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BOWLING GREEN — John Pettigrew ran for three touchdowns in the Bowling Green State University football team's scrimmage at Doyt Perry Stadium on Saturday.
But it was a simple 1-yard run on a fourth-down play that earned him praise — not to mention a hug — from Falcons coach Dave Clawson.
"We were not a good short-yardage team a year ago," Clawson said. "And while that starts up front, you also need a back with attitude, who takes a small crease and runs through arm tackles [to gain yardage].
"I loved that run because [Pettigrew wasn't hesitating, and he wasn't dancing in the backfield. It was just a tight crease, but he lowered his shoulder and got some tough yards.
"It may have been just a two-yard play, but it may have been as big a play as we had in the scrimmage."
Pettigrew's strong performance underlined a strong effort by the Falcons' running backs in the scrimmage. Pettigrew scored on TD runs of 9, 1, and 2 yards, while sophomore Jamel Martin added a 3-yard TD run, and redshirt freshman Andre Givens scored from 12 yards out late.
And those aren't the Falcons' two top backs — at least on the depth chart. Junior Jordan Hopgood and sophomore Anthon Samuel, the Mid-American Conference freshman of the year last season, saw limited action in the scrimmage.
"We have five ‘playable' backs, and that's a good problem to have," Clawson said. "Anthon is the starter, and we purposely wanted to limit his snaps.
"We wanted to give Andre Givens a good look because he wasn't able to scrimmage last week, Jamel Martin is improving. And Jordan Hopgood is coming back from an injury, but there is no question there are things he does and a role he will play to help us win games."
Pettigrew — and all the backs — know the competition is making all of them better.
"It's a good group of guys working to accomplish one goal: A MAC championship," he said. "There's a lot of competition, and we could all play. We all bring different things to the table to help this team be successful."
Pettigrew admitted he did not expect Clawson's response to his fourth-down run.
"That was exciting for me, because I saw a lot of hard work pay off," he said. "But the hug was a surprise."
A lot of Bowling Green's offensive success Saturday also came because of solid line play.
"For us to get better as an offense, our offensive line had to get better," Clawson said. "They had a great off-season, they are much stronger than they were a year ago, and they are becoming a cohesive unit.
"Those guys are playing well, and I think they are blocking a good defensive front. I hope that having those two units go against each other prepares both for the season."
Clawson said he saw a lot of positives in the scrimmage.
"I thought the energy level was better than a week ago," he said. "It was a pretty clean scrimmage, in that there weren't any snaps on the ground or fumbled exchanges, and there was only one turnover.
"And I thought it was pretty balanced. I thought during the normal ‘field' play the offense got the better of the defense, and in a lot of the situational work the defense got the better of the offense."
One difference Clawson saw from the team's first scrimmage one week earlier was that the first scrimmage saw both sides hampered by mistakes that disappeared on Saturday.
"I thought guys were executing their assignments," Clawson said. "Every play in football comes down to winning a match-up. [In this scrimmage], I thought the offense was successful if it won its match-up, and I thought the defense was successful if it won its match-up.
"It wasn't that a missed assignment or a breakdown led to a play, and that's what you want."
NOTES: Sophomore DT Hunter Maynard will have knee surgery this week and will miss this season. … Senior WR Bart Tanski suffered a shoulder injury during the scrimmage, and his status is uncertain. … Among those who did not participate were a pair of defensive backs, sophomores Darrell Hunter and DeVon McKoy. Both had muscle strains and are expected to return soon. … Junior DE Ron Goble also remains in a walking boot for his high ankle sprain, and hopes to return this week.
Contact John Wagner at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6481 or on Twitter @jwagnerblade.