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Defense is the key for Bowling Green football

08/17/2017, 1:01am EDT

Falcons' coaches scale down schemes, want to see more speed

BGSU defensive coordinator Perry Eliano, center, and head coach Mike Jinks, right, will attempt to turn around the Falcons’ defense this season. BLADE/JETTA FRASER

BOWLING GREEN — After last season ended, Perry Eliano looked in the mirror.

The defensive coordinator of the Bowling Green State University football team was unhappy with the performance of the Falcons’ defense in 2016. In Eliano’s first season as coordinator, BG ranked last in the 12-team Mid-American Conference in scoring defense, giving up 38.3 points per game, and stood 10th in the 12-team league in yards allowed, surrendering 464.2 yards per contest.

And while the defense played better late in the season, fans never forgot that Ohio State hung a school-record 77 points on Bowling Green in the opener, and Memphis matched that mark just three weeks later.

“I did some soul searching, trying to find the best way for our personnel to have success,” Eliano said. “The goal for this group now is to play fast, trust each other — and have fun.”

To that end, the Falcons have trimmed away some of the bells and whistles to create a package that everyone can understand and execute.

“We’ve tried to streamline everything we’re doing,” Eliano said. “We’re teaching more situational football, making sure everyone understands how their particular piece fits into the entire puzzle.

“The bottom line is this: More is not always better. Now we’re trying to be excellent at the things we do, not just OK at everything.”

Bowling Green coach Mike Jinks has noticed the difference. He appreciates the work put in by his defensive staff and players, who he said have responded positively to BG having the same defensive coordinator for two straight seasons for the first time since 2013.

“We’re playing faster earlier than we did last year, and I would dare say in past years as well,” Jinks said. “A lot of that comes from just knowing the terminology and understanding what we’re trying to get accomplished.

“We want them to play fast. We want them to maximize their talent and ability, and we think the best chance for that is to have them reach a point where they’re not having to think — they can just play football.”

Eliano praised the work of his assistant coaches on the defensive side of the ball — defensive line coach Marcus White, linebackers coach Matt Brock, safeties coach Ryan Downard, and cornerbacks coach Mike Mickens — for helping the players adjust.

“Coach White, coach Brock, coach Downard, and coach Mickens each have done an outstanding job of coaching their guys,” Eliano said. “That has allowed me to be a better defensive coordinator, and it has given me a chance to see every position, and then finding a way to have our guys play fast.”

Eliano knows that there will be doubters until the Falcons open the season at Michigan State, and the doubts may hover around his defense all season. But he said there is a simple way BG fans will be able to tell this year’s defense is better than last year’s unit.

“The speed at which we play,” he said. “We are paying attention to details, and we’re focused on situational football.”

FALCONS VS. FLAMES: Bowling Green announced Wednesday that it will play a home-and-home series with Liberty University, starting with a game at Doyt Perry Stadium on Oct. 3, 2020. The two teams also will meet in Lynchburg, Va., on Sept. 2, 2023.

The Flames, who are coached by former Buffalo and Kansas coach Turner Gill, will become a FBS member starting in 2019.

This will not be the first meeting of the two teams. Bowling Green claimed a 62-3 victory at the Doyt in 2003.

INJURY UPDATE: Jinks said the only player now dealing with a significant injury is junior safety Jamari Bozeman.

Bozeman, an All-MAC third team performer last season, is dealing with a leg injury that makes him questionable for the opener at Michigan State.

Contact John Wagner at jwagner@theblade.com419-724-6481 or on Twitter @jwagnerblade.

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