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Published: Monday, 9/22/2003

Harris unhappy about offense


COLUMBUS - Quarterback Josh Harris was blunt when discussing the play of the Bowling Green State University offense at Ohio State Saturday.

“I don't think we played a very good football game offensively, I'll come right out and say it,” Harris said following the Falcons' 24-17 loss. “You guys saw it. It was disgusting, except for three drives.”

That assessment may be harsh, considering BG finished with 366 yards of total offense, the most the Buckeyes have allowed all season. The Falcons threw for 326 yards, also the most OSU has given up this season.

Bowling Green's touchdowns came on drives covering 87 and 80 yards, two of the three longest scoring drives Ohio State has surrendered this year. North Carolina State traveled 86 yards for the touchdown that sent the previous week's game into overtime.

Still, the Falcons' pitiful production in the middle two periods - 18 yards of total offense in the second quarter, and only 31 yards more in the third - spoiled the overall grade for BG's offense, which had averaged 50.7 points in its first three games.

“We weren't able to get into much of a rhythm in the second and third quarters, but I haven't seen anybody in I don't know how many games get into a rhythm against those guys,” BG coach Gregg Brandon said. “[Ohio State's] defense is aggressive and physical, and Josh had to be sharp and accurate and our kids had to hang onto the ball because they were getting whacked.”

The lack of balance from the Falcon offense - BG finished with just 40 rushing yards - didn't concern Brandon. That's because Ohio State has allowed its first four opponents to rush for a combined 96 yards, and Bowling Green's 40 rushing yards were the most OSU has allowed in a game this season.

“I didn't anticipate being able to run the ball, to be honest with you,” Brandon said. “Nobody has run the ball against these guys. And with our weapons, and the style of offense we have, I felt we could execute the short-passing game.”

The members of the Ohio State defense said they were willing to let the Falcons gain on short-yardage plays as long as no one broke a big play.

“We knew coming in that [Harris] was going to control his offense and make plays when he needed to make plays,” said Buckeye lineman Will Smith. “I think he did that, but I think we also forced him to make a lot of mistakes. He had a couple of turnovers, which I think turned the game around.”

And those turnovers and misplays still weighed on the mind of the BG quarterback following the game.

“To me, [our play on offense] was disgusting because their defense is a great defense. They're going to bend, but they're not going to break,” Harris said. “But they gave us opportunities to make plays, and we didn't make them. I didn't make the throw. We didn't catch the ball. We didn't block the guy.

“We didn't make the plays we had an opportunity to make, and that is why we lost the game. You're not going to win games if you don't make plays.”

VERY SPECIAL TEAMS: The Falcons have struggled a bit with special teams play early in the season, giving up 17.9 yards per kickoff return and 11.0 yards per punt return. And that was before BG faced one of the top return men in the country in Ohio State's Chris Gamble.

Yet Bowling Green limited Gamble's effectiveness, allowing him just 10 yards on three punt returns and 17 yards on a kickoff return.

BG continued its practice of kicking off short to one side of the field, limiting returns as much as possible. And left-footed punter Nate Fry would run to his left before kicking to a sideline, making for shorter, line-drive kicks that were easier to cover.

“Our kicking game was fairly effective,” Brandon said. “We didn't want to punt the ball to Gamble, and I told Fry to do that running punt thing so we could get it out of bounds. And I don't think [Gamble] hurt us too much.”

THE LAST WORD: Harris said receiver Cole Magner fired up the offense before a fourth-quarter spurt that saw BG drive 80 yards for a touchdown, then 28 yards after recovering an on-side kick to get a field goal.

When Magner was asked what he had said to his teammates, he had a quick reply. “Nothing I want to repeat here,” he said.

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