Ohio cornerback Xavior Motley gives a high-five with a young fan during Ohio University’s homecoming football game against Central Michigan on Saturday. (Austin Janning/WOUB)

Ohio Football Prepares to Finish Season Strong Against Buffalo

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Ohio Football (8-3, 5-2) wraps up their 2017 season with a road matchup against the Buffalo Bulls (5-6, 3-4). The Bobcats face a harsh reality as they close out their regular season.

The Akron Zips are Mid-American Conference East Divison Champions, crushing Ohio’s chances at a second-straight MAC Championship game appearance. The Zips took care of the Kent State Golden Flashes 24-14 on Tuesday night, sealing their first division title since 2005, the same year Frank Solich took over as the Bobcat’s head coach.

All Ohio can do now is “move on,” that’s been the theme at Peden Stadium ever since Ohio dropped a 37-34 heartbreaker to the Zips on Nov. 14. Akron’s first victory against the Bobcats in a decade.

“We’re looking forward to playing a very good Buffalo team; a place where we haven’t played very well,” head coach Frank Solich said. “That needs to change. We’re all about moving on and looking forward to this game.”

A ten-win season is the Bobcat’s focus now and Buffalo isn’t going to hand it to them without a fight.

The Bulls are led by quarterback Tyree Jackson (124-0f-127, 1802 yards, 10 TD, 3 INT) and his favorite target Anthony Johnson (70 catches, 1201 yards, 12 TD). Johnson is arguably the best wide receiver in the MAC, leading the conference in yards, and receiving touchdowns, while sitting second in receptions.

“He’s talented. He’s what you look for in an athlete.” Solich said regarding Johnson, “We’re going to look at ways to not let him have a special day, and that’s not easy to do. It’ll be difficult, and if you slow him down then you accomplish something.”

Ohio has struggled mightily against star receivers over the past three games.

Kwadarrius Smith, Diontae Johnson, and James Gardner have combined to catch 21 passes for 435 yards and 6 touchdowns versus Ohio. Meanwhile, Johnson is fresh off 7 catches, for 153 yards and 4 scores against Ball State.

The best receivers in the conference have feasted on Ohio all year and they’ll need to buck that trend to capture a ten-win season.

One thing to keep an eye on is Ohio quarterback Nathan Rourke’s pursuit of single-season records, the sophomore needs just one rushing score to break the school-record of 19 and is looking for five total touchdowns in the final two games to eclipse Tyler Tettleton’s mark of 38.

Unfortunately for Rourke, he is playing the last game of the regular season without his number one wide receiver. Senior Brendan Cope injured his ankle against Akron and won’t be available for this game.

Kickoff from UB Stadium is set for 1 p.m. and can be seen on ESPN3.