Wednesday, Apr 25, 2018
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OU's tenacious defense will test Falcons

BOWLING GREEN - The last time Bowling Green State University faced Ohio University on a football field, the Falcons buried the Bobcats under a 72-point blizzard.

Even though that game was only two years ago, BG will face a decidedly different Ohio team when the two teams meet tomorrow in Peden Stadium in Athens.

The main difference is the defense of the Bobcats, who lead the MAC in pass defense and total defense, allowing opponents just 182.6 passing yards and 301.6 yards of total offense per game.

Even more impressive are the 21 turnovers Ohio has forced this season, a number second in Division I-A only to Michigan's 23.

Ohio coach Brian Knorr said his team's fine defensive performance is based on speed.

"We have four linebackers, and three of them were high school secondary kids," Knorr said. "They all can run. Up front we're not 300 pounds - we're not even 290.

"Our defensive linemen can run pretty well, though, so we rely on speed.

"We have to be sound on gap control, but our ability to make plays and create turnovers relies on our speed."

That defense will be tested by a BG offense that averages 305.7 passing yards per game, ranking second to Toledo in the MAC and sixth-best nationally. The Falcons also rank fourth among Division I-A schools with a MAC-leading 41.5 points per game, a number quarterback Omar Jacobs said he and his teammates are confident will continue.

"That's our mentality: We can do this against anybody if we go out and execute on every play," Jacobs said.

While the Bobcat defense seems different because of its improved numbers, the Ohio offense is different because of a change in systems. The triple-option has been scrapped, replaced by a spread offense similar to that run by the Falcons.

In fact, Bowling Green coach Gregg Brandon sees similarities between the Bobcats and the BG program when he came on board in 2001.

"We were playing two quarterbacks, and we only had six players on our offensive line that year," Brandon said. "We had decent receivers and good backs, but we were in the middle of the pack on offense. And that's where they are right now."

The change in offensive philosophies doesn't happen overnight, Brandon said.

"Where you see the transition is in the line," he said. "They've all blocked that wishbone and triple-option stuff, and now they're asking their line to do something completely foreign."

That inexperience, combined with the use of two quarterbacks - senior Ryan Hawk and sophomore Austen Everson - makes for a simple defensive game plan for the Falcons: put pressure on whoever is calling signals for the Bobcats.

Toledo and Marshall used a similar tactic the previous two weeks and limited the Bobcat offense to only 22 total points and 542 yards of offense, or just 271 yards per game.

"Their quarterbacks haven't been in this system, so to me it's no different than playing a freshman quarterback," Brandon said.

"We're obviously going to try to harass them and put pressure on them, mix things up on the defensive side."

Contact John Wagner at:

or 419-724-6481.

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