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2019 Bowling Green Football Season Preview

The Falcons prepare to begin their 100th year of football and first under new head coach Scot Loeffler.

BGSU will celebrate 100 years of football in 2019
BGSU Athletics Media Relations

Bowling Green State University has a proud football tradition. It has served as the home of twelve MAC championship and as the starting point for Urban Meyers head coaching career. 2019 will be a celebration of their 100th year of football. The Falcons won the 2013 and 2015 MAC Championships.

Coming into the 2019 season, the Falcons are on to their fourth head coach in five seasons after the departure of Mike Jinks and arrival of Scot Loeffler.

The Falcon faithful hope that Loeffler ends up more like Dave Clawson, Dino Babers or even Meyer and less like Mike Jinks, whose tenure undid much of the good will that Clawson and Babers had built up. Jinks was replaced by his defensive coordinator Carl Pelini midway thru last season.

The Falcons struggled across the board securing just three victories on the season in 2019. Those three victories came against Football Championship Subdivision member Eastern Kentucky and two MAC schools who have since replaced their head coaches in Central Michigan and Akron.

BGSU hasn’t beat arch rival Toledo in 3,543 days.

Needless to say, the change and infusion of new blood into the program was needed but returning the Falcons to their glory days could be a challenge in year one for Coach Loeffler.

BGSU returns just eleven starters following the dismissal of their left tackle Lorenzo Taborn.


Key Losses

QB Jarrett Doege (transfer)

WR Scotty Miller (NFL draft choice)

OT Lorenzo Taborn (Recently dismissed)

LB Haasan Belton (Injury)

LB Brandon Harris

DB Montrae Gregory

DB Marcus Milton

Ask any Bowling Green fan, and they will tell you that their biggest loss is that of former head coach Mike Jinks. The Falcon faithful are not likely to miss Jinks as he went just 7-24 in three seasons despite inheriting a Falcon program which was the reigning MAC champions at the time of his hire. In fact BGSU had won two of the last three titles before the ill-fated Google search by former athletic director Chris Kingston.

Incumbent starter Jarrett Doege, who was recruited by Jinks, left Bowling Green after spring practice to transfer to West Virginia, where he is expected to sit out this year before competing for the starting role in 2020. Starting all twelve games, Doege threw for over 2,500 yards a season ago before leaving. He joins Florida International starting QB James Morgan as former Falcon starting signal callers to transfer. Doege’s brother was an assistant on the previous staff and is now an analyst at Southern Cal with Jinks.

Wide receiver Scotty Miller led the MAC in receiving a year ago, taking advantage of Jinks Air Raid system to record 71 receptions. Perhaps the MAC’s most underrated player a season ago, also had nine touchdowns for the Falcons. The successful season resulted in Miller being a sixth round draft choice of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Projected starting left tackle Lorenzo Taborn, a senior, was recently dismissed from the program for undisclosed violations of team and university rules. The experienced lineman started ten games a season ago.

Linebacker Haasan Belton, a former junior college transfer, retired after trying to rehab a knee injury suffered last year. Belton was projected to start for the Falcon defense this fall, after missing all but two games with injury a season ago.

Linebacker Brandon Harris was second in the MAC in tackles per game a year ago.

Defensive back Montrae Gregory was among the MAC leaders with seven pass breakups a season ago and earned a minicamp tryout with the Kansas City Chiefs.

Fellow defensive back Marcus Milton tied for second in the MAC with three interceptions a year ago and returned punts effectively for Bowling Green.


Key Returnees

HB Andrew Clair

DE David Konowalski

C Jack Kramer

OL Caleb Bright

WR Quintin Morris

P Matt Naranjo

K Nate Needham


Falcon halfback Andrew Clair may be the best player in the MAC that nobody talks about. The 2017 and 2018 third team all MAC selection had three 100-yard games a season ago. Clair was among the top ten in the nation with 5.2 yards per carry a season ago.

As for what his impact may be this season, the air raid system is gone replaced by a more conventional scheme under Scot Loeffler. Loeffler called plays for Boston College before arriving in Bowling Green, which has relied heavily on their half back in AJ Dillon. If Loeffler and staff dial up runs for Clair like they did for Dillon out in Chestnut Hill, expect Clair to top the one thousand yard mark.

