Redshirt senior tight end Mason Morgan celebrates with his teammates after scoring a touchdown during Ohio’s 48-3 win against Kent State on Saturday.
As Ohio powers through Mid-American Conference play, it only has four games left in the regular season: Miami, Toledo, Akron and Buffalo — and each game will be important in its own way.
And with each game’s importance will come new challenges. Ohio (6-2, 3-1 MAC) is tied with Akron for first in the MAC East after defeating Kent State 48-3 on Saturday.
Here are 10 thoughts about the Bobcats before their Halloween game against the RedHawks.
1. The run game
A.J. Ouellette and Dorian Brown are two of the best running backs in the MAC. The running attack has been consistent for the Bobcats the entire season. With Ouellette and Brown running through big gaps the offensive line creates, expect them to continue contributing for the Bobcats’ elite rushing attack.
2. Healthy Papi White
When Papi White returns to full health, this offense will be complete again. White returned against Kent State on Saturday, having not played since the Kansas game due to a hand injury. He led the team in receiving yards (82) and caught a 49-yard pass from Nathan Rourke in the third quarter. Coach Frank Solich said White still needs to get into condition. And when he does, the Bobcats won’t just have a top-tier run game in its offensive arsenal.
3. Air Canada
The Bobcats have one of the best quarterbacks in the MAC in Nathan Rourke. He rushed for his 13th touchdown against Kent State, which made him one shy of tying former quarterback Kareem Wilson for most rushing touchdowns by a quarterback in a season.
4. Looking ahead
Blowouts are unlikely in the last four games. Miami, a rivalry game, won’t be an easy win for Ohio. Toledo has one of the best offenses in the conference, and Akron and Buffalo are two respectable division foes.
5. Full team effort
With that said, the Bobcats will need both the offense and defense to play well. The defense didn’t have to do much against Kent State’s offense, a unit that averaged just 11.0 points per game before the game Saturday. Ohio’s defense isn’t as good as it was last season — but it’s still productive. The Bobcats stop the run well, and their ability to defend the pass has improved. Just how productive the Bobcats’ defense is will be shown in these next four games.
6. Race to the top
The top of the MAC East will be competitive till the end. Akron, the other team atop the MAC, has a relatively easy schedule to end the season. Its most difficult game will be against Ohio, which is why that game holds so much importance. It could mean whether or not Ohio wins the division.
7. Brendan Cope’s return
The Bobcats didn’t have Brendan Cope against the Golden Flashes because of injury, but when he returns, the Bobcats will gain a deep threat. Ohio has struggled to throw deep this season, with Cope the only player offering deep-threat abilities.
8. Drop the drops
The past two performances through the air aren’t all on Rourke. He’s forced some throws, but other times the receivers are simply dropping passes. Solich said the Bobcats are having more drops than usual, and he wants the number of drops to decrease.
9. High-powered offense
The Bobcats have scored 40 or more points in five games this season, a marked improvement from their offensive output last season. This season, the Bobcats average 40.8 points per game, the best in the MAC.
They aren’t too explosive, and they aren’t an air raid team. The Bobcats simply run the ball through defenses, which creates a lot of open space for more runs or even passes.
10. Quick starts
Going forward, even though the offense is one of the best in the conference, it tends to start slow. With these last four games being important, the Bobcats will need to start better on offense. If they don’t, they could be starting second halves trying to catch up.