Football: Frank Solich talks run game and health at Monday press conference

Football: Frank Solich talks run game and health at Monday press conference

 

Coach Frank Solich looks into the stands before he greets his senior players on Senior Night and the last home game of the 2015 season against Ball State on Nov. 17, 2015. (FILE)

 

Ohio is heading into the meat of Mid-American Conference play after its 48-30 win against Bowling Green, and coach Frank Solich and his team are prepared.

Solich knows that despite any team’s overall record, each opponent in the MAC will be tough. In Ohio’s two conference wins, which came against Eastern Michigan and Bowling Green, the team’s average margin of victory is 12.5 points.

Solich held his weekly press conference Monday, and he addressed what the Bobcats need to continue doing well, along with what needs work.

The run game remains atop the MAC

A.J. Ouellette, Dorian Brown and quarterback Nathan Rourke make up the three-pronged attack that is Ohio’s running game. The Bobcats rushed for a season-high 335 rushing yards against Bowling Green.

Ouellette and Brown are similar runners in that they run with power and a touch of speed. When the Bobcats are playing downhill with Ouellette and Brown, they’re difficult to contain.

And Rourke, the run game’s added dimension, only makes it harder for defenses.

Rourke accounted for 143 of the Bobcats’ rushing yards against the Falcons, and he scored three rushing touchdowns.

“He gives you that extra running back in the backfield,” Solich said. “A lot of times you’re dealing with a one-back set, but really, we got two running backs with him there.”

Ohio ranks No. 2 in the MAC for rushing yards per game (230.1), right behind Western Michigan. With Ouellette, Brown and Rourke in the backfield, the Bobcats are poised to continue its consistency in the run game.

The pass defense improved, and the cornerbacks got a pizza party

Ohio’s secondary has been the weakest part of the defense, but the unit played well against Bowling Green.

Ohio allowed 192 passing yards, the lowest it has allowed since playing Hampton in the season-opener. Cornerbacks Bradd Ellis and Jalen Fox have recently began to receive a reprieve from the second string, which consists of freshmen Marlin Brooks and Jamal Hudson.

Solich said that the Bobcats began splitting reps between Brooks and Hudson during the Central Michigan game to give Ellis and Fox, the starters, some rest.

“Those two freshmen kept improving and are very athletic guys,” Solich said. “So it made sense to get them in the mix.”

Brooks said that cornerbacks coach De’Angelo Smith awarded the position group with a pizza party because it didn’t allow any deep passes during the Bowling Green game.

“We’ve been targeted, but we’ve been holding it down,” Brooks said.

Wide receiver and defensive end health

Papi White hasn’t played since the Kansas game because of a hand injury, but he is expected to play against Kent State. White, a wide receiver, will be available for practice this week.

With White coming back, a slightly depleted wide receiver depth chart becomes healthier. Brendan Cope has been battling an injury, but he has played in games. Still, he has been limited in practices, which contributes to a lack of being in a rhythm for games.

As White returns, Solich and the Bobcats will have their No. 1 receiver back. Like Rourke, White creates an additional dimension, and in his case, it’s in the passing game.

The Bobcats had a season-low 105 passing yards against the Falcons, so with White likely back, expect the Bobcats’ passing game to improve.

Along with White and other receivers trying to get healthy, the defensive ends are trying to do the same. Though Kevin Robbins couldn’t play in the first half of the Bowling Green game because of a targeting call, he wasn’t able to play because of an injury.

Andrew Payne and Austin Conrad have contributed despite the injuries to the group. Conrad, though, will not be able to play in the first half against Kent State on Saturday because of a targeting call he received against Bowling Green.

“We’re starting to get some guys healthy there (at defensive end),” Solich said. “We’ll see how that goes this week in terms of how much practice time some of those guys are going to be able to get.”

 

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Football: 10 Thoughts About Ohio After the Bowling Green Win

Football: 10 Thoughts About Ohio After the Bowling Green Win

 

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.

 

 

 

Football: Ohio’s fumble recovery helps seal game

Football: Ohio's fumble recovery helps seal game

 

Bradd Ellis celebrates with his team after his pick six during Ohio’s game against Eastern Michigan on Sept. 23. (FILE)

 

BOWLING GREEN – Quentin Poling knocked the ball out of James Morgan’s grasp. Then cornerback Bradd Ellis knocked it out again.

