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Bollinger a dual-threat for the Tigers

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Published August 31. 2018 07:41AM

Junior quarterback Deven Bollinger set the bar pretty high in the season opener against Notre Dame last Friday night at Tiger Stadium. With 136 yards rushing and 108 passing, Bollinger was directly responsible for 244 of the team’s 408 yards of offense. That performance was good enough to make Bollinger the Times-News Player of the Week for Week 1 of the football season and to show that he’s more than a one-dimensional quarterback.

Bollinger credits the work that he did during the offseason to help develop more speed and quickness. The regimen worked well enough that the Tigers offense now has designed plays for Bollinger to use his legs where in the past, his runs were more out of necessity because of pressure from the defense.

The addition of Bollinger’s ability to gain yards on the ground creates a vicious cycle for defenses to scheme against. If teams concentrate on shutting down his running game, he can not only defer to someone else in the deep assortment of running backs that the Tigers have, but he can also pick apart defenses with his ability to hit open targets down the field. If teams target the passing game, Bollinger can beat them on the ground. On Friday, Nick Henry gained 117 yards on the ground for Northwestern as the Tigers put up 300 yards rushing. In the air, Bollinger was able to find Justin Rodda for a hefty 69-yard catch and run because the ground game had loosened up the defense.

“It’s not just Nick and Justin,” said Bollinger of his potential weapons. “Tyler Lobach had nearly 50 yards and didn’t have too many carries and guys like Tyler Slifer, who got hurt early on and Haasie [Ryan Haas] and Derek Holmes moved to tight end and he’s doing really well, too. This is the deepest team in the three years that I’ve been here, there’s a lot of talent.”

Bollinger credits other players on the team, as he’s quick to realize that football is a team sport, and that his success comes on the back of a lot of other contributors. In addition to an assortment of talent at the skill positions, Bollinger talked about how good the offensive line in front of him is even before the season started. Rebuilding the offensive line was a priority for coach Josh Snyder and the coaching staff coming into the season.

The Tigers had 300 yards rushing in their win over Notre Dame Friday night, including one 80-yard drive in which Bollinger collected 55 of the 80 yards on the ground. It’s that type of explosiveness that adds a new wrinkle to the Tigers offense. Besides his yardage on the ground, Bollinger collected 108 yards of passing and threw for two touchdowns, giving him a total of five TDs on the night. Defensively, he also broke up two pass plays from Crusaders quarterback Cole DeFranco.

“Deven’s a really great kid, and he works hard in practice and he can take everything that he learns and put it to use in a game,” said Snyder. “You saw in that last drive that he’s become the type of player who can take over a drive and be the difference-maker in a game. What we like about Devon though is that he is always team-first, and he’s become a leader because he’s quick to credit other guys and quick to be the guy who is patting them on the back for a good play.”

With a huge win over Notre Dame to start the season, Bollinger is realistic and isn’t quick to rest on that success. Instead, he’s focused on this week’s game at Salisbury and what he and the team need to do to win against the Falcons.

“A couple of guys and I kind of celebrated the win on Saturday, but yesterday we were back watching film and lifting and today we were getting ready for Salisbury,” Bollinger explained. “That win is in the past now and we just have to focus on what’s next and not keep replaying that game. What anybody did in that game was great, but now it’s another week and we’re working hard to be ready for Salisbury.”

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