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Falcons win, but run defense remains a concern

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BOWLING GREEN — Through three games of the 2018 season, the scouting report on the Bowling Green defense is straightforward, if nothing else.

So far this season, the Falcons haven’t had any answer for opposing rushing attacks, and the past two opponents leaned heavily on their running games versus BG.

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Eastern Kentucky's LJ Scott runs against the Bowling Green defense. EKU ran for 389 yards Saturday.

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The Falcons did enough for a 42-35 victory Saturday against Eastern Kentucky at Doyt Perry Stadium, though the win came with an shaky showing on defense.

For the foreseeable future, opponents are going to run the ball directly at the Falcons and dare them to stop it.

Asked if he thinks teams will continue that strategy, BG coach Mike Jinks said, “Wouldn’t you?”

BG played its first two games against Power Five opponents, though the Falcons still couldn’t stop the run against a Football Championship Subdivision team in EKU. Bowling Green surrendered 389 yards rushing on 60 carries Saturday, an average of 6.5 yards per rush.

The problem, Jinks said, boils down to one thing.

“We’ve got to tackle better,” Jinks said. “It’s as simple as that.”

Much like Maryland, which ran 53 times on 69 plays last week, the Colonels had little reason to put the ball in the air. On 77 snaps, Eastern Kentucky threw the ball just 17 times, six of which came on the final drive when it had no timeouts and needed a tying touchdown.

Eighteen of the Colonels’ 23 first downs and all five of their touchdowns came on the ground.

“We need to improve on our tackling and being more violent with our arms,” said Falcons linebacker Kholbe Coleman, who had 10 tackles and a forced fumble. “It’s just mainly that, and knowing the defense a little better and fit properly to certain plays.”

Jinks pointed to the youth of some of the Falcons’ defensive line, which includes two defensive ends, sophomore Roland Walder and true freshman Karl Brooks, who are playing more than expected because of an injury.

“They’re going to be really special players,” Jinks said. “We’re going to continue to work with them, we’re going to teach technique. We don’t have any free agents coming in.”

For as much as it struggled against the run, BG’s defense did come through when it was needed the most.

Ahead by seven points, the defense held twice in the final seven minutes of the game to prevent Eastern Kentucky from forcing overtime.

“We went out there with the mindset that we were going to get off the field,” Coleman said. “Coming with the mindset, you just know. We’ve got to come out with a W on that.”

Though the yardage numbers raised eyebrows, Jinks said BG’s identity will be as a bend-but-don’t-break defense.

“That’s kind of who we’ve got to be as we go through this season. That’s who were are,” Jinks said. “Our roster is not where we want it to be. It’s a work in progress.”

Contact Nicholas Piotrowicz at npiotrowicz@theblade.com, 419-724-6110 or on Twitter @NickPiotrowicz

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