BOWLING GREEN — The Bowling Green State University football team held its ninth spring practice at Perry Stadium Saturday. But this practice was different from the previous eight.
The difference? There was a long scrimmage, the Falcons' first this spring, that gave players on both sides of the ball a chance to shine.
One player who stood out in the scrimmage, which included 13 drives and several possessions played with overtime rules as well as a couple of two-minute drills, was Shaun Joplin. The sophomore from Southview caught a 15-yard TD strike from quarterback Matt Schilz for the first score, then made several other key catches before ripping off a long catch-and-run.
"I thought Shaun Joplin looked great," BG coach Dave Clawson said. "He really made some plays. Now that he's starting to learn the offense, and he doesn't have to think so much, he's playing so much faster.
"He's always been athletic, and he's always had good ball skills. But now he's playing faster and starting to look like a really, really good football player."
Joplin said he's not satisfied.
"I had a nice day, but I still have to get better," Joplin said. "I'm going to get into the coaches' office to look at the film and see what I did wrong, then keep working to get better."
Another group that stood out Saturday was the running backs as junior John Pettigrew, sophomores Jordan Hopgood and Erique Geiger, and redshirt freshman Jamel Martin each had good runs.
"I thought our running backs, especially John Pettigrew, had some great cuts," Clawson said. "They were getting the ball north and south."
Hopgood is the most experienced of the backs following the graduation of Willie Geter, an All-Mid-American Conference third team choice last fall. But Clawson has praised Pettigrew for his solid spring performance several times.
"I just want to make sure I get the plays down," Pettigrew said. "I want to focus and get more comfortable in the backfield so that when I play, I can go fast.
"I don't like sitting on the sidelines. I want to be on the field, making plays to help the team win."
Hopgood said he thinks the competition at the position will make the backs better.
"[This spring] is telling me how much I have to work," he said. "Erique and John and Jamel behind me are just as good [as I am]. I'm taking it one rep at a time and just trying to play like a veteran."
On defense, Bowling Green got fine play from the players you might expect to stand out: junior linebacker Dwayne Woods, an All-MAC second team choice last season, made several impressive plays, while junior defensive lineman Chris Jones disrupted the offensive line at times.
But Clawson thought the offensive line got the better of its defensive counterparts.
"The thing I was happiest about was I thought our offensive line played like a unit," he said. "They looked like a cohesive unit: their communication was great, they were on the same page, and we ran the ball well. I thought we took a major step forward on the offensive line."
Contact John Wagner at: email@example.com or 419-724-6481.