Preview: Ohio In Must-Win Situation Against Kent State

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The Ohio Bobcats have lost three of their last four games to Mid-American Conference opponents, including a 52-27 blowout last week against Ball State. During that four game stretch, the Bobcats allowed 834 yards on the ground.

As Ohio enters its final game of the season against No. 23 Kent State, they’ll be preparing for one of the best rushing teams in the MAC.

The Golden Flashes feature two of the best running backs in the nation, Dri Archer and Trayion Durham. The two have combined for 2,363 of Kent State’s 2,691 yards on the ground this season.

Archer is a dynamic runner that is capable of making a big play whenever he touches the ball. The junior running back broke off 79 and 74-yard touchdown runs en route to a 241-yard performance against Bowling Green, the best rushing defense in the MAC.

Archer is fourth in the nation with 2,240 all-purpose yards and second with 21 total touchdowns.

“He's a great athlete. He can play slot, running back. He can do it all,” linebacker Keith Moore said. “We have to really rally to him, make sure we wrap up, and really just hustle to the ball and make sure everybody gets there so we can bring him down.”

Durham is the thunder to Archer’s lightning and will also be a struggle to bring down for the Bobcats. On 220 carries, the 6-foot, 260-pound running back has run for 1,079 yards.

Durham had 172 yards to go along with Archer’s 151 yards against Miami two weeks ago. When both players are on top of their games, Kent State is extremely difficult to stop.

“(Durham is) a very, very good running back. He's a bigger guy, but he's fast,” Moore said. “He's a bigger guy. Harder to come down. He likes those extra yards, so we'll have to hit him well and rally.”

The Bobcats will attempt to stop Durham and Archer possibly without two of their top defensive linemen, Carl Jones and Neal Huynh. Both went down with ankle injuries against Ball State and didn’t return. Their absence could be a huge loss for Ohio.

“We'd love to have them. If we don't, we'll be fine and we'll bounce back,” Moore said. “But they'll definitely be here for hopefully more games to come. For us seniors including me, going to a bowl game would be nice, so we have to win this one to 100% secure that spot.”

By losing three of their last four, the Bobcats have put a bowl game bid on the line. If they beat Kent State, there’s a good chance they make a bowl, but if they lose, their chances greatly diminish. This makes Friday a must-win game.

“We're not going to lose. We can't lose. If we lose, it's 50-50. We need this win just for our program and our confidence,” Moore said. “We want to go into a bowl game with that feeling of winning.”

Not winning has gotten to some of the players. The sideline excitement has declined. Moore admits that the team’s morale has taken a hit with these losses. Frustrations are starting to show on and off the field.

“People are edgy. We're not happy. We're 8-3. We should be happy where we're sitting. We were 8-2 last year at this time, but it feels different and it's because our losses came at the end of the year, but we're going to bounce back,” Moore said. “We'll be fine. We're hoping to win this one and go to a bowl game.”

Ohio’s offense will be important to keep the Bobcats in this key game. Running back Beau Blankenship’s strong season continued last week against Ball State where he had 161 yards and three touchdowns. The junior is 79 yards away from breaking the Ohio single season rushing record.

Ohio and Kent State is set to kickoff on Friday at 11 a.m. in Dix Stadium. Kent State has won seven straight at home, while the Bobcats have lost two straight on the road. In their matchup in Dix Stadium two years ago, Kent State defeated Ohio, 28-6.