A year after Bowling Green’s defense was so poor, it seems odd to be excited about any returning player. However, defensive end David Konowalski was not part of the Falcons defense a season ago after suffering a knee injury in August which sidelined him for all of 2018. .

Konowalski was granted a rare sixth season due to his injury. In 2017, Konowalski started all twelve games in and tied for the team lead in sacks and tackles for loss.

The Milwaukee, Wisconsin native has taken on a leadership role within the program and his return should go a long way towards improving the Falcon defense. Don’t be surprised if a healthy Konowalski pushes for an all-MAC selection.

Despite losing Lorenzo Taborn to a dismissal, the Falcons do return a veteran offensive line which could surprise followers of the program. The unit should improve significantly by not be asked to pass protect on most every play.

Jack Kramer returns at center after being a third-team all-MAC selection a year ago. The versatile senior also started five games at guard before moving to center.

Caleb Bright returns for his junior season at left guard after seeing action in ten games with seven starts a season ago.

Quintin Morris returns at wide receiver. The six-foot-four Texas product, was second on the team with 42 receptions a season ago while adding seven touchdowns, finishing second behind the MAC’s leader Scotty Miller, which is nothing to be ashamed of.

Junior kicker Nate Needham and senior punter Matt Naranjo return to give BGSU a solid special teams unit.


What’s New

Head Coach Scot Loeffler and staff

QB’s Darius Wade and Matt McDonald

WR Isaiah Johnson-Mack (Redshirted as a transfer last season)

TE Austin Dorris

HB Davon Jones

For what’s new on the Plains of Ohio, it cannot be understated the importance of the coaching change from Mike Jinks to Scot Loeffler. Loeffler is the 44-year old hired from Boston College, where he served as their offensive coordinator since 2016.

Loeffler has also been the offensive coordinator at Virginia Tech, Auburn, and Temple as well as coaching QB’s at Michigan, Central Michigan, Florida and in the NFL for the Detroit Lions. While at Michigan, Loeffler was the positional graduate assistant for some guy named Tom Brady.

It is that time at Michigan which led Loeffler to a lot of his assistant coaches. Looking at the Falcon staff, Loeffler has hired four assistants with ties to the University of Michigan. Associate head coach Steve Morrison will also coach linebackers, the position he played at Michigan.

Wide receivers coach Erik Campbell is a former Michigan receiver and was on Lloyd Carr’s staff from 1995-2007.

Offensive line coach and offensive coordinator Terry Malone is no stranger to the MAC having coached running backs at Western Michigan a year ago. The former NFL assistant, who won a Super Bowl in 2009 with the New Orleans Saints, has been an offensive coordinator for Purdue and Michigan.

Former interim head coach Carl Pelini, who was also the Falcons defensive coordinator, was offered the chance to stay with Bowling Green but instead elected to return to his brother’s (Bo Pelini) staff at Youngstown State. Loeffler made a major hire to replace him, hiring Brian VanGorder. VanGorder spent last season as the defensive coordinator for the Louisville Cardinals and has been a defensive coordinator with Central Michigan, Georgia, Auburn and Notre Dame among other schools. He has also served as the head coach at Wayne State (D-II) and for Georgia Southern. VanGorder was on the Atlanta Falcons staff from 2007-2011. He will be charged with coaching up a Falcon defense which kept only two schools under thirty points a year ago.

The experience of Loeffler’s staff is in stark comparison to that of Jinks staff, which was littered with younger coaches and successful high school coaches.

The Falcons were expected to have QB Jarret Doege returning this fall to lead the Falcon offense. However, Doege decided to leave for power five West Virginia. His departure left Bowling Green with Junior Grant Loy as their front runner to start under center.

Loy was credited with a start a season ago but that came in a gimmick two QB set to start the game vs Central Michigan. The New Washington, Ohio native, is a two time academic all-conference selection. He was 7-12 with two touchdowns for one hundred and eighty yards in relief of Doege last year.