Ellis was given the fumble recovery on the stat sheet, but he won’t take credit for it. Until Poling told him that defensive end Trent Smart recovered the ball, Ellis didn’t know who made the play.

He just knew that Ohio had turned the momentum in its favor.

The Bobcats had prime field position in the fourth quarter, the ball spotted at the Falcons’ 20-yard line. A.J. Ouellette scored a touchdown, and the Bobcats took the lead.

The Falcons scored a touchdown after that, but the Bobcats maintained the lead Saturday and won 48-30 in Doyt L. Perry Stadium.

“I just knocked it loose again and then I’m on top of the pile, and the whole (offensive line) is on top of me,” Ellis said. “About 1,200 pounds, I don’t want to do that anymore.”

Before Poling and Ellis helped swing momentum toward the Bobcats, the defense struggled to defend the Falcons’ rushing attack.

The Falcons had 184 rushing yards at the half. Their elusive backs, Andrew Clair and Josh Cleveland, regularly ran through the second level of Ohio’s defense.

But in the second half, Ohio held Bowling Green to 45 rushing yards. The Bobcats figured the Falcons’ run game out later, and, at that point, the Falcons — a team that relied on its deft backs in the first half — had lost the game.

“As players, coaches, we just need to do a better job of figuring it out early,” Poling said.

Had the Ohio figured out the Bowling Green offense earlier, it would have won the game with ease.

Bowling Green was ready to win again after last week’s upset over Miami, and gave Ohio (5-2, 2-1 Mid-American Conference) a second conference loss on the season.

But the Bobcats made the necessary adjustments on defense to win.

“They gave us their best shot,” Ellis said.

Along with the fumble Poling forced, the Bobcats forced three other turnovers: one was another fumble, and two were interceptions, including one Ellis returned for a touchdown in the second quarter.

Creating more turnovers — something the Bobcats hadn’t done much before playing the Falcons — was a point of emphasis. Bowling Green was ranked No. 2 in the MAC for turnover margin before Saturday.

Aside from being 16 yards away from allowing 200 rushing yards in the first half, the Bobcats’ defense showed its resiliency. It wasn’t going to let the Falcons finish what they had fought for.

“It’s good for morale, good esteem,” Poling said. “We just need to keep proving to ourselves we can do it.”

 

 

Football: Ohio looks to show resiliency against Bowling Green

Football: Ohio looks to show resiliency against Bowling Green

 

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)

 

After Ohio lost to Central Michigan last Saturday, the Bobcats hoped the season-high four turnovers their team committed was an aberration.

Now, as Ohio prepares for a road game against Bowling Green, it is still hopeful that its performance against Central Michigan was atypical. The Bobcats will play the Falcons at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday in Doyt Perry Stadium, and they are set on continuing to prove their resiliency.

“There’s going to be turnovers here and there,” safety Javon Hagan said. “There’s going to be bad plays by offense and defense.”

The Bobcats won’t play the blame game, and that mindset starts with coach Frank Solich.

Quarterback Nathan Rourke committed three fumbles and one interception against the Chippewas, but Solich won’t blame Rourke for all of them.

Solich said after the game against Central Michigan that some of the turnovers simply couldn’t be avoided, with Rourke pressured on his blind side.

Still, the Bobcats will need to take care of the ball better against the Falcons. The Falcons lead the Mid-American Conference and the country in fumbles recovered (10), and they have the second-best turnover margin in the MAC.

Solich isn’t trying to cut out Rourke’s ability to scramble outside the pocket, but he did acknowledge Monday that Rourke would need to take care of the ball better when he’s scrambling.

Rourke feels the same way, perhaps even more.

“It was exactly what I thought it was with what it was on the field,” Rourke said. “Just me being undisciplined, have bad habits of holding the ball with one hand.”

While Rourke looks to take care of the ball better, the defense will need to shore up some issues of its own, too. In the past five games, the Bobcats have allowed an average of 301.2 passing yards per game.

Hagan and the rest of the defense knows the Falcons will be coming for the secondary, the unit has been attacked the whole season.

But at the same time, the secondary knows it has to make the game tough for the Falcons’ receivers. The Falcons have two receivers – Scott Miller and Teo Redding – who rank in the top 10 of the MAC for receptions per game.

