Sarah Stier | Ohio Athletics

Ohio Looks To Stay Hot Against Ball State

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When the Ohio Bobcats host the Ball State Cardinals, the key for Ohio will come down to how well they can play when they are not in striking distance of the end zone.

Last week against Kent State, Ohio (6-4, 3-3) was 3-5 on scoring in trips to the red zone but could face more trouble this week against Ball State (3-7, 2-4). Ohio has the upper hand in nearly all-major offensive and defensive statistical categories except for red zone offense and red zone defense.

The Cardinals allow opponents to score 84 percent of the time, whereas Bobcat opponents score on 87 percent of trips that land inside the 20-yard line. Look for the ‘Cats defense, reenergized with last week’s return of Quentin Poling, to flex its muscles in the middle of the field.

Although Ohio is having trouble stopping teams who manage to get in to the red zone, they are doing a better job of keeping teams away from striking distance. Ohio has only allowed teams to get inside their 20-yard line a total of 31 times, 14 better than the Cardinals who have allowed 45 red zone trips.

The Bobcat defense allowed just 191 yards last week, kept Kent State to just 2-13 on third downs and stopped the Golden Flashes on both fourth down attempts.

Ohio allowed a massive 50 points per game without Poling, but in his return, Ohio picked up its first shutout of the season. Poling was all over the field with 10 tackles, seven for a loss, and managed to snag his third interception of the season. Poling could affect the game with big plays on defense, as he is second in the conference in forced fumbles and seventh in interceptions.

Ohio and Ball state are tied at second in the conference in turnover margin at +5, but with more Derrius Vick designed runs and less pass attempts, Ohio will likely see a decline in turnovers. On the season, 10 of Ohio’s 12 turnovers have been interceptions, and the team has only lost two fumbles.

For the second week in a row, Vick was Ohio’s leading rusher and was the first 100-yard rusher for the ‘Cats on the year with 107 yards on 22 carries. The play selection for Ohio last week was much different than the balanced Bobcat offense fans are used to seeing. Against the Golden Flashes, Ohio attempted just 14 passes but took to the ground 57 times for 333 yards.

Look for a similar mix of play-calling from the ‘Cats this week, as Ball State is second worst in the conference in run defense, allowing over 200 yards per game on the ground. The Cardinal pass defense is no better, sitting last in the conference with 300 yards per game from opponents.

All in all, Ohio will likely keep the ball on the ground and look to avoid turnovers. The Bobcats match up well against the Cardinals, and a mistake free game will likely render Frank Solich’s squad its seventh win of the season.

Kick off between Ohio and Ball State is set for 7:00 p.m. from Peden Stadium and the game will be broadcast on ESPNU.