Football: Frank Solich talks Buffalo and pass offense, at Monday press conference

Football: Frank Solich talks Buffalo and pass offense, at Monday press conference

 

Ohio head coach Frank Solich makes sure the referee knows his feelings toward a call during the Bobcat’s 59-0 win over Hampton on Sept. 2 at Peden Stadium. (Carl Fonticella | File)

 

With the Mid-American Conference East Division out of its control, Ohio is only focused on beating Buffalo.

After Akron’s win on Tuesday night, the chance for Ohio to head to the MAC Championship Game was erased. Now, Friday’s game will be a game for pride, not a championship.

Coach Frank Solich spoke on how the Bobcats have moved on from losing against the Zips in his Monday press conference. The Bobcats will play the Bulls on the road Friday, and it’ll be their last game of the regular season.

Regardless of the outcome in Akron on Tuesday, Ohio knows it can control what happens in Buffalo.

“You can only jump up and down and pat yourself on the back so long, and you can only beat yourself up so long,” Solich said.

Solich and the Bobcats aren’t dwelling on the loss. But as Solich fielded questions about the Akron game, he mentioned what hurt Ohio perhaps the most: turnovers.

The Bobcats had three turnovers against the Zips. Nathan Rourke threw two interceptions, and running back David Burroughs fumbled on a kickoff return during the second quarter.

Ohio has tied an opponent in the turnover battle once, and that was when it defeated Kansas — each team had one turnover. Other than that, the Bobcats are undefeated when they win the turnover battle.

But they’re 2-3 when they lose it.

“Three turnovers to zero is asking a bit much to overcome when you’re playing a good football team,” Solich said referring to the Akron game.

Despite the Bobcats losing the turnover battle against the Zips, they had chances to win the game. As Ohio prepares to play the Bulls, a team ranked No. 6 in the MAC for turnover margin (-1), it’ll need to keep possession of the ball.

Those efforts to keep possession will need to be seen in the passing game, an area the Bobcats must show that they can perform well in considering they’re a run-first team.

“We didn’t really adjust well and didn’t have a good passing game in that game (against Akron),” Solich said.

Rourke passed for 110 yards and threw two interceptions against the Zips. After the loss against the Zips, Rourke said he’ll need to improve his passing game. He knows he can’t just be a runner.

Aside from the Bobcats trying to improve in their passing attack, improving their pass defense will be a point of emphasis as well. The Bulls lead the MAC in passing yards per game (290.5).

And with the Bobcats’ quality run defense, the Bulls will probably throw more than they’ll run. As the Bobcats prepare for one of the best passing attacks in the MAC, the pass defense will need to produce alongside the run defense.

But at the same time, the Bobcats will need a quality passing attack of their own.

“I don’t think that you can be one-dimensional against these guys,” Solich said. “I think you gotta have an offense that’s getting some things done on the ground, but you gotta certainly be able to throw the ball.”

 

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Football: Nathan Rourke knows he needs to become better passer as he and Bobcats lament 37-34 loss against Akron

Football: Nathan Rourke knows he needs to become better passer as he and Bobcats lament 37-34 loss against Akron

 

Ohio sophomore quarterback Nathan Rourke (#12) directs the team before a touchdown play against Akron on Nov. 14, 2017. The Bobcats lost the game 37-34. (MIJANA MAZUR | FOR THE POST)

 

AKRON — Nathan Rourke stood outside Ohio’s locker room at InfoCision Stadium-Summa Field dejected. His face was stoic as he fielded questions from media.

Rourke wanted to beat Akron for Ohio’s seniors. With a win, the Bobcats would have clinched the Mid-American Conference East Division and a spot in the MAC Championship Game for a second straight season.

Instead, Ohio lost 37-34 against Akron on Tuesday night, losing control of its own destiny. Now, Ohio needs to beat Buffalo on Nov. 24 — and it needs Kent State to beat Akron next Tuesday.

Kent State, at 2-9, is unlikely to upset Akron. And with that, the seniors will likely not have another chance at winning a MAC Championship.

But Rourke, Ohio’s sophomore quarterback, has two more years left.

Still, he wishes that the Bobcats were celebrating in the locker room instead of feeling disappointed.

“It’s (Akron) a good team,” Rourke said. “It’s not like it’s any JV team. They do things that make it harder for a team to get into a rhythm.”

The Bobcats perhaps played the best defense they’ve gone against in the Zips. Whether it was playing tight man coverage or focusing on stopping the run, the Zips forced the Bobcats to pass. And at that, they forced the Bobcats to pass well.

