Scouting the Opponent: Bowling Green

In our weekly Scouting the Opponent feature, get a primer on Indiana’s opponent before the game. The Bowling Green Falcons are defending Mid-American Conference champs and were picked to win the MAC again in 2014, but with a struggling defense and an injured star quarterback, it’s been a rough start for Dino Babers’ squad.

Bowling Green Falcons

Record: 1-1

Key Players:

RB #8 – Travis Greene, 5-10, 181 lbs. r-So., Carol City, Fla. 36 attempts, 220 yards, 3 TDs, 4 rec., 26 yards

Greene is the primary option in a two running back scheme along with Fred Coppet. Last year, he rushed for a school-record 1,594 yards and scored 13 total touchdowns to earn second team All-MAC honors.

QB #3 – James Knapke, 6-2, 220 lbs, r-So., Fort Wayne, Ind. (Bishop Luers) 22-for-31, 237 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT

Knapke, a three-time state high school champion at Fort Wayne Bishop Luers, will make his second career start after a hip injury sidelined Matt Johnson for the season. Johnson threw for 3,467 yards and 25 touchdowns last year in addition to five rushing TDs, so Knapke has big shoes to fill.

LB #11 – Gabe Martin, 6-2, 236 lbs, r-Sr., Grand Blanc, Mich. 18 tackles (13 solo), 2 TFL, 1 PBU, 1 FF

Martin is the veteran leader for the Falcons defense and has been named to the All-MAC team twice in his career (First-Team 2012, Second-Team 2013). Last year, the rover missed the final seven games due to a knee injury suffered against Toledo. In the seven games played, Martin recorded 36 tackles including 3.5 for loss and a pair of sacks.

FS #15 – Ryland Ward , 5-10, 195 lbs., r-Sr. Columbus, Ohio 9 tackles, 1 INT (19 yards)

This week will mark the 42nd straight game started by Ward. Last year, he finished second on the team with 81 tackles in addition to two interceptions.

SS #3 – Brian Sutton, 5-11, 199, Sr. Fishers, Ind. 19 tackles, 2 TFL

Sutton, one of six Indiana natives on the roster, led Bowling Green with 18 tackles in week one.

Key Win:

The Falcons’ lone win came last week in a 48-7 drubbing of FCS opponent Virginia Military Institute, which has now lost 22 straight road games. Don’t let the lopsided score completely fool you, either. VMI passed for 321 yards, dominated time of possession and reached the red zone three times without scoring.

Worst Loss:

In week one, Bowling Green surrendered 708 yards in a 59-31 defeat against Western Kentucky, a game in which the Hilltoppers broke five school records.

Head Coach:

Dino Babers, 1-1 in first year at Bowling Green, 20-8 in third year overall. Babers was the head coach at Eastern Illinois for two years, and the Panthers went 12-2 last year. Babers takes over for Dave Clawson, who was hired by Wake Forest after last season.

Hoosier Connections:

IU’s defensive line coach Larry McDaniel spent the last three years with Bowling Green in the same position. IU’s director of player development and academic enhancement Mike Pechac was the academic coordinator for the Falcons for the last two years.

The Falcons have six players from the state of Indiana. Senior S Brian Sutton was a Fishers Tiger, as was IU WR J-Shun Harris. BGSU’s starting QB, redshirt sophomore James Knapke hails from Fort Wayne and attended Bishop Luers, as did IU CB Kenny Mullen. Four Falcons graduated from South Bend Washington High School, including redshirt sophomore WR Gehrig Dieter, redshirt junior QB Nolan Dieter, redshirt sophomore DB Alfonso Mack and redshirt sophomore DL Terrance Bush.

Bowling Green redshirt freshman K Nick Fields and IU freshman OL Wes Martin were teammates at Milton-Union High School in Ohio. IU’s Dameon Willis, Jr. and Bowling Green’s Vito Sosic were both 2014 graduates of St. Ignatius High School in Cleveland.

Team Stats

IU-Bowling Green

Points/Game: 28 – 39.5

Points Allowed/Game: 10 – 33

Total Offense Avg.: 566 – 495.5

Passing Yards Avg.: 111 – 289.5

Rushing Yards Avg.: 455 – 206

Total Defense Avg.: 170 – 563

Passing Defense Avg.: 140 – 445

Rushing Defense Avg.: 30 – 118

Last meeting between these teams:

Indiana 42, Bowling Green, 10. Sept. 14, 2013, Bloomington (only meeting)

Last year, the Hoosiers dominated Bowling Green in what was somewhat of an anomaly for both teams. The Hoosiers’ defense allowed just 136 yards on 36 attempts and Travis Greene was stymied and recorded only 43 rushing yards. The unit didn’t break all day, as the lone Falcon touchdown came on a blocked punt.

