BOWLING GREEN — Bowling Green State University football coach Dave Clawson announced Tuesday that senior Matt Schilz would be the starting quarterback in the team’s season opener against Tulsa.
At first glance, that announcement may seem to have been a formality: Schilz is a three-year starter who ranks third in school history with nearly 8,000 passing yards. His chief competition was sophomore Matt Johnson, who has never started a game and has thrown just 28 career passes.
But Clawson said in a phone interview Tuesday that nothing could be further from the truth.
“Coming into camp, I thought Johnson was slightly ahead of Schilz,” Clawson said. “But Matt Schilz earned [the starter’s job] — he had the best camp he has ever had here.
“And I mean he earned it. I’m not sure that Matt Johnson didn’t have the second-best camp of any quarterback we’ve had since Tyler Sheehan [in 2009].”
Bowling Green did not practice Tuesday, so neither player was available for comment. Today the Falcons begin preparations for the contest against the Golden Hurricane on Thursday, Aug. 29 at Doyt Perry Stadium.
Clawson said the decision to pick Schilz as the starter came down to three elements.
“In the three weeks of camp, I thought Schilz executed our passing game more effectively,” Clawson said. “I thought he also was more accurate with his passes. And he used his feet to make plays better than he has in the past.”
Schilz is in his fifth year in the program. He has started 35 games for the Falcons, including the last 32 in a row, and has completed 702 of 1,202 passes for 7,832 yards and 50 touchdowns. Those 50 TDs are the fifth-highest total in BG history.
After completing 60.7 percent of his passes for 2,223 yards and eight scores with 14 interceptions as a freshman, Schilz blossomed as a sophomore, connecting on 59.5 percent of his throws for 3,024 yards and 28 touchdowns with 13 picks.
But his numbers weren’t as good last season, as he completing 55.2 percent of his attempts for 2,585 yards, 14 TDs, and 12 interceptions in 13 games.
“In evaluating Matt Schilz’s performance last year, part of the problem was that he wasn’t completely healthy,” Clawson said, noting that Schilz suffered back problems. “This year we won’t play a quarterback that isn’t at 100 percent health-wise. We’ll have another guy ready.
“I feel better about our quarterback situation than I have for any season since 2009.”
Johnson played in eight games in a reserve roll last season. He completed 10 of 28 passes for 119 yards and one touchdown.
Clawson didn’t answer directly when asked if it was possible the Falcons would switch to a two-quarterback system.
“Matt Schilz is our starter against Tulsa,” Clawson said. “But things can change. I hope that Schilz has the best season of career, and the team benefits from that.”
Clawson also praised the play of redshirt freshman James Knapke.
“I’m very excited about Knapke, because he had a great camp,” Clawson said. “He is further along as a third-string quarterback than any No. 2 quarterback we’ve had here.”