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Painful problems lead to historic loss for Bowling Green

09/12/2017, 6:00pm EDT

BG football struggles in all phases against South Dakota

Bowling Green's Scott Miller dives for a catch during Saturday's game against South Dakota at Doyt Perry Stadium in Bowling Green. BLADE/KURT STEISS

BOWLING GREEN — Watching the film of the Bowling Green State University football team’s 35-27 loss Saturday to South Dakota was just as painful as the game itself.

The Falcons struggled in all three phases, according to coach Mike Jinks, and as a result were saddled with the program’s first loss to an FCS team in 30 years.

Much of the criticism was focused on an offense that posted some misleading numbers against the Coyotes. BG finished with 476 yards of total offense, but 153 of them came in the fourth quarter, when the visitors were playing a prevent defense.

The Falcons, who entered the season with a goal of becoming more balanced between the run and the pass, had 161 rushing yards compared to 315 yards through the air.

“[The lack of rushing yardage in] Week 1 was a function of playing against a tough front seven at Michigan State. Just ask Western Michigan,” Jinks said. “Last week was a function of falling behind 21-3.

“In the first half, we ran it well. But we got to the point where we just couldn’t afford to hand the ball off.”

Josh Cleveland led the ground game with 87 rushing yards on 10 carries, including a 42-yard run in the first quarter.

“I thought he did some things to separate himself and demand some more touches,” Jinks said.

“Moving forward, I think you will see three [Cleveland, Matt Domer, and Andrew Clair] sharing more touches. And if one of them gets rolling, we’ll leave them in the game.”

Falcons quarterback James Morgan completed 21-of-50 passes for 315 yards and two touchdowns with one interception. Jinks said Morgan showed improvement during the game.

“After James threw the interception, we saw the same coverage later in the game,” Jinks explained. “We kept a back in, he checked to another play, and threw a touchdown to Scotty Miller.

“As long as we keep making those strides, play by play and game by game, I think by the time [Mid-American Conference games] roll along we’ll be OK.”

While Datrin Guyton led the receivers with five catches for 158 yards, and Miller was close behind with five catches for 62 yards, Jinks was most impressed by the performance of Teo Redding, who caught four passes for 40 yards.

“I thought Teo Redding stepped up and made some clutch plays,” Jinks said. “I know Datrin Guyton got the majority of the yards, but Teo’s catches were clutch, and that was great to see.”

Redding said there still is room for improvement offensively.

“We need to have better timing between the quarterback and receivers,” Redding said. “And we need to [do a better job] reading coverages as well.”

The Falcons offense made five trips into the red zone but scored only two touchdowns.

“We were 5-for-5 on scoring with our red-zone opportunities, but when you get chances in the red zone, you have to score touchdowns,” Jinks said.

Bowling Green’s play on defense and special teams were not spared from criticism after film review.

Jinks said a majority of his special teams disappointment came from the struggles in the return game. Bryson Denley mishandled a kickoff late in the first quarter, and that played a major role in South Dakota building its 21-3 lead.

Marcus Milton also muffed a punt at the BG 15-yard line midway through the third quarter; the Coyotes recovered the fumble and scored three plays later to make it 28-9.

“I have great faith in Marcus Milton, and I think he’ll learn from that play,” Jinks said. “And the Bryson Denley kid got caught up in the moment, and he played hesitant and slow.

“Those are things you can fix.”

Defensively, the biggest problem Jinks saw was what he called a lack of “eye discipline,” or keeping eyes focused on a particular player’s specific responsibility rather than ball-watching.

The result was a South Dakota offense rolling to 520 yards of total offense on 86 plays, an average of 6.0 yards per play.

“We gave up some cheap plays on wheel routes and plays of that nature,” Jinks said. “Our safeties didn’t have their eyes where they needed to be.

“We’ll get it fixed, and if it continues to happen we’ll get someone else in there. You’ve heard me talk about us being deeper; we’ll give those guys more opportunities to play if mistakes like that continue to happen.”

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

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