Joining Loy in the mix to start are a pair of former Boston College transfers. Darius Wade, a sixth year senior, comes to Bowling Green from Boston College by way of FCS Delaware. Wade played for Loeffler at Boston College and Bowling Green receivers coach Erik Campbell was his passing game coordinator in Delaware. He did not see the field for the Blue Hens.

Wade started six games in 2017 for Boston College including the Pinstripe Bowl.

Matt McDonald, a redshirt sophomore, follows Loeffler from Boston College after seeing action in two games a season ago for the Eagles. Bowling Green has been expected to petition for his eligibility status this fall but as of press time, no announcement had been made.

Wide receiver Isaiah Johnson-Mack is another Power Five transfer from Washington State, who sat out last season due to transfer. In 2017, Mack ranked third on the Cougars in receptions (61) and second in receiving yards (555) and tied for second on the team with five touchdowns.

Mack is part of a position group who will aim to replace the production of the NFL-bound Scotty Miller. It will be interesting to see how Mack fits after being recruited to Air Raid system by Mike Leach at Washington State and Mike Jinks at Bowling Green.

Tight end Austin Dorris comes to Bowling Green from Indiana University. Dorris reportedly was not invited back to IU for a fifth season after graduating in December. He saw action in all twelve games in both 2017 and 2018, including making his first start vs Minnesota. He caught four passes on the season and was an academic all-Big Ten selection. He is an Ohio native from Shadyside high school.

Powerful running back Davon Jones transfers in from Boston College where he played both linebacker and half back in ten games for the Eagles. The 5’10, 235 lbs., redshirt senior could be the thunder to Clair’s lightning


Schedule

Bowling Green will begin their rebuild under coach Loeffler faced with a tough schedule.

The Falcons open up at home on a Thursday night vs FCS Morgan State. Morgan State fired their head coach after a 4-7 season which included a loss to BG's MAC peer Akron. Hired to lead the Bears is former Michigan standout and NFL assistant Tyrone Wheatley. The Falcons have not won a season opener since 2013. This is a game the Falcons should win, but a loss would alarm the locals and bode poorly for the rest of the season.

A road trip to Manhatten, Kansas, to play the Kansas State Wildcats of the Big 12. K-State missed a bowl last season for the first time since 2009, while finishing 5-7. That 5-7 mark was enough for Kansas State to help push legendary coach Bill Snyder into retirement and replace him with North Dakota State head coach Chris Klieman. Klieman won four FCS national titles at NDSU.

Week three brings a very early homecoming to Bowling Green as the Falcons celebrate with a game against Louisiana Tech. The Bulldogs have grown to be one of the more solid group of five schools and went 8-5 a year ago in a season capped by a Hawaii Bowl victory against the host Hawaii Warriors. The Bulldogs haven’t missed a bowl game since 2013. Head coach Skip Holtz, the son of Lou Holtz, is in his sixth season at the Ruston, Lousiana school and should be a very tough matchup for Bowling Green.

Week four brings in state rival Kent State. Show of hands here, who knew that Kent State and BGSU were considered rivals? The two schools play for the Anniversary Award, where Bowling Green owns a 60-20-6 all time record. However, Kent State won last year and seems to be trending up while BG will try to stop their downward trajectory. Having to travel to Kent, Ohio will do the Falcons no favors.

After a bye week, the Falcons travel 165 miles across the state line as they travel to Notre Dame to play the Fighting Irish. Falcon basketball fans may remember games scheduled against Notre Dame College, this is not them. This is Notre Dame Stadium, the golden helmets, and Brian Kelly. The Irish finished 12-1 last year with a 24-16 victory over Ball State. Their only loss was in the College Football Playoff vs. the eventual national champion Clemson Tigers. This figures to be the Falcons toughest game, as they will be severe underdogs. Perhaps a saving grace, Notre Dame will pay USC a week later so the Falcons could catch the Irish looking ahead. Regardless alumni and fans alike will likely travel well to experience game day in South Bend.

No rest for the wicked as Bowling Green returns from their battle with Notre Dame to host arch rival Toledo. The Rockets have won nine straight vs their rivals and now lead the all-time series, 40-39-4. The Interstate 75 rivarly typically produces a large and lively crowd. Toledo has been picked to win the MAC West while BG was picked to finish last in the MAC East, however in a rivalry game you can typically throw records out the window. A win vs. UT would right a lot of wrongs in what should be a tough season.

