The 2018 football season has been a trying one for the Falcons, and the scrutiny from outside the program came to a head Sunday with the announcement that Head Coach Mike Jinks had been fired following last weekend’s homecoming loss to Western Michigan.
Athletic Director Bob Moosbrugger named Defensive Coordinator Carl Pelini interim head coach of the Falcons (1-6, 0-3 MAC) for the rest of the season. The timing of the move was both expected and difficult; the new coach will have just six days to prepare for the away matchup with the Bobcats (3-3, 1-1 MAC).
“What we need now as a family, as a group, as a program, is to all be on the same page and all keep moving forward in the same direction in a positive way. Very little distractions, stay focused on their studies, on their day to day routine as a student athlete and on Ohio University,” said Pelini. “We’re going to roll up our sleeves, we’re going to prepare for Ohio University and we’re going to put the best product on the field that we can put.”
Jinks’ path to a pink slip was easily visible after the Falcons were essentially blown out in their conference opener against Miami on Sept. 24. The next three games became must-wins, and losing the ninth straight Battle of I-75 and dropping a close homecoming contest in front of University alumni became a death sentence. Leadership could not wait any longer, choosing to fire him immediately rather than waiting until the end of the season.
“That’s something I struggled with, quite honestly” Moosbrugger said. “I kept going back and forth with it, and it ultimately came down in the best interest of our student athletes. I felt it was the right time to do it at this time in the season.”
Pelini takes over the program as one of the more experienced head coaches in University history, with a coaching career spanning over 30 years at both the high school and college levels. Born in Youngstown, Pelini most recently spent two seasons as the defensive coordinator at Youngstown State and has held coaching positions at Ohio University and two Ohio high schools. He will have the final five games of the season to prove he is the man to hold down the job on a permanent basis.
“The most important thing to me at this moment is our players and the young men in that locker room,” Pelini said. “My intention as the interim head coach is to keep things moving in a positive direction, to focus on micro changes that I think can make us better, keep the moral up, keep the routine in place.”
Preparing for Ohio will be no easy task for Pelini. The Falcons have been one of the worst teams in the nation on defense this season while the Bobcats have the third highest scoring offense in the MAC (34.2 points per game). The new head coach will look to improve the culture of the program through transparency and vigilance.
“I understand the uncertainty in their minds, the uncertainty in the minds of the staff,” Pelini said, “but the bottom line is what I’ve learned over my years as a football coach and as a professional is that you just control what you can control. And what we can control is how we work day-to-day to prepare for Ohio University. Focus on the academic side of the program, focus on the athletic side of the program and just keep our nose to the grindstone.”
While they have struggled on defense and on the ground this year, the Falcons’ passing attack has been one of the best in the MAC. Led by quarterback Jarret Doege and wide receivers Quintin Morris and Scott Miller, Bowling Green is currently first in the MAC in passing yards per game (278.9) and passing touchdowns (19). Ohio has struggled this season defending the pass, giving up a conference worst 327.2 passing yards per game and 15 passing touchdowns. Doege and the Bowling Green receiving corps will be the main focus on offense.
The past two weeks have shown that the Falcons can compete against teams in the MAC. Finishing drives and limiting costly mistakes will be the key to turning close losses into wins, and Pelini plans to build on these close contests through honesty and self-evaluation.
“As a program and as a team, what can we do to be successful in those situations?” Pelini said. “I think that each player and each coach has to look at those situations as well and evaluate themselves honestly. What can the individual do to make us more successful in those situations?”
The game is scheduled to kickoff at 2 p.m. Saturday. It will be broadcast on ESPN3.