Bowling Green State University football coach Scot Loeffler talks about the importance of recruiting from within a four-hour radius.
Those recruits are paying dividends for the Falcons.
In BGSU’s 34-31 overtime win over No. 26 Marshall on Saturday at Doyt Perry Stadium, 6-foot, 205-pound sophomore safety Trent Simms did his part.
A Sylvania Northview graduate, Simms jumped the route and intercepted a pass with 4:24 remaining in the first half at the BGSU 41-yard line. He did what defensive backs are supposed to do — read the eyes of the quarterback.
“I saw my guy sit down in the middle really quick. I tried to make him cut back a little because he (Marshall quarterback Henry Colombi) made a little pump, so once I saw him look at the receiver, I just jumped on it,” Simms said.
BGSU 5-10, 175-pound junior running back PaSean Wimberly (Toledo Whitmer) had the 23-yard run in overtime that set up the winning touchdown.
Cade Zimmerly, a 6-1, 295-pound offensive lineman from Perrysburg, has been getting starts at center and offensive guard, and Levi Gazarek, a 6-5, 250-pound sophomore, has started at tight end. They are on the tip of the iceberg when it comes to local talent on the roster.
Simms sees it as a Northwest Ohio all-star showcase, which he believes should be a draw to local football fans. He adds that he has “a lot of family and friends who come out and support.”
“I like it for our fan base, because you can tell people you can watch guys from Northview and Central Catholic,” Simms said.
“If you’re watching that (high school) game (Friday), you should come to BG and watch that game (Saturday) because you can hear familiar names,” Simms said. “So, I feel like it’s good. It’s a good feeling, too, like a ‘being at home’ feeling.”
Loeffler said play from his Northwest Ohio players, including contributions from 6-0, 195-pound wide receiver Cavon Croom from Sandusky, are crucial to the team’s success.
Loeffler added that the current transfer portal makes it even harder to recruit locally, but it’s still important to get within that four-hour radius as much as possible.
“It’s been our philosophy and I know the transfer portal has kind of changed the parameters of recruiting,” Loeffler said.
“But our philosophy when we walked in the door was the four-hour radius, try to take as many guys that we thought could play here at Bowling Green, guys that had character, guys that had talent, guys that wanted to be in BG and we’re not going to waver from that,” Loeffler continued.
“We’re going to still recruit the local area. Now we’ve just got to deal with free agency a little bit with the transfer portal. It’s going to be interesting to see where this whole thing goes. It’s just an interesting new deal that none of us are accustomed to, to be quite honest with you.”
That local talent, plus BGSU’s 100th Homecoming celebration Saturday, brought 21,158 fans to Doyt Perry Stadium. They were vocal and engaged.
Simms said the Falcons enjoy playing in that atmosphere and he hopes they can have that every single home game.
“We know all games we have to come out, but especially when it is a home game — we don’t want to lose. Nobody wants to lose at home,” Simms said. “We don’t want to disappoint our fans, especially when we have big fan base like that. We know we must keep our energy levels up for this game and bring it to the next.”
Simms said it was exhilarating when sophomore tailback Ta’ron Keith caught the winning touchdown pass from senior quarterback Matt McDonald in overtime. Not only from his standpoint — but once he saw the fans’ reaction.
“That is really the best feeling I’ve had here in a while. It felt great to see everybody there and how happy everybody was, and they rushed the field. I thought that was a special moment,” Simms said.
Along with his interception against Marshall, Simms had four tackles, including an assist on a tackle-for-loss.
He was part of a defense that held Marshall scoreless as the Falcons put up 21 points unanswered to rebound from a two-touchdown deficit.
“During our (sideline) meeting, we all knew what we had to come out during the game after they had a couple big plays. We just knew we had to come out and make a stand in the second half,” Simms said.
“It’s all in our minds, so we all came together as a defense. We just had to communicate better.”
During that defensive stand, sacks played huge roles. On an early fourth quarter drive, senior outside linebacker Demetrius Hardamon and sophomore defensive lineman Dierre Kelly had two sacks that set the Thundering Herd back a combined 15 yards.
The sacks occurred after Colombi had thrown two first down passes covering 30 yards to reach the BGSU 45-yard line.
Kelly’s sack came on third down to force a Marshall punt. Simms says any kind of pressure on the quarterback helps him do his job, too.
“It’s all very beneficial,” Simms said. “Sacks help us out because once we get there, we get pressure on the quarterback, and we can force an interception.”
Simms said the win over Marshall brought the Falcons confidence — confidence they want to carry with them when they travel to take on Southeastern Conference member Mississippi State at noon Saturday.
“It makes us want to practice even harder. We’ve got to go even harder than we did last week,” Simms said.
“We just got to prep, keep prepping the same, have a good practice, good communications throughout the defense,” he said. “They are a very good team. We’ve got to bring our ‘A’ game, just like every week. They’ve got a great passing game, too.”