Nathan Rourke fumbles the football after a sack from Central Michigan’s Nathan Brisson-Fast during Ohio’s homecoming game against Central Michigan University on October 7, 2017. The Bobcats lost 23-26 (Blake Nissen | Photo Editor)
As Ohio passes through the midway point of its regular season, it is in position to win a second straight Mid-American Conference East division title.
Ohio defeated Bowling Green, a division foe, on Saturday. After the 48-30 win, Ohio is in second place in the MAC East, trailing behind Akron.
The Bobcats have five games left in the regular season, and four of them are against MAC East teams; the other is against Toledo. The race for the East division title is on, so here are 10 thoughts about the Bobcats heading into this week.
1. The Bobcats’ running game is one that’s not to be trifled with. The Bobcats rushed for a season-high 335 rushing yards against the Falcons. The second-best rushing team in the MAC – Western Michigan is at the top – Ohio has a three-pronged attack in A.J. Ouellette, Dorian Brown and quarterback Nathan Rourke. Oh, and when Julian Ross comes back from injury, make that trio a quartet.
2. Nathan Rourke, “Air Canada,” whatever you want to call him – that man is the truth. After starting off against the Falcons with two interceptions, Rourke finished with four touchdowns, and three of them were rushing touchdowns. He had a 75-yard rushing touchdown in the third quarter where he basically strolled into the end zone untouched. Bowling Green didn’t respect his scrambling abilities; he rushed for 143 yards. But perhaps other teams will take note now.
3. The secondary is still the weakness opponents will exploit, but the unit improved against the Falcons. The Bobcats allowed 192 passing yards, the least they’ve allowed since giving up 172 to Hampton.
4. Papi White warmed up before the Bowling Green game, but he didn’t play. Coach Frank Solich said that White, who has a hand injury, will have a chance to play against Kent State on Saturday.
5. The passing attack thrives in spurts, and that’s what’s been working. Rourke didn’t throw a touchdown until the fourth quarter. If the rushing attack is succeeding, then the passing game is positioned to succeed, too.
6. The Bobcats have four targeting calls in three games. Solich said he knows the Bobcats aren’t intentionally trying to target. He doesn’t have a solution for how the Bobcats can prevent targeting penalties. Aside from Austin Conrad’s targeting call against Bowling Green, the other three seemed to have incidental contact but were still legitimate tackles.
7. Ohio will play Kent State on Saturday at home as part of the beginning of a three-game home stand. Two of the next three games are against MAC East teams. The Bobcats have the Golden Flashes, and then they play Miami on Halloween. Each of the four teams below Ohio are 1-2, so earning wins against division foes is crucial.
8. Bradd Ellis and Jalen Fox, the starting cornerbacks didn’t play together for most the game against Bowling Green. Either Jamal Hudson or Marlin Brooks, who are both freshman, sometimes played alongside Ellis or Fox. Solich said Monday that the coaching staff started splitting reps between Hudson and Brooks against Central Michigan. Giving the two freshmen reps allows Ellis and Fox to rest, and Hudson and Brooks can earn experience, too.
9. The Bobcats have won three of the past four meetings against the Golden Flashes, and they have won by an average margin of 11.3 points.
10. The win against Bowling Green boosted Ohio’s morale, especially after the Central Michigan loss. Still, the next three games will determine whether or not Ohio can return to the MAC Championship.