Ohio University and the University of Cincinnati get ready at the line of scrimmage on September, Saturday 22, 2018. (Nickolas Oatley/WOUB)

Ohio Football Clashes with Ball State on Blackout Night

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Ohio Football (4-3, 2-1) regained their identity during a dominant Homecoming victory over Bowling Green. Now they get a chance to showcase it in primetime against the Ball State Cardinals (3-5, 2-2).

Weeknight MACtion is finally here and it could highlight one of the closest Mid-American Conference Championship races in recent memory. Six teams are within two games of the lead in their respective divisions and Ohio is right in the mix.

“That’s the way it is. We had to win our last two ball games the last go around to get to Detroit or at least one of them. We didn’t get that done, so we know how that works,” head coach Frank Solich said at his weekly press conference. “We just have to play really good football through these last six games.”

The Bobcats were nearly perfect in Saturday’s 49-14 win over Bowling Green. Ohio punted once on nine offensive drives and looked like the smashmouth offense we have seen flashes of all season long. Ohio junior quarterback Nathan Rourke was the catalyst behind Ohio’s 597 yards of offense, including 392 on the ground.

The Canadian went 8-of-12 through the air for 194 yards and a career-high four passing touchdowns. Toss in another 10 carries for 101 yards and one touchdown and we got one of the most efficient performances of Rourke’s career.

The numbers back it up: Rourke finished the homecoming rout with a 99.5-out of-100 on ESPN’s QBR Metric.

The Bobcats found their rushing formula against the Falcons and are riding the momentum into a quick turnaround game against the Cardinals. Ball State is coming off a 42-20 home-loss against Eastern Michigan, but they’ve been competitive throughout the season. The Cardinals played #3 Notre Dame down to the wire in a 24-16 week two loss.

Ohio’s defense did a great job containing the Falcons high-flying passing attack to just 214 yards and they’ll get another crack at one of the best aerial units in the MAC when Riley Neal and Co. come to town.

The junior quarterback is the third leading passer in the conference (230 yards per game) and he’s found a connection with Riley Miller all season long. Miller is second in the MAC in receptions per game (5.5) and fifth in yards per game (72.8).

Ball State ranks third in the conference in total offense (436.6 yards per game) but only eighth in scoring (25 points per game). Red zone efficiency is the main culprit: the Cardinals have scored 16 touchdowns on 29 red zone attempts.

“They’ve got the ability to move the football, and that’s regardless of whether you talk about the passing game or the running game,” coach Solich said. “Not allowing them to be two-dimensional would be a really big plus.”

The Bobcats might bend, but they can’t break inside the twenties.

With Buffalo (7-1, 4-0) sitting firmly atop the MAC East Division Ohio can’t afford many mistakes prior to their meeting at Peden Stadium on Nov. 14.

The whole program recognizes that and there is nothing like weeknight MACtion in front of a blacked-out crowd to get a team motivated. The road to Detroit continues on Thursday, kickoff is set for 7 p.m. with coverage on WOUB 1340 AM and CBS Sports Network.