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Published: Friday, 8/29/2014 - Updated: 8 months ago

Falcons’ defense under the gun in opener

W. Kentucky returns talented playmakers


BOWLING GREEN — While much has been made about the Bowling Green State University football team’s high-powered new offense, it seems the Falcons’ defense may be called upon to set the tone in the team’s opener at Western Kentucky tonight.

That’s because the Hilltoppers return nine starters from a unit that averaged more than 30 points per game last season, a key ingredient to an 8-4 season. And while Jeff Brohm is new to the head coaching position, he is familiar with the personnel after serving as the WKU offensive coordinator last year.

“I think it’s fair to say their offense is the key to their team,” BG coach Dino Babers said. “It’s a big advantage for them to be in their system for a second year.”

It also helps that the Hilltoppers return quarterback Brandon Doughty, who threw for 2,857 yards and 14 touchdowns last season.

“He stays very poised in the pocket — he doesn’t panic much,” Falcons linebacker D.J. Lynch said of Doughty. “He goes through his progression. And he takes the check-down when he has to.”

Doughty’s top target last season was Willie McNeal, who caught 46 passes for 599 yards and five TDs, and he returns. Also back are four starters on an offensive line that opened holes for running back Antonio Andrews, who was named Sun Belt Conference offensive player of the year.

Leon Allen, a junior who ran for 357 yards last season, will replace the graduated Andrews at running back.

“They’ve got a good group of linemen back,” Lynch said. “Their linemen are big and athletic, and they are good in space in cutting down linebackers.”

Babers said the Hilltoppers pose a good challenge for the Falcons’ defense, which last season led the Mid-American Conference in nearly every major category.

“When you have a good defense, put them on the field,” Babers said. “If they’re the best part of your team, only good things will happen when they are on the field.

“I think we’ll be fine with our defense on the field.”

While five starters and a number of experienced reserves return, Lynch said this year’s BG defense will play a different style than last season.

“Last year it was more of a ‘be in the right spot’ deal,” he said. “This year we just want to make things happen.

“Sometimes they’re going to be good, and sometimes they’re going to be bad. But we want to force turnovers and make sacks.”

Western Kentucky’s Brohm said his team’s defense, which returns only four starters from last season, will need to put together a strong performance to slow the Falcons’ offense.

“We need to control and contain their fast-tempo offense,” he said. “We have to get lined up quickly and make our calls, and then be in position to make plays.

“They’re trying to work fast so they get three to six plays where we’re not in position, and they can get an easy play.”

Contact John Wagner at: jwagner@theblade.com, 419-724-6481 or on Twitter @jwagnerblade.

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