Ohio couldn’t.

Rourke passed for 110 yards and threw two interceptions. He completed 40.9 percent of his passes. Rourke tied the Ohio record for most rushing touchdowns in a season Tuesday, tallying his 19th of the season. He’s been scrambling and cutting through defenses all season.

But he knows that he needs to become a better passer.

“That’s where I gotta grow, take some steps as a quarterback to be successful in this league,” Rourke said. “You can’t get away with just running the ball.”

Rourke rushed for 165 yards and scored on a 68-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. A quality running football team, Ohio ran for 282 yards.

The Bobcats couldn’t establish the run game as well as in the past, though. And with that, the passing game wasn’t there to complement the run.

“When that (the run) wasn’t working, we didn’t throw the ball well enough to take advantage of them bringing their safeties so hard,” coach Frank Solich said.

Ohio has struggled to throw the ball well in the past. When it went up against Bowling Green on Oct. 14, Rourke threw for 105 passing yards — that was a season low for the Bobcats.

But Ohio also ran for 335 rushing yards that game, which canceled out the lack of the passing attack.

Going up against Akron, though, Rourke was forced to make some tough throws. With the Bobcats down 37-34, they had a chance to score. On fourth down and three with under three minutes left, Rourke threw a deep pass to Papi White.

White jumped up for it, and he dropped it. The Bobcats went out on defense for one last possession. But they were out of chances.

“People are frustrated not because they didn’t do enough,” Rourke said. “It was because they did everything they could.”

 

Football: Five things to know before Ohio faces Akron

Football: Five things to know before Ohio faces Akron

 

Andrew Meyer (#9) and Brendan Cope (#85) celebrate after Ohio scores a touchdown against Toledo on Nov. 8. The Bobcats won 38-10. (FILE)

 

With only two games left in the regular season, Ohio is poised to win the Mid-American Conference East Division for the second straight season.

Ohio only needs to beat Akron on the road Tuesday to clinch the division and earn a spot in the MAC Championship Game on Dec. 2. As Ohio comes off a 38-10 win over MAC West foe Toledo, it has sealed a spot as one of the conference’s premier teams.

Here are five things to know about the Bobcats before they play the Zips on Tuesday.

1. Their defense is on fire

The Bobcats overtook the Rockets as the best team in the MAC after the win last Wednesday. Not only did the Bobcats win, they controlled the game. They held the Rockets to a season-low for points. It was the defense’s best performance of the season.

The Bobcats sacked Rockets quarterback Logan Woodside four times, which caused him to not fall into a rhythm for the game. The defense is peaking at the right time, and that’s only going to help the Bobcats as the end of the regular season nears.

2. They control their own destiny

The next game has always been the biggest game for the Bobcats. Though winning every game is obviously ideal , the Bobcats know they need to beat the Zips. If the Bobcats lose, they would be tied for first with the Zips, who would own the tiebreaker, in the MAC East.

With a loss Tuesday, Ohio would need a win against Buffalo and a loss from Akron against Kent State next week in the regular season’s final games.

3. They need to play their absolute best

The Bobcats know beating the Zips won’t be easy. Last season, the Bobcats won by six points at home against the Zips. The season before that, the Bobcats won by just two points on the road.

Ohio has the best offense in the MAC and has scored 40 or more points six times this season, but Akron has the fourth-ranked scoring defense in the MAC. The Bobcats’ offense will need another quality performance to help clinch the MAC East.

4. They’re coming off a short week

This week marks the Bobcats’ shortest week heading into a game. After playing Kent State, the Bobcats had 10 days before playing Miami. After playing Miami, Ohio had eight days until Toledo.

But heading into Akron, Ohio will have only had six days off, and only four days of practice. Coach Frank Solich said the Bobcats have been fairly healthy, emphasizing the importance of the 10-day break before Miami.

After Akron, the Bobcats will have a 10-day break before playing Buffalo.

5. They’ve got momentum

Last season, Ohio had a similar best-win-of-the-season type game against Toledo. The Toledo game last season marked Ohio’s ninth game of the season, and the win propelled the Bobcats through the rest of the season.

This season, the Toledo game was Ohio’s tenth game. The win has the potential to give the Bobcats momentum heading into the postseason. With only two games left, the Bobcats are the best team in the MAC. They want to keep it that way.