Falcon fans will want to mark the game against Toledo as it will serve as their 100th year celebration, complete with the team wearing throwback helmets.

In a matchup of new head coaches Scot Loeffler and Jim McElwain will meet at Doyt Perry Stadium to see who is rebuilding quicker. One of BGSU’s three victories last season was a 24-13 win at Central Michigan.

Bowling Green plays Western Michigan for the second year in a row as the Falcons travel to Kalamazoo. The Broncos have been a trendy pick to be among the leaders of the MAC west this season. The Falcons are just 1-5 vs WMU since 2005.

The Falcons will then host another in state foe in the Akron Zips in another matchup of first year coaches as Akron breaks in former Chattanooga head coach Tom Arth as he replace Terry Bowden. Last year the Falcons beat the Zips 21-6 in Akron.

After another bye week as 2019 is a rare multiple bye season across college football, Bowling Green travels south to Oxford for a Wednesday night affair against the Redhawks, where they have surprisingly won three straight. Miami finished 6-6 last season for Coach Chuck Martin, including a 38-23 victory vs BGSU.

More in-state MACtion the following week as Bowling Green hosts a Tuesday night game under the lights at Doyt Perry Stadium vs the Ohio Bobcats. Ohio under Frank Solich is the preseason MAC favorite after going 9-4 last season including a Texas Bowl shutout victory vs San Diego State. Ohio QB Nathan Rourke should be one of the best players in the conference.

The regular season (and likely the Falcon season) ends with a road trip to defending MAC West champion Buffalo. Playing at Buffalo in late November likely means a cold game on Black Friday. The Bulls will look to reload after losing several key players including QB Tyree Jackson and WR KJ Osborn after a 10-4 season with a Dollar General Bowl appearance.


2019 Outlook

It is hard to truly say, but if you follow the Falcons you can sense a growing momentum around the program.

Scot Loeffler and company bring a credibility to Doyt Perry Stadium not since seen in Bowling Green since Dino Babers left for Syracuse. They feature one of the most experienced staffs in the Mid-American Conference.

The Falcons are making strides in recruiting especially in Northwest Ohio and against the University of Toledo.

There also seems to be a cleansing of the roster and the attitude around the players. Loeffler has dismissed a handful of players since his arrival who have not bought into the new vision. A culture change of the locker room takes time and nothing helps that like winning football games.

With all that being said, it may be hard to carry their momentum into the regular season.

The Falcons, as of press time, are likely to only be favored in one game: week one on a Thursday night vs FCS Morgan State.

Bowling Green did not have a large enough recruiting class to fill all of their scholarships, so the Falcons have welcomed over fifteen walk-ons into the program this fall. Any injury’s stand to challenge the Falcons depth.

Anytime you see a coaching change and a scheme fit, it is tough to overturn a roster from what worked for one coach and scheme to what works for a new coach and his scheme. So the Falcons may need to take a step back this season before they take a step forward.

Adding Darius Wade to the competition at quarterback helps but we haven’t seen him take a snap since 2017 at Boston College. Yes, Grant Loy was in the program last year but now there’s a new system.

Andrew Clair is a sleeper in the Mid-American Conference. It would not surprise me to see his role grow and challenge for a first team all MAC selection.

Transfers like Austin Dorris, Isiah Johnson Mack and half back Davon Jones, who doubles as a linebacker, coming from Boston College add’s some badly needed experienced playmakers to the offense.

The veteran offensive line should be improved and I expect them to be a pleasant surprise for the Falcons.

On defense, it is hard to imagine the unit being worse than a year ago.

If Andrew Clair is underrated on offense, then David Konowalski is underrated on defense. If he can return to form post injury, watch out for him to receive all-MAC honors.

Depth will be tested at the linebacker and in the defensive secondary.

Special teams should be strong with solid returners at punter and kicker.

The Falcons are headed in the right direction. The new coaching staff has resulted in a new buzz around town but these things take time.

The 100th year of Falcon football will likely be another rough year but expect the Falcons to return among contenders perhaps as early as 2020.