“They feel like their receivers can beat our defensive backs, and that’s what it comes down to,” Hagan said.

The Falcons have passed for an average of 236.7 passing yards per game this season, which ranks them No. 6 in the MAC. But the Bobcats, a team that hasn’t lost two straight games since the end of last season, are set on being resilient.

It’s what they’ve been doing the whole season.

“They’ve been a great team as far as showing up every day and practicing at a level that gives them a chance to win every week,” Solich said. “I expect that will be the case in this game.”

 

 

Football: Cameron Odom and Matt Seymour — friends beyond the field

Football: Cameron Odom and Matt Seymour — friends beyond the field

 

Cam Odom and Matt Seymour doing their handshake after practice in the Walter Fieldhouse on Oct. 9, 2017.

 

Cameron Odom and Matt Seymour stood across each other on the field at Walter Fieldhouse.

They were about to take a photo with their patented handshake.

As they prepared for the handshake, Odom and Seymour put on their helmets and gloves. Seymour rubbed his hands together with glee.

“Ready, set,” Odom said, and then the two met in the middle and crouched, slapping each other’s hand three times. They rose from their crouches and mimicked tossing a football in the air.

And to finish off the shake, they turned in opposite directions and mimicked smacking a home run.

“I feel like I was smiling the whole time,” Odom said with a smile after the photo was taken.

The handshake is meant to represent Odom’s and Seymour’s big-play mentality, hence the home run at the end. But the ritual means more than just making big plays on the football field.

For Odom and Seymour, both wide receivers, the handshake represents their bond. Since coming to Ohio together in spring 2016 as early enrollees, Odom and Seymour have cultivated a friendship that extends beyond the football field.

“They laugh at each other’s jokes when they’re not funny,” said Bryan Long Jr., a fellow wide receiver. “It’s like they’re playing tag out here sometimes, they’re always chasing each other. Not listening to (wide receivers) coach (Dwayne) Dixon sometimes. But overall, they probably have one of the more special bonds on the team.”

When Odom and Seymour started rooming together, one of the first things Odom noticed about Seymour was that he tended to save a lot of food.

“I thought that was the weirdest thing ever,” Odom said. “He’ll buy a pizza and then wait, and it will sit, and he’ll still grab it and eat it.”

Though Odom found Seymour’s tendency to save food odd, Seymour had some first impressions of Odom as well.

“He’s a clean freak,” Seymour said. “Which is good, so the room’s always clean.”

Odom and Seymour, who are both juniors academically, are roommates off campus. They have been since last year, when they lived in Luchs Hall. But when they came onto campus in 2016, they weren’t roommates. They were supposed to be together, but a mix-up happened, and Seymour lived in Boyd Hall; Odom lived in Sargent Hall.

After Odom and Seymour finished spring football, they roomed together in Brown Hall during the summer before the 2016-17 academic year.

Aside from Odom being a clean freak and Seymour saving food for later, the two don’t have significantly different personalities.

They’re both good students. Odom studies sport management, and Seymour studies history pre-law along with sports administration. Both want to venture into business after graduation. Odom said that Seymour, who is from New Westminster, British Columbia, wants to go to law school. He said that Seymour also strives to be the NFL commissioner one day.

Both players are devoted to their studies, but they still find time to battle each other in video games such as Madden and NBA 2K. Seymour proclaims to be better at Madden.

“I beat him all the time in Madden,” Seymour said. “He ain’t gonna agree with that, but I beat him all the time in Madden.”

Seymour acknowledged that Odom is better than him at 2K, but Odom wasn’t ready to accept Seymour’s stance.

“I definitely am the best in 2K,” Odom said. “I wouldn’t even say he’s the best in Madden. He just uses this one play that I cannot stop. He’s the type of person that if he has something, he won’t go into any different formation. He’ll just run the same play.”

Odom and Seymour have a bond off the field, which makes their bond on the field easier. Odom is a starter, but Seymour isn’t. Still, the two have too much respect for each other.

They aren’t going to let playing time divide them.

“They understand that they compete with themselves,” Dixon said.

Dixon said that Seymour has a chance to receive opportunities. Injuries are unfortunate, but they happen. Seymour just has to be prepared if he is presented with an opportunity to play.

