BOWLING GREEN — The red zone was more of a Bermuda Triangle for the Bowling Green State University football team last season.
Last year the Falcons offense scored a touchdown or field goal on just 66 percent of the drives that reached the red zone, ranked last in the Mid-American Conference.
While the Falcons defense ranked high in a number of different measures last season, it finished just sixth in the MAC in the red zone, allowing opponents to score 81.2 percent of the time.
“The thing that stuck out like a sore thumb [last season] was our lack of points in the red zone on offense,” BG coach Dave Clawson said. “Part of that was related to missing field goals, but we didn’t score enough touchdowns."
This year the Falcons have improved dramatically on both sides of the ball. On offense BG has scored 32 touchdowns and eight field goals on 46 red zone trips (87 percent), and quarterback Matt Johnson said red zone performance was practiced a lot in the spring.
“We’ve watched film to understand coverages, and things like that,” he said. “But it’s also just execution – things like linemen opening holes for running backs. And it’s also about will, which I think is a huge X-factor.”
It also helps that the Falcons have added freshman running back William Houston, a 250-pounder who has scored 10 touchdowns, all on runs of two yards or less.
“In his limited role, he has been very good for us,” Clawson said of Houston.
Meanwhile the BG defense has allowed 14 touchdowns and no field goals on 25 red zone trips by its opponents, or 56 percent of the time. That mark is the best among FBS teams this year.
“We have simplified things down there,” Clawson said. “It also helps when you have seniors in the secondary, and when you have a senior like Paul Swan at linebacker. … Being able to recognize stuff takes a lot of time.
“Is it something we doing coverage-wise, pressure-wise, front-wise? I think our players are just better. It is as simple as that.”
INJURY UPDATE: Junior safety Jude Adjei-Barimah suffered a knee injury in the loss to Ohio; he hopes to practice today, but he is listed as doubtful for Saturday’s game at Eastern Michigan. Junior rover Justin Ford has displayed concussive symptoms and has not be cleared. On offense Heath Jackson is looking to return from a hamstring problem and is listed as probable.
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