Nate Sudfeld threw for 335 yards and two touchdowns and ran in another in his first career start. Tevin Coleman ran for 129 yards and reached pay dirt two times, including a then career-long 43-yard run. The Hoosiers accumulated 601 yards and rattled off 35 unanswered after trailing 10-7 on a defense that was ranked 10th in total defense last year (321.4 yards/game).

Do they like to run it or pass it more:

With first year coach Dino Babers, an Art Briles disciple, whatever the Falcons do, they like to do it fast. The Falcons media relations department has even been using #FalconFast to market the team. Babers brings the spread, fast-paced style he had at Eastern Illinois to Northwestern Ohio, and so far, there has been a pretty balanced mixture of air and ground attack.

However, a disparity arises when looking at touchdown stats. Through two games, BG has scored seven times on the ground as opposed to just two passing TDs. Last week, Bowling Green pounded it up the middle often with Greene and Coppet against an overmatched VMI front. Still, Knapke threw 31 times and the Falcons offense is predicated on spreading out the field.

What They’re Saying:

Kevin Wilson:

“They're a winning program with winning habits. They have a new coach. They have a coach that's coming into a situation where they've had some success, and there's a lot of good leadership and a lot of good habits, a lot of good things going on. Even though there's a transition, their defensive coaches really have two games under their belt, we've got one here with our new defensive coaches, so if you look about it, I don't know if it's an advantage or disadvantage.”

“Defensively they're very aggressive to me. The first game kind of got rolling, and Western Kentucky got on a roll, but you can tell from week one to week two the strides they've made at a different opponent and it was an FCS opponent but they were more aggressive, more assertive, more downhill, closer in coverage. They've got a lot of vets on their team. They've had a few injuries, but they've had guys step in and play well, so a lot of guys we've seen and won against, led against.”

Nate Sudfeld:

“They look good. They’re definitely a tough, scrappy team. We played them pretty well last year, but last year is in the past. We really prepared hard for them last year. They were a really good team last year and have a lot of guys coming back, so we’re taking them very serious and preparing hard.”

On Bowling Green’s defensive scheme compared to last year:

“They don’t play as aggressively with their corners and their linebackers quite as much as they did last year.”

Offensive coordinator Kevin Johns on what the offense is expecting:

“We’re expecting a lot of heat. We’re expected a loaded line of scrimmage, they’re going to do everything they can to stop the run. Very sound in what they do, it’s going to be a tremendous challenge.”

Defensive coordinator Brian Knorr on the differences with James Knapke compared to Matt Johnson for BGSU:

“What Bowling Green does, it’s a system. It’s very similar to what you’ll see down at Baylor. It’s fast-paced, multiple formations, try to get to not line up and go at a fast paced… So I don’t think (BG’s offense) changes, they were pretty generic and vanilla as far as what they had to throw and have him handle that first game. We’re still preparing for the same plan they would have if Johnson was in.”

Key Matchups:

First and foremost, IU’s receivers against the Bowling Green secondary is going to be something to keep your eyes on. The Hoosiers didn’t show much in the passing game against ISU, but this week, expect to see Kevin Johns’ play calling to be quite different. If Bowling Green plays soft zone defense, Sudfeld can dink and dunk all day long and when the Falcons tighten up the coverage, look for IU’s receivers to use their speed to get separation.

The Falcons defense overall has been much worse than expected after six starters returned from a MAC champion unit. Linebacker D.J. Lynch left the game versus VMI with an apparent knee injury and will not play Saturday, further hampering a defense that has struggled. How well the Falcons’ linebacking corps plays against Indiana’s talented front will determine just how long of a day it will be for Bowling Green.

Other than Aaron Del Grosso’s powerful leg versus Indiana State, the Indiana special teams unit was shaky and inconsistent. Bowling Green’s special teams unit has been one of its strong suits and has a chance to capitalize. The Falcons scored two touchdowns last week off of special teams, including a punt return for a touchdown and a blocked punt.


Indiana is the first Power Five conference school to play at Doyt Perry Stadium since Minnesota won 42-17 over BG in 2008.

The last time the Falcons beat a Power Five team at home was 2002 when an Urban Meyer-coached squad took down Missouri 51-28.

Bowling Green holds a 5-16 record all-time against the Big Ten, including a win against Minnesota, two over Northwestern and two over Purdue.

Kevin Wilson is no stranger to Bowling Green. In 1982 when Wilson was a center at North Carolina, the Falcons played in Chapel Hill and lost 33-14. In 2001, with Urban Meyer at BG and Wilson as the offensive coordinator at Northwestern, the Falcons beat the Wildcats 43-42. Then in 2004 with Wilson at Oklahoma, the Sooners opened their season with a 40-24 triumph over BG.

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