“Football is a funny game,” Solich said. “Obviously that momentum can change in an instant. It can change in a quarter, it can change certainly game by game, regardless of whether you’re on winning streaks, losing streaks.”

 

Football: Ohio defeats Toledo 38-10, defense shines against Rockets’ offense

Football: Ohio defeats Toledo 38-10, defense shines against Rockets' offense

 

Ohio redshirt senior defensive lineman Kevin Robbins tackles Toledo quarterback Logan Woodside during the first half of the Bobcats’ 38-10 win against Toledo. (Hannah Ruhoff | For The Post)

 

The game was supposed to be offense galore, the top two offenses in the Mid-American Conference, dueling on ESPN2 in primetime.

The Bobcats’ defense didn’t want the game to turn into a shootout.

Ohio held Toledo, the No. 2 offense in the MAC, to a season-low for points. The Bobcats defeated the Rockets 38-10 at Peden Stadium for a fourth straight win. The win also gives Ohio a one-game lead for first in the MAC East over Akron.

Wednesday’s game had MAC Championship Game implications, and maybe it still does — the Rockets are the top team in the MAC West. After the game finished, center Jake Pruehs said the Rockets were already mentioning the potential rematch.

“After the game they’re all saying ‘Oh, we’ll see you in a few weeks,'” Pruehs said.

Trash talk aside, this was a statement win for the Bobcats: They’re the best team in the MAC. And that’s because the defense played its best game of the season.

Even coach Frank Solich called it “surprising” that his team was able to hold the Rockets to 10 points.

“Going into this game, like everybody else I think felt that it was going to be somewhat of a high scoring game,” Solich said. “And that you were going to have to put points on the board if you were going to be in the game.”

The Bobcats couldn’t score 25 points and expect to win the game. The Rockets were too good for that, with quarterback Logan Woodside leading the offense.

Ohio was tasked with defending Woodside, arguably the best quarterback in the MAC. They defended him as well as any team has this season. The Bobcats sacked him four times, including three from redshirt senior linebacker Quentin Poling.

The pressure didn’t bother Woodside to the point where he committed turnovers. But he couldn’t gain a rhythm, which allowed the Bobcats to stymie the Rockets’ offense. Woodside had 263 passing yards, but they were empty yards. Most came off short passes, with Woodside’s longest throw being 34 yards.

“They had very, very good, very fast wide receivers, so we’re not going to sit up and press,” Poling said. “We’re going to play off and bail and make them throw those checkdowns.”

Ohio left Toledo in a funk on offense, which only allowed the Bobcats to prosper on offense. Despite only having 10 points at halftime, the Bobcats outscored the Rockets 28-3 in the second half.

Most of those points came on the ground, particularly from redshirt senior running back Dorian Brown.

Brown thrived against the Rockets again — he rushed for 212 yards and a touchdown against them last season. On Wednesday, he rushed for 142 yards and two touchdowns. Along with Brown, quarterback Nathan Rourke and running back A.J. Ouellette also rushed for a touchdown apiece. The Bobcats rushed for a season-high 393 rushing yards.

Though Ohio’s offense was expected play well, Toledo’s was, too. Heading into the game, linebacker Chad Moore said the Bobcats were looking to hold the Rockets to 20 points.

Exceeding that expectation says a good deal about Ohio’s defense. The No. 7 ranked scoring defense in the MAC, the Bobcats held one of the best offenses in the conference to under 20 points.

That’s surprising, but it’s one of those good surprises. With only two games left in the regular season, the Bobcats are the best team in the MAC.

But they still have to play Akron and Buffalo.

Solich knows his team won’t celebrate this win for long.

“They’re not going to be bouncing around for three or four days,” Solich said.

 

Football: Ohio’s game against Toledo, to date, will be the game of the year

Football: Ohio's game against Toledo, to date, will be the game of the year

 

Quentin Poling strips the football during Ohio’s game against EMU on Sept. 23. The Bobcats won 27-20 in overtime. (FILE)

 

This story has been updated to reflect the most recent reporting.

Before the season began, Ohio was predicted to win the Mid-American Conference East Division in the preseason polls. But Toledo was predicted to win the championship.

Ohio, which played in the MAC championship last season against Western Michigan, was projected to fall short. With only three games left in the regular season, though, the Bobcats are once again positioned to win the MAC East.

The Bobcats and the Rockets, the top two offenses in the MAC, will play at Peden Stadium on Wednesday in a game that holds MAC championship implications. The game will be on ESPN2 at 7 p.m.

