There is a genuine and excited anticipation surrounding Bowling Green football. The BeeGees are defending Mid-American Conference champions, have a lot of talent returning, and a new head coach whose presence has created a buzzword —
Dino Babers is a disciple of Baylor coach Art Briles, whose up-tempo offense has redefined the Bears’ place in college football’s hierarchy.
The general style is similar to what Indiana University attempts to employ, and Babers suggested the other day that when the Hoosiers and Falcons meet on Sept. 13 at Doyt Perry Stadium there could be 200-plus plays snapped. Good thing it’s a noon start and should be over in time for a late supper.
Last year, as head coach at Eastern Illinois, Babers’ team ran up 5,200 passing yards and 3,000 more on the ground. Offense, offense, offense.
Not so fast, or not so FalconFast, says BG linebacker D.J. Lynch.
“We’re going to be pretty fast too,” he said of the team’s defense. “FalconFast, it’s a team effort.”
There are a few, well, misconceptions about BG football that should be mentioned before we continue.
Offense, supposedly, was the Falcons’ weak point last season. In reality, despite playing at a fairly deliberate pace, BG scored 57 offensive touchdowns and was the third-most prolific scoring team in school history with 487 points. Another field goal and it would have been No. 2 all time.
Defense, meanwhile, was considered the Falcons’ calling card under coach Dave Clawson, now at Wake Forest. In a four-game stretch late last season that lifted Bowling Green to the MAC East Division title, opponents managed one offensive touchdown and a 51-yard field goal.
But the 2014 BG defense will be without five starters from a year ago, and Lynch figures this is a good time for “us to do a few different things, make a few tweaks.”
It’s true, said Babers, who may be an offensive guru but is, as head coach, fully aware of what is happening on both sides of the line.
“Not as much change, but some changes, yes,” he said of BG’s defense. “The approach is a team aspect that ties into all three phases, offense, defense, and special teams. Speed is the difference.
“There has to be a comfort zone and, on defense, our coordinator [Kim McCloud, who came with Babers from Eastern Illinois] had a unit that had 36 takeaways last season. Those were 36 opportunities to score on defense or at least give the ball back to the offense.”
BG’s defense, as good as it was last year, created just 21 turnovers.
“We have to improve that,” Lynch said. “It was kind of low last season. We have to run and execute. There’s a big emphasis to get us off the field even faster.”
There’s that word again.
Babers imagines that an increase in takeaways will, in part, be automatic.
“Remember, the BG offense was slowing things down, meaning the defense was on the field for fewer plays and had fewer chances to create turnovers,” he said. “They’ll have more chances, trust me, and they’ll get more.”
Yes, FalconFast means there will be far more stress on the BG defense.
“What’s wrong with that?” Babers asks. “If you’ve got a top defense, why wouldn’t you want it to play more and make more big plays? Be aggressive, get the opposing offense to do something fast that it doesn’t want to do, and create some havoc. Yeah, there will be more pressure on our defense. But we’ll be putting a lot more pressure on the other defense and the opposing special teams too.”
In 2012, Babers’ Eastern Illinois team and Murray State combined to run an FCS-record 223 plays from scrimmage — 117 for Murray and 106 for EIU.
In a typical game last season, BG and its opponents combined to snap about 80 fewer plays than that record performance.
So, yes, there will be more chances, and more stress, on both sides of the ball.
“Bring it on,” Lynch said. “We’ll play against our offense every day in practice, and that will make us better. Our endurance will be better; our tempo will be greater than before. We’ll have more chances to make more plays. We’re going to be FalconFast, too.”
Contact Blade sports columnist Dave Hackenberg at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6398.