Ohio Football: 3 Takeaways from the Bobcats Loss to Louisiana< < Back to
ATHENS, OH — The Bobcats knew they were walking into a very tough non-conference schedule when the season started, but a 1-3 record after four games was something no one expected.
After a 45-25 loss to Louisiana at home on Saturday, Ohio heads into a bye week with more questions than answers. Here are a few of my takeaways from the ‘Cats first loss in Athens in nearly two years.
In their first two games against FBS opponents this season, the Bobcats did not put together a four-quarter performance on either side of the ball. That didn’t change against Louisiana.
The defense started the game like they had finished it against Marshall, only giving up 10 points in the first half to a Ragin’ Cajun offense that averaged over 46 points per game in their first three games. The touchdown given up could even be blamed on the special teams fumbling a punt and giving Louisiana the ball at the Ohio 2.
That all changed in the second half when the Cajuns rattled off five touchdown drives and racked up 326 yards over a span of seven possessions in the final two quarters. The other two drives coming up empty could be pinned more on the Louisiana offense faltering more than the Ohio defense getting a stop.
The last two weeks have shown the best and the worst of the Ohio defense, with both games being divided in half by good and bad play.
Adding to that, for the third straight week, the defense had a chance to get the ball back to the offense with a chance to take a late lead and, for a third straight week, they failed to do so.
The offense isn’t immune to the inconsistency, either. In all three losses, the offense has looked like the Nathan Rourke-led offense that people have grown accustomed to. Other times, they’ve looked completely lost and unable to do much of anything.
Can a lot of this be blamed on youth and inexperience?
Can a little more of it be blamed on the plethora of injuries the offense has endured?
But that doesn’t explain everything that has gone wrong in the last three games. The ground game that has carried the Bobcats for the last few seasons has failed to generate much of anything outside of Rourke’s 72-yard touchdown run against Marshall.
The passing game is working a bit better but has been underutilized in situations where it appears that the offense will get more from it than the run game.
The bye week is coming a good time for the ‘Cats to iron out some of these issues or else the “easy path” to Detriot many figured they would have before the season started won’t be so easy.
Depleted Running Backs Corps Showing Their Youth
Everyone knew that long-time backfield stalwarts A.J. Ouellette and Maleek Irons would be tough for the Bobcats to replace right away.
But through four games, none of the Ohio running backs are averaging more than 50 yards per game and Nathan Rourke is the team’s leading rusher with 187 yards.
No one said it would be easy, but the running back position has been the group most affected by youth and inexperience, inconsistency and injury.
De’Montre Tuggle, the third running back on the depth chart to start the season, got the start for the ‘Cats on Saturday against Louisiana. The junior college transfer has found the end zone on the ground the most of all Bobcats so far this season but has been thrust into a starting role due to injuries.
The back that won the job in camp, O’Shaan Allison, was lost during the game in Marshall and Julian Ross, the back that has been with the team the longest, was injured in Pittsburgh.
Tuggle has shown glimpses of what he can be in the first four games. He’s shown his speed and his ability to catch, but he’s also shown some tendencies that will have to be corrected, such as a habit of trying bounce run plays outside when there isn’t anything there.
These running backs seem to work best as a unit with Allison wearing down the defense and the combo and Tuggle and Ross coming in to be a change of pace. So maybe that’s what will happen when they’re all healthy and playing again.
Coming into the season, the secondary of the defense was by far the most experienced group on the team. All four of the starters at cornerback and safety played in no less than 11 games in 2018.
However, through four games, the Bobcats rank 97th in the country in passing yards allowed and are allowing quarterbacks to complete over 60 percent of their passes.
While the rush defense isn’t fairing better, ranked 113th overall, the secondary struggling is the surprise.
Sure, there’s been a few plays that teams have made against them where there’s nothing they could have done (one-handed catches in both the Marshall and Louisiana games and a DB falling down on the game-winning touchdown against the Herd), but there are also plays that the secondary could have made that they simply didn’t.
Tackling has also been an issue for the defensive backs, but they’ve also been made to tackle running backs downfield far more often than they should.
Many expected the DBs to be the unit that anchored the Bobcat defense in 2019. Through four games, they haven’t shown that ability.