he’s not doing it against weak competition. He had 10 catches at Missouri in a game the Falcons led 20-6 in the second half before falling late. He grabbed 17 passes against Marshall, 15 against Troy, 14 versus Central Michigan and the highlight of his season: 22 catches for 278 yards and three touchdowns against Kent State.

The only subpar performance of Barnes’ season came against Boise State when he was held to four catches for 24 yards. His 1,551 yards receiving are second in the nation and his 16 receiving touchdowns lead the country.

Idaho coach Robb Akey wouldn’t mind seeing the record broken, just as long as it’s within reason.

“I’d love to see that happen with five hitches for five total yards. That would make me very happy,” Akey joked. “He’s going to make some plays and that’s it.”

Barnes’ performance this season is a stark rebound from 2008, when he was injury-riddled and missed games for the first time in his career, derailing the momentum from a sophomore season when he caught 82 passes.

Barnes had shoulder and knee problems and admitted becoming depressed when he missed games. Barnes recalled the first game he missed, sitting in a movie theater trying to distract himself, but constantly checking his cell phone for updates while his team was playing at Northern Illinois.

That experience last year made Barnes rededicate himself for his final season, making sure he wouldn’t be worn down by little nicks and bumps. The result could be an NCAA record difficult to match in the future.

“It’s safe to say without the year Freddie had we wouldn’t be here,” Clawson said.