Kahlil Lewis gets tackled by Marlin Brooks on a reception. (Nickolas Oatley/WOUB)

Ohio Football: Bobcats Return to Peden Looking for Bounce-Back Win

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ATHENS, OH — Four weeks. That’s the last time the Ohio Bobcats (1-2) played at Peden Stadium.

Maybe being back in Athens is just what the doctor ordered for Ohio after blowing a 21-point lead in their loss to Cincinnati last Saturday.

Their past two games have been as uneven as you can get — They once trailed Virginia 35-7, but rallied to get the game within 10 points. Then, they raced out to a 21-0 lead over Cincinnati, but let the game slip away in the second half.  The entire team’s aware that they need to put together a complete football game to reach the goals they’ve set out to accomplish.

“We solved the issue of the slow start,” head coach Frank Solich said. “We still have the other issues as we all know to get to be what we want to be. We got some things we need to get better at, but I think the good thing about this football team is that they go to work at those things.” 

One of the issues was the team’s late game play-calling. The Bobcats had first and goal at the five-yard line down four points with less than two minutes to go.

Their final three plays of the game: A four-yard run by A.J. Ouellette that got them to the one-yard line, another Ouellette run that lost four yards and then on third down a quarterback rollout that resulted in Nathan Rourke throwing a pick that sealed the game for the Bearcats. Solich took the blame for not necessarily putting the team in the best situation to win.

“We should have won it,” Solich said. “You don’t get on the one-foot line very often with downs to go and don’t make it work. I took a lot of that upon myself. I felt I could have helped our team a little better in that situation than what I did. Some things could have been called a little bit differently that would have given us a better chance.”

Moving on after a loss is one thing, but moving on after a game you know that you know let slip out of your finger tips is another. Being able to do that is key for the rest of the season.

“You have to put it in the past, and we have a lot ahead of us in terms of needing to play good football to win games to have the kind of season we want to have, Solich said.  “If you’re unable to push forward and move on from good or bad then this becomes a very tough game. Understanding that as a staff and as players is needed in any program to be able to move on.”  

Now the team shifts its focus to UMass (2-3), the second game of a home-and-home series with the Minutemen. Last year, the Bobcats won in a shootout 58-50, and so Solich made one thing pretty clear for Saturday.

“Well, you better score a lot of points,” Solich said. “They’re scoring points on everybody they play, so they’ve got an offense that’s designed well, and they’ve got the players to fit it. You want to try to get them in long yardage situations as much as possible, and then you’ve to play good long yardage defense. The turnover battle will be extremely important in the game when both teams are capable of scoring points.”

That’s going to be a tall task for an Ohio defense that has given up 30-plus points in all three games this season. The best thing the Bobcats can do is lean on their running game, that on Saturday, looked a lot more like its 2017 form. Ohio ran for a season-best 234 yards, led by Nathan Rourke (96 yards) who made what Solich described as hero plays — plays the team will need on Saturday.

“He has some plays that were spectacular that you don’t see very often,” Solich said.  “He had two plays that should have been in ESPN Top 10. You just don’t see those plays very often. “You call those wild plays. I call them great plays.”

Rourke and the rest of Ohio will need to make more great plays Saturday at 2 p.m. when the Minutemen come to Peden Stadium.


Follow along with Bobcat Showcase for live updates of the game.