Behind Enemy Lines: Bowling Green football beat writer Nick Piotrowicz discusses CMU game
Central Michigan Life's Evan Petzold spoke with Bowling Green beat writer Nick Piotrowicz from The Toledo Blade to preview Central Michigan's 2 p.m. Oct. 19 road game against the Falcons at Doyt L. Perry Stadium.
Bowling Green is 2-4 this season and 1-1 in the Mid-American Conference, losing to Kansas State (52-0), Louisiana Tech (35-7), Kent State (62-20) and Notre Dame (52-0). It's only win was a Week 1 victory, 46-3, over Morgan State until a 20-7 upset against Toledo, a MAC heavyweight, on Oct. 12.
In 2018, the Falcons finished 3-9 overall. Of their two conference wins, one was a 24-13 win against the Chippewas in Mount Pleasant.
Piotrowicz discussed Bowling Green's new starting quarterback, the upset against Toledo, what is next under first-year coach Scot Loeffler and much more on both sides of the ball in this exclusive Q&A.
Central Michigan Life: What is there to know about Bowling Green entering this week's game?
Nick Piotrowicz: Coming into the season, they had won nine games in the last three years, and the roster was in really bad shape. They won their first game but looked very poor against most of their FBS competition. Seemingly, out of nowhere, they beat Toledo. They lost by 42 points to Kent State and then beat potentially the best team in the conference. Everyone else's guess is just as good as mine.
How did Bowling Green beat Toledo?
They found something in the quarterback. Grant Loy is the new quarterback, and they've been able to jumpstart their running game. They've found a system that has started to work, and Scot Loeffler has been harping on the way they practice. He walked into the program in November and basically said they had guys that couldn't even line up correctly. They had a long way to go. He's been a broken record about how you get what you deserve. They were having these bad results because they couldn't put together a good week of practice.
All of a sudden, they turned the corner this past week. Practices got better, preparation all across the board was better, and they executed all types of things way better than they had – specifically blocking on the outside with wide receivers. That played a huge part.
The two biggest rushing and passing plays of the season were in the first quarter (against Toledo), so that really set them up.
What was quarterback Grant Loy's journey to a starting spot like?
A lot of dominoes had to fall between last November and now. Jarret Doege was the starter and had two years left. He went through spring practice and transferred (to West Virginia). They were down a guy there. They brought in Matt McDonald, who was a transfer from Boston College. While a lot of other quarterbacks got immediate eligibility, his case did not. He got shot down, and they found out when they were getting on the plane to go to Kansas State in the second week. They brought in Darius Wade as a (sixth-year) graduate transfer as insurance (from Delaware after transferring from Boston College). He had an injury that doctors thought would end his career last year at Delaware. He ended up getting surgery and giving it another go.
The offense never got going with Wade, and Loy is literally the only remaining scholarship quarterback. Once Wade had his struggles, and I don't know if he'll be all the way healthy, the staff went in the other direction – giving Loy a shot. For better or for worse, he's probably going to be the guy for the rest of the year.
What is Loy's quarterback style? Will it be tough to game plan against?
Even with film on him, I think it'll be tougher (than with Wade). He adds a completely new element. Last year, they used him almost as you'd use a wildcat. They were putting him in there in a run setting, but you couldn't really put nine guys in the box because he's still a quarterback. The offense line deserves a lot of credit for being better in the last few weeks, but in that zone read game – even if you know it's coming – seeing it at full speed with a team that can do it is a different thing. He's 6-foot-5. He can run between the tackles, and it gives them a different wrinkle.
What are the strengths and weaknesses of the Falcons?
One of the best players on their team, at least we thought, is running back Andrew Clair. He hasn't played much. He's had a foot injury. Bowling Green doesn't have a ton of speed offensively which has been a weakness. The thing that's really surprised me from camp to now is that they've found the pass rush. They have 17 sacks already, and they had 15 in 12 games both of the last two seasons. When they're getting them in passing downs, it's been a real problem. It hasn't been one guy. A lot of different guys have got in on rushing the passer. That's one thing the defense has done consistently.
Is there an update on if Clair is going to be able to play against the Chippewas?
It's a nagging thing, so they don't really know. He was ready to go the Wednesday before they went out to Notre Dame (Oct. 5), and he was ready to go. He hurt his foot again that Thursday. He hasn't played since then.
Does Bowling Green feel like it's trending up at this point?
It gives the rest of the season a possibility. If you can beat the best team in the league, why can't you at least compete with the other teams in the conference? I don't know where this is going. They probably don't know where it's going, but they think it's the turn of a corner. Can they be a bowl team? That might still be steep at this point, but they seem to have found something that altered the course of what this was going to be after their first five games.
What has changed about the program since Scot Loeffler took over?
I was covering Ohio State in 2016. The first game of the season was against Bowling Green under a new staff (led by former coach Mike Jinks). Ohio State was openly admitting that they had no clue what Bowling Green was going to do because nobody on the other staff had ever called a play. They had a staff full of guys that had the highest level job they've ever had. First-time coordinators and a first-time head coach, who was a high school coach a couple of years before.
This has been the complete opposite. This is a veteran staff that knows this area. The emphasis has been way different from the get-go.
If Bowling Green is going to pull off an upset, what has to happen?
They have to get the running game going since Central Michigan has a good run defense. That's part of what Bowling Green wants in its identity to be. It wants to power run against people, and they also want to do it with pace. It's tough to do. Central has a good enough run defense that it'll make them alter it. Realistically, they're going to make Grant Loy make a few big throws down the field. If he's hitting down the field, you open up everything else. If not, you're going to have a tough day offensively.
I can tell you, from tape, (wide receiver) Kalil Pimpleton is going to get their attention, for sure.
Central Michigan 27, Bowling Green 24