Ohio University RB A.J. Ouellette cools off on the sidelines during the Bobcat’s season opener at Peden Stadium on Saturday, September 1, 2018. (Haldan Kirsch/WOUB)

Ohio Football: Bobcats Hope to Start Fast in Cincinnati

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ATHENS, OH — The old saying is that it’s a marathon not a sprint, but for the Ohio Bobcats (1-1), they want to be shot out of a cannon on Saturday against the Cincinnati Bearcats (3-0).

Slow starts have been the theme in Ohio’s first two games — Howard led 16-3 early in the second quarter in the home opener, and then Virginia — an overwhelming 35-7 lead minutes before halftime. Head coach Frank Solich knows that falling behind is not a recipe for success moving forward.

“As far as the game is concerned, it was the second game in a row that we’ve started off very slow,” Solich said. “We had to get into a catch-up mode. So, we’re going to have to look at that and find ways to get off to a quicker start and play four quarters of football.”

The Bobcats have yet to play a complete football game this season — the team’s offense struggled early in Week 1, and the defense got torched last week.

The defense for Ohio has been exposed in their first two games: They gave up over 600 total offense to Howard. Their follow up performance wasn’t much better — 552 total yards that saw the Cavaliers score on three one-play touchdowns, including a pair of 77 and 86-yard touchdown catch and runs by Olamide Zaccheaus. It’s all about getting back to the basics for the Bobcats.

“First thing we’re going to do is get to be a better technique,” Solich said. “Some of the things happening are just bad technique. Then, It’s getting everyone on the same page and making sure that every time the ball snaps we’re confident in what we’re doing.”

The Bobcats seemingly will re-group defensively, but also re-visit their identity on offense: The lack of their potent rushing attack.  The team has surprisingly had trouble running the football despite returning four of five of their starting offensive lineman from a year ago.

Take away Nathan Rourke’s 70-yard scramble last week, and through two games, the team has ran the ball 69 times for 194 yards (2.8 YPC).  Solich reiterated getting the ground game going.

“We have to run the football better, that’s one of the things from the offensive side of it,” Solich said. “You take away the 70-yard run by (Rourke) and you look at just back carries, you talk about 3.1 average yard carries. That’s not us. That’s not what the program has been built on. It’s now how we operate.”

Ohio will try to operate at a higher-level when they travel on the road to Cincinnati — a team that has started fast themselves with three wins to open the season. That’s why they’ll be a tough bounce back test for Ohio.

“I think they’ve held those three opponents to eight points a game, which is a little scary,” Solich said. “You need to put points on the board to win a game, and they don’t allow you to do that. Something’s gotta give here. They are very physical, very strong, and they play with a lot of energy. It’ll be a really good football team we face.”

The Bearcats’ defense is strong, but Solich mentioned their quarterback Desmond Ridder — Michael Warren II and Ridder have accounted for over half of the Bearcats’ 791 rushing yards. After being gashed a week ago by Jordan Ellis for 171 yards, the Ohio defense will once again be tested on the ground.

Last year after losing to Purdue, the team won three straight games. This year, Solich could see the same thing happening with his resilient team.

“They play with a lot of spirit. Love what they’re all about in terms of their approach to games,” Solich said. “They’re doing all the right things. They just need to be getting better in terms of on field stuff that we’re doing.”

Ohio hopes to put it together at Nippert Stadium against the Bearcats, with kick-off set for noon.

Follow @BobcatShowcase for live updates and video of the game.