Though Seymour hasn’t received as much playing time as Odom, when Odom comes off the field, Seymour asks him what the defense looked like. They bounce ideas off each other.

That respect they have for each other comes from off the field, when the fact that they’re both wide receivers doesn’t matter much. Their friendship was created because of football, but it doesn’t revolve around football.

“I think why they clicked so well is because their personality is very similar,” said Latonia Odom, Cameron’s mother.

When Thanksgiving rolled around last year, Cameron didn’t want Seymour to be alone in Athens.

Seymour can’t go home much because he lives in Canada, so Cameron invited him to his house in Bedford to have dinner.

When Seymour came to the Odom house, Odom’s family treated Seymour as if he were part of the family. Seymour is appreciative of how the Odom family has accepted him.

“They’ve been great help, and they’ve been great in loving me, letting me come over,” Seymour said. “So it’s been a blessing for that.”

Seymour has gone up to Bedford during the summer, too, and Cameron’s parents, who also have a daughter, view him as their second son.

“We liked Matt from the start,” said Carlin Odom, Cameron’s father. “Our family took to him. Not only our immediate family, but our extended family. He goes to the cookouts and stuff at my brother-in-law’s house. My mother-in-law loves him.”

By May 2019, which is Odom’s and Seymour’s expected graduation date, the Odom family will have two sons who are college graduates – and both would have played Division I football.

The two’s graduation is inevitable, and when it happens, it’ll be a bittersweet moment. The memories of playing Madden and NBA 2K. The time when a talking fire alarm startled them out of their sleep in Brown Hall.

All those memories will have been in the past, but the future is still waiting.

“We always harp on the good times we’ve had because we made so many memories the first semester we were here,” Odom said. “And we still got a long ways to go.”

 

 

Football: Ohio defense plays well, not well enough in 26-23 loss to Central Michigan

Football: Ohio defense plays well, not well enough in 26-23 loss to Central Michigan

 

Jalen Fox grabs his helmet after dropping a possible interception pass during Ohio’s Homecoming game against Central Michigan on Saturday.

 

Bradd Ellis thought he and Tyler Conklin were both going for the ball.

After Ohio called a timeout with 2:55 left in the game Saturday, it had a chance to stop Central Michigan on third down and regain possession.

Ellis defended the pass to Conklin on third down but was called for pass interference. The Chippewas gained an automatic first down, and the Bobcats were essentially finished.

The Bobcats had another chance to stop the Chippewas after that, too. Javon Hagan nearly sacked Chippewas quarterback Shane Morris on a third down with about two minutes left.

In their Homecoming game, the Bobcats lost 26-23 to the Chippewas. The loss snapped a three-game win streak.

The penalty represented how the game transpired for the Bobcats: It was an erratic performance filled with missed opportunities.

“I was proud of the way the defense stepped up today, especially coming off a week like last week,” Ellis said. “But we didn’t step up enough.”

Ohio allowed 50 points last week against UMass, the most points it has allowed this season. The defense’s performance against Central Michigan was an improvement.

Still, the Bobcats didn’t play well enough on defense.

The pass interference and missed sack aside, the Bobcats wouldn’t have needed to capitalize on those plays had they stopped the Chippewas earlier. In the past five games, the Bobcats have allowed an average of 319 passing yards.

The Bobcats struggled to defend the Chippewas’ passing attack all afternoon. The Bobcats didn’t allow any extremely deep passes — the longest they allowed was for 25 yards.

Rather, it was the accumulation of shorter passes that gave the Ohio secondary fits.

The defense didn’t play well enough, but it wasn’t the sole reason Ohio lost. Coach Frank Solich preaches the concept of playing well in each component of the game: offense, defense and special teams.

The Bobcats didn’t play well in either of those facets of the game, but their offense perhaps played the worst out of the three. Quarterback Nathan Rourke committed four turnovers: three fumbles and one interception.

Ohio’s offense couldn’t establish a rhythm because of the turnovers. The unit’s performance was mediocre, especially considering it has shown improvement. The Bobcats were ranked No. 2 in the Mid-American Conference for points per game (41.4) before playing the Chippewas.

Despite the team’s turnovers, though, Solich hopes this game is an aberration, a mere blip in Ohio’s season.

