When sophomore Jarret Doege was behind center for Bowling Green last year, the Falcons offense took on a brand-new identity.
His play gave a spark to Bowling Green over the final four games of the season when the Falcons averaged 35 points and 412.5 yards per game. In the eight games prior, they averaged 20.5 points per game. Although the Falcons went 1-3 in those final four games, they found a recipe for success on the offensive end that could prove dangerous for Oregon come Saturday.
Doege threw for 1,381 yards and 12 touchdowns in seven games (five starts), completing 120-of-188 of his throws. His 63.8-percent completion rate ranked eighth-best in school history.
His primary target happens to be his smallest target in senior wide receiver Scott Miller. Miller — who is close to entering the top-10 of every career Bowling Green receiving record — caught 63 passes for 722 yards and four touchdowns last year. Labeled a possession receiver who works in the slot, Miller often uses his speed and quickness to evade defenders and keep the chains moving.
Miller could pose a potential problem for the Ducks since the team doesn’t have a true nickel corner as of yet. Expectations are that Oregon safety Ugo Amadi will drop down into that nickel position after having spent his first 2.5 years at Oregon playing cornerback. The Amadi-Miller matchup should be a good one.
Doege also has a pair of twin towers in receivers Deric Phouthavong and Quinton Morris. Phouthvang (6-foot-5) and Morris (6-foot-4) could give the Duck cornerbacks real trouble in the redzone. Oregon’s tallest starting defensive back is 6-foot-1 safety Nick Pickett while the two starting cornerbacks, Thomas Graham Jr. and Deommodore Lenoir check in at 5-foot-11.
"Where they pose a problem for you is they get the ball down the field in a hurry… they stretch the field," Cristobal said. "They have a little bit of the air raid mentality. They're big, they're tall, they're athletic, they've got good balance and body control, and they've shown that they can make big plays.”
When Doege isn’t throwing the ball, he’ll be handing it off to sophomore running back Andrew Clair. Clair started only one game last year but ran for 745 yards on 107 carries with four touchdowns. His 6.8 yards per carry is a Bowling Green record for a true freshman running back. Clair is also a very capable receiver, catching 13 passes for two touchdowns last year.
Clair runs behind a big and experienced offensive line.
> “This is an offense that has four of the players up front on their offensive line, they have experience," Cristobal said. "They’re large — really, really big guys.”
This should be a good early-season test for the Ducks’ defensive line. Not to look ahead but Stanford looms in week four so any chance Oregon gets to go up against a bigger and beefier offensive line before then should be seen as a plus.
The defensive side of the ball is where Bowling Green struggles most.
The Falcons were the among the worst defenses in the nation last year, surrendering 38 points and 506.6 yards per game. But, they’re under new tutelage this year after hiring five different defensive coaches in the offseason, including Carl Pelini from Youngstown State as defensive coordinator.
"Very disciplined," Cristobal said of Pelini's defense. "Their safeties are heavily involved in the run game — their front is going to move and mix and stunt a lot… they're going to bring all kinds of pressure.
Seniors Fred Garth and Brandon Harris are the top returners. Garth (95 tackles) and Harris (92 tackles) finished first and third respectively in tackles last year and give the Falcons an athletic core returning at the linebacker position.
Kyle Junior returns at defensive tackle to help solidify a leaky line. Junior finished last year with 6.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks. Marcus Milton and Clint Stephens, who tied for the team-high with three interceptions each, are back.
The defensive backs are big for the Falcons, with no starter being listed under 6-foot. This could be an issue for the Ducks when it comes to stretching the field as Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert likes to throw the ball up to his receivers and trust them to win the 50-50 balls.
Overall, this is a game Oregon should win as its offense is too fast and superior for the Falcons to try and play catchup. But if the Ducks struggle with the pass defense and the offense is slow to start, this game could be closer than the 33-point spread.