DETROIT – During spring practice, Bowling Green junior quarterback Matt Johnson felt the Falcons’ offense was moving fast.
Johnson and his teammates were getting used to the up-tempo, spread offense ran by new coach Dino Babers.
Despite what Johnson thought were fast-paced practices, he said Babers felt the pace was slow.
After watching film of spring practice with his offensive mates over the summer, Johnson now agrees with Babers, and said the difference in the team’s offensive grasp from the spring until now has been night and day.
“It looked so bad in the spring. I know that right now we’re not even where he wants us to be tempo-wise. But those first couple practices were so bad, our mind was rolling and rolling and rolling,” Johnson said during Wednesday’s Mid-American Conference Media Day at Ford Field. “We thought we were going as fast as he wanted us to, and it wasn’t anywhere close. The receivers were tired, I was tired, the offensive line was tired.
“So, it feels good though to look back on that and go, ‘Oh man, we started here and look where we’re at now.’ ”
Last season, Babers’ offense at Eastern Illinois racked up more than 5,200 passing yards and 3,000 rushing yards.
Northern Illinois fans saw Babers’ attack up close, as the Panthers jumped out to an early lead on the Huskies on Sept. 21 before NIU stormed back for a 43-39 win. Eastern’s quarterback, Jimmy Garoppolo, was picked by the New England Patriots in the second round of the 2014 NFL Draft.
Babers said that in a perfect world, his offense will average about 85 snaps a game. He also said it’s going to take time to get to the speed and level he wants his team to be at.
Babers said the pace will be where he wants it to be around the midway point of his second season.
“This is exactly what I told Jimmy Garoppolo, is that you will think you’re going fast the first year, and everyone will think that we’re going fast the first year, and it will be killing me inside,” Babers said.
After last year’s upset over NIU in the MAC Championship Game, Bowling Green was picked to repeat as conference champs by the league’s media. In addition to Johnson, the Falcons also return tailback Travis Greene, who set a school record with 1,594 yards of offense in 2013.
“Everyone sees the numbers from Eastern Illinois and all that. That’s the bar,” Johnson said. “We eventually need to get to that bar.”