Falcons running back Josh Cleveland runs for a 75-yard touchdown during Saturday’s spring game at Doyt Perry Stadium. He finished with 88 yards on three carries. BLADE/LORI KING
BOWLING GREEN — As the final minutes started to dissolve off the Doyt Perry Stadium clock, Mike Jinks paced the sidelines.
His team’s offense was trying to drive down the field for a game-tying touchdown in the closing minutes of Saturday’s game. At the same time, his defense was trying to get a stop that would clinch a seven-point victory.
Welcome to the beauty of the Bowling Green State University football team’s spring game. Jinks got his wish — well, at least the Orange team did — as the Orange defense held in that final drive to preserve a 13-7 victory against the White.
IN PICTURES: BGSU Spring Game
But the Falcons’ second-year coach admitted he was not sweating out the final drive in the hopes one team in the split-squad scrimmage would beat the other.
“I spent the last 20 minutes pacing, just waiting for the clock to run down so that we didn’t get anybody hurt,” he said. “We’ve had a productive spring, and the weather cooperated today so we had a good crowd.
“It was a good day because the players were fired up and competed, and nobody was hurt.”
Bowling Green’s spring game provided a mixed bag of big plays by the offense and solid performances by the defense.
The biggest play of the day came on the final play of the first quarter, when White running back Josh Cleveland broke through the line, split two safeties, and raced 75 yards for a touchdown.
“We cannot give up the big plays and still be a great football team,” Jinks said. “We’ve got to make them drive the field. …
“I thought that, outside of Josh Cleveland’s run, the defense did a better job of tackling on the second level. And I appreciated the physicality they played with.”
The Orange touchdown came as the result of a seven-play, 70-yard drive engineered by true freshman quarterback Jarret Doege. A 44-yard pass to Scotty Miller got the Orange into the red zone, and Doege capped the drive with a 10-yard fade pass to Datrin Guyton for the score.
“The young Doege kid came in and showed he has some poise in the pocket,” Jinks said of Doege, who completed 5 of 7 passes for 130 yards. “And he’s obviously good at throwing the ball.”
Miller had a huge day for the Orange, catching five passes for 140 yards, and he had another 23-yard catch erased by a penalty. What made the big performance surprising was that the speedy junior, an All-Mid-American Conference receiver last season, was not paired with starting quarterback James Morgan.
“It felt a little weird going out there without James,” Miller said. “But Jarret Doege and Grant Loy, my two quarterbacks, did a great job of getting the ball to me.
“It was a little bit of an adjustment, because James and I always are on the same page. But I worked on timing with the younger quarterbacks this week because I knew I would be playing with them, and they did a great job of putting the ball on the money for me.”
Morgan, who was 4 for 5 for 31 yards despite throwing an interception for the White team, said he thought working with the second-team receivers would be a valuable experience down the road.
“It was nice to see Scotty do some great things, even though they weren’t for our team,” he said. “But this was good for us, because you need to have an ‘every man is prepared’ attitude in case somebody goes down.
“We have to be ready to operate with everybody being ready to go — the next guys have to be able to go in and step up.”
Loy completed 3 of 6 passes for 33 yards, and Elijah Cunningham connected on 3 of 7 passes for 28 yards. Outside of Miller’s big receiving numbers, Guyton caught three passes for 23 yards, and running back Terence Stevens took a screen pass 25 yards.
Cleveland’s long touchdown run helped him finish with 88 yards on three carries. Brian Jennings had 23 yards on eight carries, while Donovan Wilson had 22 yards on eight rushes.
One other standout in the game was junior kicker Jake Suder. The Central Catholic High School graduate capped a first-quarter drive by the Orange with a 46-yard field goal.
Then midway through the third, the Orange were pinned on their own 3-yard line but managed to drive to the White 35. Suder turned that 13-play drive, which lasted until midway into the fourth, into points by drilling a 49-yard field goal.
“He’s come a long way,” Jinks said of Suder. “That’s an added weapon.
“Having a kicker you can trust plays a role in successfully controlling the football. To know that when you reach the 30-yard line you have a good chance to getting points is important.”
Suder, who handled the Falcons extra-point and field-goal duties last season, said he thinks he is a better kicker than a year ago.
“I have a season under my belt, so I feel more confident,” Suder said. “You trust your snapper, and you trust your holder, but you also have a lot more trust in yourself to go out there and do what you do every day.”
The Falcons will hold one final spring practice Monday. Fall drills will begin in early August in preparation for the season opener at Sept. 2 at Michigan State.