Ohio will head to Bowling Green next Saturday, so it has a chance to show why its performance against Central Michigan was unusual.

“Four (turnovers), it’s way too many, it’s inexcusable,” Solich said. “We had zero last game. It was nightmarish to see the number of turnovers we had.”

 

Ohio’s Linebackers: A Different Breed

 

 

Photo by Mijana Mazur | FOR THE POST

Chad Moore and Evan Croutch pause for a photo on the way back to the locker room after practice.

 

The day was Aug. 4, Bobcat Media Day at Peden Stadium, and the Ohio linebackers had their annual funny picture to take.

Last year the group did a cheerleader pyramid, but this season would have a different picture. With Austin Clack on one end and James Leyden on the other, the group locked hands and jumped in the air together as it mimicked a group of sorority sisters.

Each player wore a smile or showed some form of amusement — Chad Moore and Cody Grilliot stuck out their tongues.

The Ohio linebackers are silly, but they’re proud of that.

It’s an identity the group has created among the team, and, because of that, the players in the unit aren’t afraid to be themselves.

“It’s never a dull moment with the linebackers,” junior Evan Croutch said.

The linebacker meetings are not boring. The group designates a player to begin most meetings with a riddle. Dylan Conner has been that designated player lately, and the rest of the Bobcats have tried to figure the riddles out.

Mundaneness is certainly not evident in this group. Moore and Quentin Poling crack jokes minutes before games, but when it’s time to play, they’re serious.

The group’s capability to balance having fun with being serious puts it in position to perform well on the field.

“Leading up to it (a game), though, you gotta relax, not get all tense,” Moore said. “Because when you do, that’s sort of when you do mistakes, get nervous.”

The Bobcats are around one another frequently, whether it’s in meetings, on the field or even at home. Moore and Poling live together in an apartment. And last Sunday, the group — save for Jacob Koons, who was attending a birthday dinner for his mother — went to Croutch’s house for dinner.

Croutch was on the charcoal grill with Grilliot, and, though Grilliot is a respected cook, it was the first time the group saw Croutch on the grill. Moore said the hamburgers and bratwursts were good.

“But it’s kind of hard to mess up a hamburger and brat, that’s the way I look at it,” Moore said. “Cook a steak for me.”

Along with eating burgers and brats, the group played cornhole and table tennis to end the weekend. The players took a break from football and studying, continuing to foster their close-knit culture.

Linebackers coach and co-defensive coordinator Ron Collins and his wife, Sharon, occasionally have the unit over for dinner at their house, too.

Chemistry — whether on the field, in meetings or both — is important for the Bobcats. Some players could legitimately not like one another. But that’s not the case for Ohio.

“I’ve had some guys that have not been good in there (the meeting room), and so it just makes the whole thing a little sour,” Collins said.

Collins wants a multitude of personalities in his group. He doesn’t want guys who are “cookie cutters,” or players who don’t show their true selves. For the redshirt freshmen, showing their true selves didn’t come immediately last season.

They were shy and sat straight-faced in meetings while the older linebackers cracked jokes.

Eventually, though, the young linebackers started to crack jokes, too.

“They kind of finally realized that this is how it is,” Moore said. “To just be able to get through football, you gotta have some comedy.”

And comedy is a surplus for the linebackers. The group even has nicknames for one another.

One day, Moore was looking at Conner and called him a “Berry.” Eric Popp is called “Popsicle,” and Jared Dorsa is called “Meat Sauce.” The latter is because one day, Moore and some linebackers saw him in a dining hall with a bunch of meat sauce on his spaghetti.

And then Dorsa was also given the nickname “Mustard” because he had a hotdog with an absurd amount of mustard on it.

In addition, Grilliot is called “ ‘Squatch” because he has a lot of hair. Marcus Brunson is called “Dolphin” because he likes dolphins — he also has a snake.

While the linebackers aren’t afraid to show their personalities, they are not averse to being serious as well. The lively meetings, the funny nicknames — those things contribute to the group’s identity.

But when it’s time to be serious, the Bobcats are. And that’s why their goofiness isn’t looked down upon.

“I think we just have a lot of really good leadership in the room,” Grilliot said. “A lot of different personalities, but all those personalities kind of gel together good.”