Bowling Green coach Dino Babers fist bumps lineman Alex Huettel. The offense averaged about two plays per minute in Saturday’s spring game at Perry Stadium as 11 receivers caught passes.
BOWLING GREEN — The sun shone warm and bright on the turf Saturday at Doyt Perry Stadium as the Bowling Green State University football team’s spring game ended.
Perhaps it was Mother Nature planting her seal of approval on the quick scrimmage.
In this instance, “Falcon Fast” meant the Falcons pumped out 137 plays in 78 minutes, although new coach Dino Babers promised the team would work faster by the time it played its season opener Aug. 29 at Western Kentucky.
The offense rolled up 544 yards in the contest, including 370 yards passing. Matt Johnson completed 20-of-29 passes for 221 yards and two touchdowns, while James Knapke connected on 16-of-25 for 100 yards.
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A total of 11 receivers caught at least one pass — including Joe Davidson of Findlay, who was recruited to BG as a punter. The standout was Gehrig Dieter, the SMU transfer who caught seven passes for 99 yards and two touchdowns.
“Getting back on the field this year has been a great feeling,” Dieter said. “There’s no better feeling than knowing you can play this year, and that every practice means something now.”
Late in the first quarter, after Johnson had connected with Roger Lewis on a 42-yard pass, Johnson found Dieter wide open in the middle of the field. But Johnson was “sacked” just before the throw to negate the touchdown.
No matter, as on the next play Johnson hooked up with Dieter on a 39-yard scoring strike.
“You just have to play the next play,” said Dieter, who later caught a 21-yard TD pass from Johnson. “I know I’m going to get another chance to score, so I have to play each play as if it’s going to be mine.”
Babers said he thought the first-team offense, which also got 54 rushing yards on 13 carries by Travis Greene and 44 on 12 rushes by William Houston, generally looked “decent.”
“I thought there were a few passes we left on the football field, but there also were a lot of plays made,” Babers said. “Matt has great legs, and a great instinct on when to stay in the pocket and when to get out, and that’s another weapon we can use to our benefit.
“I thought there were wide receivers who made plays down the field. And I thought Travis and William ran the ball well behind the first offensive line, and when you can run the ball and stop the run you have an opportunity to win.”
The first-team defense also played very well, allowing just one touchdown — and that came with an asterisk, as it came when the first-team offense was given the ball in the red zone.
“Everyone is worrying about the offense, and we feel [the defense] got left in the past,” said cornerback Will Watson, who had eight tackles and also recovered a fumble. “We wanted everyone to know the BG defense isn’t going anywhere in 2014.”
Watson’s fumble recovery, which came on one of two fumbles forced by Omar Pierre-Louis, was one of four turnovers caused by the defense. Jude Adjei-Barimah intercepted a pass in the end zone and Nate Locke also recovered a fumble.
“[Creating turnovers] was a point of emphasis,” Watson said. “We had nine in the first scrimmage, and we had no turnovers [last week]. This scrimmage we wanted to make them turn the ball over.”
Among the defensive leaders was cornerback Nick Johnson, a true freshman who graduated from Canton Timken early to enroll at BG before the spring semester. Johnson finished with seven solo tackles.
Other defensive leaders include D.J. Lynch, who made seven tackles and broke up a pass; Victor Osborne, who had a game-high nine tackles; and Kendall Montgomery, who had three sacks among his four tackles.
“We’ve got a good defense,” Babers said. “Sometimes you sugarcoat things, but you don’t need to sugarcoat that.”
POSITION SWITCHES: Two local players have switched positions. Southview graduate Austin Valdez has moved from quarterback to linebacker and played well with the second team, finishing with four tackles, including two sacks. St. John’s Jesuit graduate Jake Nachtrab has moved from defensive lineman to tight end.