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Published: Thursday, 10/25/2012

Bowling Green’s defense clamping down on league foes

Bowling Green's Paul Swan, 33, and D.J. Lynch, 7, stop Miami's Spencer Treadwell at the line of scrimmage.
Bowling Green's Paul Swan, 33, and D.J. Lynch, 7, stop Miami's Spencer Treadwell at the line of scrimmage.

BOWLING GREEN — The Bowling Green State University football team is about to test one of the longest-standing maxims of college football.

The current trend of scoring points in bunches flies directly in the face of the old saying, “defense wins championships.”

But BG’s Jude Adjei-Barimah, a sophomore defensive back, still thinks that adage holds true.

“I love the way we play — we play defensive football,” Adjei-Barimah said. “I like seeing games that are about defense: picks, hard hits, stuff like that.

“To me, I still think defense wins championships.”

Falcons coach Dave Clawson agrees, but isn’t quite as sure.

“I think it is [true], although sometimes I wonder if that rule applies to [the Mid-American Conference],” he said. “This conference is different, it’s wide-open [offensively].”

Bowling Green certainly hopes that maxim is true because statistically the Falcons rank as one of the league’s top defenses. BG leads the MAC is scoring defense, allowing just 16.8 points per game as more than half of the league’s teams allow at least 30 points per game.

And the Falcons also top the MAC in total defense, giving up just 304.0 yards per game. That’s 70 yards fewer than the next-best team, and only five league schools are allowing less than 400 yards per game.

The success of the Bowling Green defense during the team’s current four-game win streak has allowed the Falcons to become more conservative on offense.

“The last couple of years we went into games thinking we had to score 40 points [to win],” Clawson said. “So we took chances, and at times we forced the ball — and the result was we turned the ball over a ton.

“Right now we are playing more conservatively. We want to hang onto the ball and win time of possession, and we’ve got to score in the red zone.

“If we don’t throw for 300 yards, that doesn’t mean we can’t win the football game.”

Clawson said the dominating play of his team’s defense, which allowed just 118 yards of total offense in a shutout at UMass last Saturday, affected his team’s play-calling in that game.

“As long as we didn’t give up a trick play, I never felt they would drive the ball 80 yards,” he said. “So on third down we would run the ball, maybe try a screen, but make sure we didn’t turn the ball over.

“We played the field position game. … When we led 21-0, we were running the ball unless it was a screen, a three-step drop, or a very, very conservative pass. I just didn’t think there was any way they would score 21 points unless we gave them a cheap one.”

The BG offense ranks near the bottom of the MAC in scoring (11th at 22.9 points per game) and total offense (ninth at 386.9 yards per game). But if defense, not offense, wins championships …

“To win a championship, you had better be great on one side of the ball and at least be pretty good on the other,” Clawson said. “I don’t know many teams that are great at both.

“You look at teams like Alabama, and you see that you can win games at the highest level [with defense]. But there are certain teams, like Oregon, that are very successful doing it another way.

“Our goal is to get to Detroit, and however we do that, I don’t care. If we have to win a game 52-49, that’s fine. And if we have to win a game 14-13, that’s fine, too.”

SAMUEL INJURED: Sophomore running back Anthon Samuel did not practice with the team Wednesday. Clawson said Samuel suffered a neck injury in the first half of the UMass win, but did return to the game in the second half. Clawson hopes to have Samuel at practice today and lists him as "questionable" for the game Saturday.

Contact John Wagner at: jwagner@theblade.com, 419-724-6481 or on Twitter @jwagnerblade.

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