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BOWLING GREEN - Nate Fry hopes that he can eventually become friends with the wind. Life for a punter at Bowling Green State University will be easier if you work out some sort of understanding with the ever-present prevailing jet stream.
Fry, a Findlay High grad who will be a redshirt sophomore for BG this fall, won the punting job for the Falcons during the past month, and averaged a little over 38 yards on his four punts yesterday in the BG spring game at Perry Stadium.
The Orange Team came up on the short end of a 24-19 score against the White Team in the loosely structured scrimmage that signifies the end of formal practice until training camp opens in August, but Fry got his kicks in punting the ball for both sides - both with and against the wind.
“You have to be able to deal with the wind, that's the biggest thing here,” Fry said. “You have to be consistent no matter what the wind is doing. It is not easy because the wind here is always moving around. I need to spend as much time as I can punting against the wind until I get comfortable with it.”
Fry, who was both a place-kicker and punter in high school, came to Bowling Green three years ago with the expressed goal of becoming a full-time kicker for the Falcons. He had set a school record at Findlay with 11 field goals and 16 extra points as a senior, and kicked a pair of 48-yard field goals.
But when Shaun Suisham beat out Fry for the kicking job last season, the former All-Ohioan turned his attention more towards punting. He backed up senior Pat Fleming at punter last fall when the Falcons went 9-3 and were ranked as high as No. 16 in the country, and then had to outperform junior college transfer Josef Timchenko from California this spring.
“Ever since the end of last season, my focus has been on being the No. 1 punter this year,” Fry said. “I wouldn't say I have it won yet, but I had a pretty good day punting here. But both of us need to learn how to punt better against the wind. When you're here in Bowling Green, you need to know how to handle the wind.”
Gregg Brandon, Bowling Green's first-year head coach, said Fry was clearly the best punter in camp this spring, and the job appears to be his if he remains consistent.
“Nate won the punting job, and for the most part today he did punt the ball pretty well,” Brandon said. “He handled some tough snaps out there. He hasn't kicked as much this spring because he's mostly been punting, and he's won that job.”
Josh Harris completed 20 of 29 passes to lead the White Team, and threw the winning touchdown pass to Derrick Lett from 25 yards with less than a minute to play. Lett had eight catches for 81 yards, while Cole Magner led the Orange team with eight receptions for 43 yards, and scored on a reception and a fumble recovery.
Other than Fry, the Falcons struggled on special teams.
“We got the good and the bad today,” Brandon said. “The kicking game snafus were just atrocious - the high snaps, off-center snaps, bobbling holds, the inaccuracy of our kickers. I challenged that group that they need to pick it up. In general, the sloppiness of the kicking game was disappointing.”
Brandon was happy with the work along the offensive line, where the Falcons are very thin this spring as a number of players rehab from injury.
“We had seven offensive linemen play; they never got a break and they were in there at least 100 snaps today,” he said. “Defensively the kids made some plays, and created some turnovers.”
The operation of the offenses was skewed a bit by the fact that quarterbacks Harris and Omar Jacobs wore blue jerseys and were off-limits to hits, so play was blown dead as soon as they were touched. Considering the way BG likes to run the quarterback, the position normally plays a big role in the offense.
Defensive lineman and Liberty Center grad Matt Leininger, who will be a sophomore in the fall, said the Falcons had a productive spring.
“There is a sense of relief now that spring ball is over,” Leininger said, “but also there is a high sense of encouragement over how much work everyone has done and how much better we are. If you put the two teams that were out there today together, we should be pretty good.”