WASHINGTON — Kent Baer said he finds himself in a position he thought he would never see again.
Baer, the defensive coordinator for the San Jose State University football team, is serving as his team’s interim head coach as the Spartans play Bowling Green State University today in the Military Bowl sponsored by Northrop Grumman.
The contest kicks off at 3 p.m. at RFK Stadium and can be seen on ESPN.
Baer was an assistant coach at Notre Dame in 2004 when Tyrone Willingham was fired following a 6-5 season.
The Fightin’ Irish had accepted a bid to the Insight Bowl, and Baer served as interim coach in that contest, which resulted in a 38-21 loss to Oregon State.
“I hoped that would never happen again,” Baer said when asked about his second stint as an interim coach. “But this is a different circumstance.”
This time Baer takes over at San Jose State for Mike MacIntyre, who led the Spartans to a 10-2 record but took the head coaching position at Colorado shortly after the bowl announcement.
Baer, who is expected to join MacIntyre on the Colorado staff as defensive coordinator, said he and the other SJSU coaches have try to deal with the distractions.
“We had a coach leave, a new coach [Ron Caragher] hired, and final exams in the past few weeks,” he said. “As coaches, we told the team, ‘We’ll give you everything we’ve got, and all we ask is that you do the same.’
“All of the players agreed.”
Senior defensive end Travis Johnson, the Western Athletic Conference defensive player of the year, said he liked what Baer and the coaches did after MacIntyre left.
“At first we players weren’t sure what would happen,” Johnson said. “But Coach Baer took control. He told us we would work together to win this game.
“He told us not to worry about the future; we would just work as hard as we can just to get this win.”
So do the Falcons have an advantage since their coaching staff remains in place for this game?
BG coach Dave Clawson said changes in the San Jose State staff could result in changes in what the Spartans do.
“You just don’t know,” he said. “When you have a month to prepare for a game, there are a lot of new wrinkles that can happen.”
The good news for the Falcons is that the extra practice time allows Bowling Green to expand its playbook a little, too.
“You don’t want to do too much,” Clawson said. “We did what we do, and we won eight games and went 6-2 in the conference. We believe we have a good football team.
“So to suddenly move to the wishbone or the wing-T … maybe we’ll do that.”
Clawson was kidding about the move to the wishbone or wing-T, but he wasn’t kidding about the ability to expand his team’s repertoire.
“There is a certain volume of offense and defense that you can get ready for each game,” he said. “We try not to exceed that volume.
“When you have more time to prep and practice, I think you can push that line a little bit more. … We’re going to have a lot more time [to get ready]. We have more practice time to play around with certain concepts. When you are [playing week-to-week], you only have so many opportunities to practice a certain play.
“If there’s something unique that we think might be really good against who we’re playing, we now have more opportunities to practice it. You can cover all the ‘what ifs.’ ”
Clawson compared preparing for a bowl game with preparing for a season opener.
“For Florida, we had six months to prepare for them,” he said. “During the season normally we’ll do a four or five-game breakdown on a team.
“We have a month to prepare for this team. We’ve watched 12 games and done a nine-game breakdown.
“It can almost be information overload. You get so much information on them because you have so much time to prepare for them.”
Contact John Wagner at firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6481 or on Twitter @jwagnerblade.