Bowling Green defense dominant but offense rallies for win

Coach says team still searching for best QB

Bowling Green’s Travis Greene (13) looks to get past linebacker Coy Brown III (28)  during a scrimmage.
Bowling Green’s Travis Greene (13) looks to get past linebacker Coy Brown III (28) during a scrimmage.

BOWLING GREEN — The second spring scrimmage for Bowling Green State University played out much as you might expect — at least at first.

The defense, which returns all but two starters from one of the best units in the country, dominated the offense through the first two-thirds of Friday’s scrimmage, which was played under the lights at Doyt Perry Stadium.

“We started off a little slow at first,” offensive lineman Dominic Flewellyn said. “But when we came to the sidelines [we talked], and we said we weren’t going to allow that to happen anymore.

“Then we broke a few at the end, and we got our confidence up a little bit.”

The Falcons got points from four of their last seven drives in the scrimmage, which consisted of roughly 115 plays.

“I thought [the defense] played really well,” Bowling Green coach Dave Clawson said. “They ran to the ball well, they challenged throws, and they created turnovers.

“I thought the offense was really sloppy. We had procedure [penalties], turned it over, and we weren’t in a good rhythm.

“Then at the end of the scrimmage, the offense came to life.”

Among the defensive highlights in the early going were an interception by safety BooBoo Gates, which the senior returned roughly 40 yards, and a safety that sophomore linebacker Coy Brown collected on a third-down blitz.

But the offense seemed to wake up roughly 30 plays from the end of the scrimmage. On a third-and-15 play, freshman quarterback James Knapke threw a deep pass to senior Shaun Joplin. Joplin came back and caught the ball while junior cornerback Darrell Hunter fell down, allowing the Southview grad to complete a 68-yard touchdown play.

Two series later senior Matt Schilz directed the best drive of the scrimmage, a 10-play, 67-yard march that Jordan Hopgood capped with a 17-yard TD run. Schilz threw the final block downfield to spring Hopgood for the score.

Then sophomore Andre Givens, who has received the bulk of the rushing attempts with the first team, scored on a 23-yard run for the final touchdown of the scrimmage.

“The offensive line did a great job [on the play],” Givens said. “Maybe I’ll take them out to eat to a buffet.”

Clawson said Givens is playing better than last season, when he had just 20 carries spread over six games.

“There are times where he has been really dynamic for us. And he’ll just keep getting better,” Clawson said of Givens.

Bowling Green lost its two top runners from last season in Anthon Samuel and John Pettigrew, and Givens understands his opportunity for greater playing time starts now.

“The first thing is that I have the plays down — I have them way better than last year,” he said. “Right now I’m just getting back into the game, trying to hit the holes right and make big plays for my team.

“Coach Clawson said we need playmakers, so I’m trying to be a playmaker.”

All three quarterbacks — Schilz, sophomore Matt Johnson, and Knapke — saw time with both the first and second teams in a process Clawson said will continue through the Spring Game next Friday.

“Our goal isn’t to win the scrimmage. It’s to win games in the fall,” Clawson said. “To do that, we’ve got to find the best quarterback.

“And the only way to do that is to let that play out, give those guys reps and work, and then see the body of work.”

Contact John Wagner,419-724-6481, or onTwitter @jwagnerblade.