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A.J. Oullette, a freshman running back, shakes off Bowling Green defenders as he runs the ball in the first quarter. (FILE)

Bowling Green tries to continue dominance over MAC East

Bowling Green has won the division the last three seasons and the overall conference title two of those years, winning in 2013 and 2015.

Previous coaches Dave Clawson and Dino Babers, both now at Power Five schools, were the architects of those two teams, but now Mike Jinks is at the helm for the Falcons.

Jinks, a successful high school head coach in Texas, is in his first college head coaching role, his only other college coaching job being the assistant head coach and running backs coach for Texas Tech.

“(I’m) the third coach in four years,” Jinks said earlier this season when asked about the program going through a lot of change recently. “We’re working, busting our tail, to make it four straight MAC championship game appearances.”

The experience of having three coaches in four years has helped the Falcon seniors transition Jinks into his first college head coaching role.

“We’ve got a group of seniors that’s truly a unique group, they’re close,” Jinks said before the season. “I haven’t had to come in and change the culture.”

Even with a rookie head coach, Bowling Green was projected to win the MAC East and return to Detroit for the MAC Championship Game for a fourth straight season. However, up to this point of the season, the Falcons are not performing well.

The Falcons have given up 77 points twice and are 1-4 so far this season, dropping their first MAC game 28-25 to Eastern Michigan.

Last season, Bowling Green had one of the best statistical quarterbacks in the country with Matt Johnson. He threw for 4,946 yards and 46 touchdowns. This year, redshirt senior James Knapke only had three touchdowns before being benched for redshirt freshman James Morgan, who has one touchdown.

“I think you’ve seen over the past couple games (how hard it’s been to replace Johnson),” Jinks said. “Any time you’ve got a guy that has played that many snaps, who is a proven winner, it’s going to be hard to replace.”

Along with having to replace Johnson, the Falcons have had to replace their top two receivers from last year, Roger Lewis and Gehrig Dieter, who combined for 2,577 yards and 26 touchdowns. Jinks thinks his team has found a new weapon in redshirt-junior Teo Redding.

“I think (Redding) stepped up and made a couple big plays for us,” Jinks said. “If he can continue to improve, he can be that little outside threat we’ve been looking for this year.”

With the high expectations coming into the season and poor performance on the field up to this point, is this the year Ohio can return to the MAC Championship game? Or does Bowling Green pick up from its slow start and return to Detroit for the fourth straight year? What about another team, such as Akron, which could easily take advantage of Bowling Green knocking off Ohio on Saturday?


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