De’Montre Tuggle (24) runs towards the pylon during the Bobcats’ 33-31 loss to Marshall on September 14, 2019. PHOTO: Ben Weilgopolski/WOUB

Ohio Football: ‘Cats Look to Get Back in Win Column Against Louisiana

Posted on:

< < Back to

ATHENS, OH — Through three games, 2019 doesn’t seem all that different from 2018 for Ohio football. Both had season-opening home victories over FCS schools followed by road losses to schools from the ACC (Virginia and Pitt) and a highly-touted Group of Five programs (Cincinnati and Marshall). 

If history were to fully repeat itself for the non-conference part fo the season, that would mean the Bobcats are in line for a win on Saturday.

Except Louisiana is not UMass.

The Bobcats (1-2) path to an even 2-2 record heading into MAC play goes through the Ragin’ Cajuns (2-1), who travel to Peden Stadium for the first time since 2010, in a matchup between two Group of Five teams picked to play for their respective conference championships later this season.

“The schedule is tough. Three of the non-conference teams were bowl teams last year. Those three places have established programs that are used to winning, so they’re a lot like us,” Ohio head coach Frank Solich said. “ We knew going in that those games were going to be really highly contested games.”

“I’ve been pleased at how our players have responded up to this point and I see no signs of not responding well as we go through the rest of the year,” Solich added.

The ‘Cats will have to respond in a big way to beat a Ragin’ Cajun team that is coming off a 77-6 win over FCS Texas Southern last week.

Through three games, Louisiana is averaging nearly 600 yards per game on offense, 336 of those have come on the ground with the team going for over 400 yards rushing in each of their previous two games.

Last week, Ohio gave up 305 rushing yards to the Thundering Herd with 205 of those coming in the first two quarters. Despite being much better in the second half against Marshall, the Bobcats know that they will have to be much better on the defensive side for four quarters to beat Louisiana.

“In the second half last week, we did better fundamentally. In the first half, we just weren’t doing our jobs,” Ohio defensive coordinator Ron Collins said. “We know that this is going to be a battle. They’ve got a good stable of running backs, their offensive line is very athletic. We’ve been working on the run game hard.”

One of the most notable issues the Bobcats defense had last week, particularly in the first half, was with their tackling. Many of the Herd’s scoring drives in the first half were aided by Ohio’s numerous missed tackles.

“You keep working on form tackling. You keep working on being able to tamper down to make sure you’re not overrunning tackles and make sure you’re not allowing the cutback angles that backs and receivers could take at times. You work on drills that simulate all that stuff, and we’ll continue to do that,” Solich said. 

“We have smart kids, and they can see the things that we need to get better at. They will work hard at getting better at that phase of it,” he added.

One of the keys the Solich pointed out in the missed tackles is the defense being on the field more and taking away opportunities from the offense. The Bobcat offense was on the field for just 57 plays compared to Marshall’s 74. The week before, Pittsburgh ran 74 plays to Ohio’s 56.

Compare those numbers to last year when the ‘Cats offense averaged just under 67 plays a game.

However, even despite the considerable discrepancy in plays run, the Ohio offense had a good night in Huntington. The offense will likely need to be firing on all cylinders to keep pace with what could very likely be a shootout with the Ragin’ Cajuns.

The success of the offense last week stemmed from the play of the offensive line. After allowing Nathan Rourke to be sacked six times against Pittsburgh, they turned in a clean sheet of no sacks against the Herd. This allowed Rourke to be Rourke to the tune of 333 total yards (215 passing, 118 rushing) and four touchdowns in the game.

“The kids are hungry, they’ve bought in,” offensive coordinator Tim Albin said. “I think you’re going to see our best game coming up and hopefully it’s good enough. We’re playing a good team.”

Despite the specter of being 1-3 staring the Bobcats in the face, they don’t see this as a must-win game.

“You don’t go into games and say that this is a game that if we don’t win, it’s over,” Solich said. “No matter what transpires, we’ll get through it and play great football this year. We want that to be right now.”

“In all respects, it has to be right now,” he added

A 2-2 record is within reach for the Bobcats. Some of the mistakes of previous weeks will have to be cleaned up for them to get there, though. 

Ohio and Louisiana have only met twice on the football field, both narrow wins for the Bobcats. Their third meeting is also set up to be a close game. Kickoff at Peden Stadium is set for 2 p.m.