BOWLING GREEN — In April, Justin Herbert could possibly be the first quarterback selected in the National Football League draft.
Bowling Green has the pleasure of trying to stop the Oregon star while he’s still in college.
According to many talent evaluators, quarterback Justin Herbert could be a top 10 pick in the NFL draft if he leaves Oregon after this season.
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The Falcons’ cross-country trip to one of college football’s loudest stadiums comes with plenty of challenges, but first and foremost will be figuring out the 6-foot-6 Herbert, who is well-stocked with skill around him and is a running threat himself.
For a Bowling Green defense that statistically was among the worst in the Football Bowl Subdivision last season, the first game of the season likely will be their most difficult. Asked how the underdog Falcons can disrupt Oregon’s offense, BG coach Mike Jinks said the Falcons’ offense will play a key role.
“We’ve got to be productive on offense. That’s the first thing we’ve got to do,” Jinks said this week. “We’ve got to keep them off the field and capitalize on our opportunities.”
Herbert has thrown a touchdown pass in all 15 of his college starts and thrown interceptions on fewer than 2 percent of his attempts, one of the best marks of any college quarterback. The Athletic projects Herbert as the third overall player chosen in the 2019 draft.
When Herbert plays, the Ducks average more than 41 points — and he’s complemented by a rushing offense that averaged more than 250 yards per game last season, which ranked 12th in the country.
Bowling Green faces long odds as a 32-point underdog, but Jinks said the BG offense can ease the pressure on its defense
In last year’s season-opening game at Michigan State, the Falcons hung around for a half before losing 35-10, and Jinks said the BG offense must strike when given the chance against the Ducks.
“We got down in the red zone and we didn’t capitalize,” Jinks said of the game against the Spartans. “We can’t do that. We can’t put our defense in that type of situation or it’ll be a long night.”
Bowling Green’s visit to Oregon will be the first look at the revamped defense under first-year defensive coordinator Carl Pelini, who joined the BG staff from Youngstown State.
The Falcons are not yet using the entire defensive playbook, as the implementation of Pelini’s system still is ongoing. Against the Ducks, who aim to run 85 plays per game, the Falcons’ communication will face a steep test.
But BG started to see signs toward the end of training camp its defense is trending upward.
“I feel like we’re coming along very well,” linebacker Brandon Harris said. “I feel like guys are starting to trust each other more, and being able to play with each other will allow us to play fast and be a great defense.”
The season opener presents likely the toughest opponent on BG’s schedule, but the Falcons are nonetheless excited about a chance on a national stage.
“I’m excited about walking into a place like this and all those fans,” quarterback Jarret Doege said. “It’s what football’s all about.”
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