BOWLING GREEN - Some people might scoff at the thought that playing a Division I-AA opponent might aid a football team in its preparations for a game against a Big Ten foe.
Well, the Bowling Green State University football squad feels all the work poured into Thursday's season-opening 63-13 win against Eastern Kentucky may help the Falcons in their attempt to knock off Purdue Saturday.
And no, the Falcons aren't saying the Colonels, who were ranked 25th in the country in Division I-AA coming into last week's contest, are in any way the equals of the Boilermakers.
“One good thing from our standpoint is that Eastern Kentucky's coach used to be on the staff at Purdue, so a lot of the things we might see from Purdue were some of the things Eastern Kentucky ran,” said defensive lineman Rick Mauer. “So we've been preparing for both teams in a sense since they both run the same offense.”
EKU coach Danny Hope was an assistant under Joe Tiller at Wyoming in 1996 and then with the Boilermakers from 1997-2001. And the Colonels did run a spread offense at Perry Stadium.
But playing a copy isn't like playing the real thing, and there are few one-back offenses like Tiller's. Last season the Boilermakers ranked seventh in Division I-A in total offense, rolling up 452.2 yards per game, and scored an average of 29.7 points per contest. What's more, Hope's players are still learning his offense, while Tiller has had his offense in place for six seasons.
Purdue opens this season ranked 19th in the first Associated Press poll, as much a tribute to the work that Tiller, a Rogers High School grad, has done in building the Boilermaker program as it is to the 16 starters the team returns on offense and defense.
“Our next game will be a challenge, because Purdue is good enough to win the Big Ten,” said Bowling Green coach Gregg Brandon. “What we can learn from that first game is that Purdue runs a similar offensive style, so hopefully we can draw on that.”
ONE PLAY AWAY? One of the concerns entering this season was what effect the loss of do-everything quarterback Josh Harris might have on BGSU's high-powered offense.
But the play of freshman Omar Jacobs against Eastern Kentucky might have eased those concerns.
Jacobs was a threat both running and passing the ball, leading the Falcons on four touchdown drives in six possessions at the controls. He finished as the team's leading rusher, using a 24-yard touchdown sprint to boost his total rushing yards for the game to 54.
Jacobs also completed eight of the 11 passes he threw for 157 yards, including a 66-yard scoring bomb to Derrick Lett.
That's why Brandon smiled when asked how he would feel if he had to use Jacobs at quarterback.
“I would feel pretty good,” Brandon said. “Omar might be more effective at running the ball than Josh at times. And that ball he threw to Derrick Lett, Lett never broke stride. He hit Lett on the dead sprint.”
Running back P.J. Pope said Jacobs, who red-shirted last season, has benefited from playing behind Harris since his arrival at Bowling Green.
“The guy in front of [Jacobs] is a possible All-American, so ever since last year he's been learning from [Harris],” Pope said. “So if [Jacobs] comes in, we're not going to miss a beat at all.”
And what did Harris think of his back-up's play?
“I think Omar did an excellent job for his first time being out on the field,” Harris said. “He stepped in and there was no drop-off. He was very poised, and for a young guy that's a major thing that can kill you. If you're all flustered and can't relax and play ball, it doesn't matter what the defense is doing.
“But he stayed poised and made some plays.”
NOTHING PERSONAL: Brandon said he had no intention of running up the score against Eastern Kentucky. Evidence: four tailbacks played, eight receivers caught passes, and 28 players made at least one tackle on defense.
“We got everybody that we weren't anticipating red-shirting into the game,” Brandon said. “I told my coaches halfway through the fourth quarter, `Play everybody. If there's anybody you want to play, get them in.'”
Some eyebrows were raised when Harris returned to the field to quarterback the Falcons on the team's opening drive of the second half, especially when Jacobs had taken snaps on the final two drives of the first half.
Brandon pointed out that his plan is to give Jacobs time behind center when games still aren't decided, something that probably will take place again Saturday at Purdue. And Harris said the offense didn't want a repeat of last year's season-opening game against another OVC school, Tennessee Tech.
“In the second half [Thursday] we just wanted to set the tone for the half by scoring points right off the bat,” Harris said. “Last year it was 41-0 at the half but we didn't score in the second half, and we didn't want that to happen again.”