Scouting the Bowling Green offense

Ho-hum... it's just another potent offense and another great quarterback for the Buckeyes to stop this week. We have a look at what Josh Harris and the BG offense brings to the Horseshoe this weekend.

Through three games, Bowling Green leads the nation in total offense with 575.3 yards per game (362.3 passing; 213 rushing) and is second in scoring with an average of 50.7 points.

Last year, the Falcons averaged 449 yards (230 passing; 219 rushing) and 40.8 points. They broke the MAC single-season scoring record with 490 points and were third in the nation in scoring.

This year, they return six starters on offense and will provide a tough challenge for Ohio State's talented defense on Saturday.

There is so much talk about football being the ultimate team sport, but Bowling Green is going to go as far as All-American candidate Josh Harris (6-3, 240) takes it. The senior quarterback has thrown for 750 yards, six touchdowns and two interceptions this season. Last year, he threw for 2,425 yards, 19 TDs and 11 INTs. He added 862 rushing yards in 2002, but the Falcons have been using him less on the ground this year (84 yards), in order to protect him.

Like the rest of the nation, Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel has taken notice of Harris.

"I talked to our defensive coaches on Sunday and they said that (NC State quarterback) Philip Rivers was about as good as any you've seen," Tressel said. "But then they said, 'Wait until you see Josh Harris.'

"Josh Harris does an excellent job of attacking for Bowling Green with both his feet and his arm."

Harris, who hails from Columbus-suburb Westerville, reminds Tressel of a few other athletic quarterbacks he has seen.

"Probably the two guys that I've coached against that remind me a little bit of him - I coached one time against Steve McNair when he was at Alcorn, and I coached against Daunte Culpepper when he was at Central Florida, and they both threw it so well," Tressel said. "When there was nothing there, they could run it so well and they could design runs for them. They're just big, strong guys that you better tackle. That would be the two closest guys that I've ever coached against."

Although Harris hasn't been running the ball much this season, Tressel knows that will likely change against the Buckeyes. The Falcons are going to utilize all of their weapons and Harris is a very good runner. He also has a cannon for an arm, but coming out of high school, he was considered a runner first.

"They use him on the zone sweep, the quarterback draw, the quarterback off-tackle, the counter trap off of misdirection and the option," Tressel said. "I'm not sure there isn't anything they don't do with him."

Ohio State defensive tackle Darrion Scott has been studying Harris' game this week.

"I watched some tape of Josh Harris after practice (Monday)," Scott said. "He reminds you of the guy from Kent State: Joshua Cribbs. He is a little heavier at 6-3, 240 pounds. That's what makes him so versatile. He can run. It's like chasing a 240-pound tailback. It will be a good challenge for us to stop."

Defensive end Will Smith knows Harris will come to the Horseshoe with something to prove.

"He is a concern for us," Smith said. "He can run and he's a good passer also. He's from Columbus and we know he'll be revved up to come in here and have his best performance."

The tailback for Bowling Green is first-year starter PJ Pope (5-9, 215, So.). He has rushed for 261 yards (6.4 per carry) and four touchdowns so far this year.

The Falcons start three wide receivers (sometimes four) and they are all talented players with experience.

James Hawkins (6-1, 210, Jr.) has 13 receptions for a team-high 265 yards and a touchdown. He had 44 receptions last year and started 11 games.

Cole Magner (6-2, 190, Jr.) leads the team with 16 receptions and four touchdowns and has accounted for 257 receiving yards. He is a former quarterback and actually started the first game of the 2001 season at QB until Harris took over. Last year, Magner had 26 receptions in 12 starts.

The third receiver is Charles Sharon (6-1, 180, So.). His numbers read 9-132-2 so far this year. He had 33 receptions as a freshman and started 11 games.

"Their running backs are good and their receivers are good," Smith said. "Our coaches feel some of their receivers could play here at Ohio State. We have to respect all of the players on their team. We can't take anybody lightly. We have to be ready."

The tight end is Craig Jarrett (6-2, 250, Sr.). He missed the 2002 season with a torn ACL and has just one reception so far this year.

The offensive line returns three starters: tackles LT James Williams (6-5, 295, Sr.), C Scott Mruczkowski (6-4, 305, Jr.) and RT Robert Haley (6-4, 290, Sr.).

The new starters on the O-line are guards Andy Grubb (6-4, 284, Jr.) and Rob Warren (6-6, 290, So.).

It is not a particularly strong line. Yes, there are technically three returning starters in the group, but Williams only started six games and Haley started just five.

Overall, the Buckeyes are going to have their hands full with the Falcons well-balanced, explosive offense. Yes, they have put up big numbers against cupcakes Eastern Kentucky and Liberty, but they also moved the ball well in a 27-26 win at Purdue.

"They have the No. 1 offense in the country at this point," Smith said. "We are taking that as a challenge. They do a lot of things. Josh Harris is the leader of the team. We have to shut him down."

Tressel agreed with his captain.

"They lead the nation in offense and scoring and so forth," he said. "They scored 27 points against Purdue at Purdue, which I happen to think Purdue is one of the top defenses in the Big Ten. And so I know, our defense knows, and I certainly know that our defensive staff knows that they've got a tremendous challenge as Bowling Green comes in this week."

Last year, the Falcons liked to run and pass almost an equal amount. So far this season, they have decided to air it out a little bit and more of the same can be expected against the Buckeyes. They will definitely look to pass first, but they will not abandon their running game.

New head coach Gregg Brandon was the offensive coordinator under former coach Urban Meyer, so the offense has not missed a beat with the coaching change. In fact, with so many lettermen back (21), it is an even better unit than last year.

Bowling Green will spread things out against the Buckeyes and will likely be very aggressive with its play-calling. This is a team that was ranked last year, is on the fringe of being ranked this year and will come to town with a lot of confidence on the offensive side of the football. The Falcons will mix things up all game and will get all of their skill players involved. Harris is very good at spreading the ball around and his ability as a runner will be a factor. The Bucks haven't faced a good running QB for a long time.

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