“It’s exciting, man,” redshirt junior cornerback Jalen Fox said. “Best on best man, what more could you ask for?”

When Ohio played Miami last week on Halloween, the video board read “Game of the Year.” The “Battle of the Bricks” is always a big game.

But playing the Rockets is the Bobcats’ biggest game to date. It’s a mentality the Bobcats have shown as the end of the regular season nears.

Ohio (7-2, 4-1 MAC) has the chance to separate from Akron (5-5, 4-2 MAC) in the MAC East standings after Akron’s loss to Miami on Tuesday night.

“It’s going to be a competitive game,” running back A.J. Ouellette said. “If you’re not looking forward to it, you’re not a competitor. And I believe our team is full of competitors.”

A year ago, Ohio went into the Glass Bowl and beat Toledo on the road for the first time since 1967. That was the Bobcats’ best game of the season. Before playing the Bobcats, the Rockets had averaged 41.2 points per game — and the Bobcats held them to 26.

Ohio has shown marked improvement offensively, though. They average 41.2 points per game, good for No. 8 in the country. Toledo ranks second in the MAC for points scored per game with 39.0.

Wednesday’s game could be offense galore.

“We’re looking to hold them to as minimal points as possible,” defensive end Trent Smart said. “We’re definitely not trying to make this a shootout for sure.”

With the Bobcats having quarterback Nathan Rourke, who leads the MAC in scoring (96), they’ll be able to keep pace with the Rockets, which are led by quarterback Logan Woodside.

Like Rourke, Woodside is a difficult quarterback to play against. Woodside is smart and doesn’t make many mistakes; he only has two interceptions this season.

So even if Rourke and the offense hold on their end, even if the Bobcats score 40 or more points again, the defense still must hold on. Because the Rockets might score 40 or more points too.

The game against Toledo will be Ohio’s last home game of the season. The Bobcats will be on national television for a second straight week, and they have a chance to continue to show why their explosive offense is the truth.

The Rockets will be right there with them though.

“Both teams know that we’re both at the top of our game, it’s going to be exciting,” Fox said.

 

Football: Brendan Cope completes mug collection as he finishes 5-0 against Miami

Football: Brendan Cope completes mug collection as he finishes 5-0 against Miami

 

Brendan Cope celebrates with Cam Odom after Odom scores the final touchdown in Ohio’s overtime win against Eastern Michigan on Sept. 23. (FILE)

 

Brendan Cope walked into the news conference room sporting his all-black uniform, a once-a-year tradition for the Bobcats.

Cope was going to get his fifth mug. Each Ohio player receives a ceramic mug when the team defeats Miami, its rival. The mug has a Bobcat on it, as well as the score of the Miami game and the team’s season accomplishments.

The Bobcats defeated the RedHawks 45-28 in Peden Stadium on Tuesday, picking up their fifth straight win in the “Battle of the Bricks.” Cope, a redshirt senior wide receiver, will have his last mug after the season to complete his collection.

He’ll leave the program without ever having lost to Miami.

“Not many alumni can say they’re 5-0,” Cope said. “A lot of them can say they had a slip-up with one loss. It feels pretty good to be 5-0.”

Cope, who has battled turf toe this season, didn’t play in Ohio’s previous game against Kent State. Up until that game, Cope had played through the injury.

But he simply couldn’t play against the Golden Flashes.

He needed to rest, and he could do so at the right time, too. Coming off the Kent State win, the Bobcats had a 10-day break. The Bobcats needed time to heal, and Cope was one of those players who benefited from the respite.

“A few extra days helped us an awful lot,” coach Frank Solich said.

The game against Miami marked Cope’s first game back. Against the RedHawks, Cope played well: He caught a 40-yard touchdown pass from Nathan Rourke in the first quarter, and he led the team with 89 receiving yards.

As Cope sat at the table, his eye black was smeared under his eye. He relished in defeating a rival, one last time.

The last time the Bobcats came close to losing to the RedHawks was 2014. On the Bobcats’ last drive of that game, Cope caught a 38-yard pass from Derrius Vick to set up the game-winning field goal.

Last Friday, he said that was the best moment of his career, and he didn’t know if he’d be able to top it. This latest win is close.

“All my emotions are a little bit high,” Cope said. “So maybe, but a win is a win against Miami.”

Previous wins and performances don’t matter against Miami. Cope and the rest of the team didn’t know the feeling of losing to the RedHawks, and they didn’t want to.

But after this season, Cope will officially be an alumnus. He won’t be coming onto the field at Peden Stadium next season, preparing for another Miami week.

Just like former players are still invested in the rivalry, Cope will be, too. He’ll be looking at his mugs, drinking coffee out of them in the mornings.

What kind of coffee will he drink?

“I don’t know. Nothing from Oxford, I guess.”

 

Football: History means nothing in the ‘Battle of the Bricks’

Football: History means nothing in the 'Battle of the Bricks'

 

Brendan Cope celebrates with Cameron Odom after Odom gets the final touchdown in Ohio’s overtime win against Eastern Michigan University on September 23, 2017 (Blake Nissen | Photo Editor)

 

Tim Albin was animated last Thursday as Ohio began to practice for its next opponent.

“Have you ever lost to Miami?” Albin barked multiple times as the Bobcats stretched before practice.

“No, no you have not!”

Albin, the Bobcats’ offensive coordinator, has been with the program for 13 years. He and defensive coordinator Jimmy Burrow have been with Frank Solich since 2005, Solich’s first year of coaching the team. In 13 years at Ohio, the trio has only lost to the RedHawks twice.

The Bobcats are the losing team in the rivalry – the RedHawks hold a 52-39-2 series lead. No player on the Bobcats knows what it feels like to lose to the RedHawks, and no player wants to know that feeling.

The 94th meeting of the “Battle of the Bricks,” will take place at 8 p.m. Tuesday at Peden Stadium. The game will be televised on ESPN2.

“Anytime you got a game like Ohio State-Michigan or whatever,” Albin said. “That’s what this game is to us, is Ohio State-Michigan.”

The week of practice leading up to the Miami game is a special one for Ohio. Albin said he had about 15 former players — Tyler Tettleton, Jordan Thompson and Eric Herman to name a few — text his phone that Thursday.

They all wanted to let him know that it’s Miami week.

Ohio prides itself on preparing for every game the same way. In terms of preparation, not too much is different for Miami.

The Bobcats are instructed not to wear red in the days leading up to the game, but that’s the only stipulation.

Still, the Bobcats will play with an extra edge when they play the RedHawks.

“Nothing is sweeter than beating Miami,” Quentin Poling, a redshirt senior linebacker, said.

For four out of the past five games, the Bobcats have tasted sweetness. The last time Ohio lost to Miami was in 2012, when Ohio was ranked No. 23 and boasted a 7-0 record.

Now, the team’s seniors are focused on leaving the program without ever having lost to the RedHawks. Every time the Bobcats beat the RedHawks, each player receives a mug. It’s ceramic and about the size of a beer mug. A Bobcat, the score of the Miami game and the team’s season accomplishments graces the mug.

Redshirt senior wide receiver Brendan Cope wants to add a fifth mug to complete his collection.

“It just means a little bit something more this week,” Cope said. “Obviously every win counts, especially in the (Mid-American Conference), but beating Miami, you get a mug. Something extra in there.”

The Bobcats (6-2, 3-1 MAC) are ranked second in the East division, with the RedHawks (•3-5, 2-2 MAC) right behind in third. Akron leads the MAC East at 4-1.

A loss against the RedHawks could mean more than just a Bobcats loss for the third time in 13 years against their rivals.

“As far as I’m concerned, we control our destiny,” Poling said. “If we go out, do what we can do every week, we will earn our spot in the conference championship.”

After winning in 2012, the last time the RedHawks came close to beating the Bobcats was in 2014. It was the last game of the season, and Ohio needed a win to become bowl-eligible. And it surely couldn’t lose to Miami.

After being down 21-0, the Bobcats came back and tied the game in the fourth quarter. With 1:08 left to play, Ohio had the ball and a chance to win in regulation.

Cope, who was a redshirt freshman at the time, remembers his catch vividly.

The Bobcats were on the RedHawks’ 49-yard line. Former quarterback Derrius Vick threw a 38-yard pass to Cope. Then, former kicker Josiah Yazdani kicked a 28-yard field goal that won Ohio the game.

The feeling of setting up the game-winning field goal was unforgettable for Cope, so much so that he doesn’t think he’ll able to top it for the rest of his career.

Still, one last win against the RedHawks is what he needs.

“You want to be 5-0, but at the end of day it’s a new year, so we gotta beat ‘em this year,” Cope said. “Yeah, we’re 4-0 on ‘em, but it doesn’t matter if we don’t get this win.”