Bulls look to bludgeon Bobcats
Freshman running back Branden Oliver and the running game need to play a big role on Thursday night to take pressure off of freshman quarterback Alex Zordich. Alex McCrossen /The Spectrum
It would make sense that the football team's first game after Halloween will be against a team led by Boo Jackson. It would also stand to reason considering how scary their offense has been at times this season.
The Bulls (2-6, 1-3 Mid-American Conference) took a giant step forward last week, albeit in a 21-9 loss to Miami (Ohio) (5-4, 4-1 MAC).
The offense protected the ball for the most part and even had a few promising drives under the direction of freshman quarterback Alex Zordich. The development of Zordich is something that Bulls' fans have to look forward to in a down season. "The past few weeks have been nice," Zordich said. "I'm [slowly] getting a feel for the game and as each week goes by it slows down even more."
In three appearances (two starts) this season, Zordich has completed 47 percent of his passes (a point improvement from sophomore quarterback Jerry Davis) for 327 yards.
Although Zordich has yet to throw a touchdown pass, Bulls head coach Jeff Quinn thinks he is on the verge of really grasping the offense.
"He didn't feel comfortable throwing the ball and creating a turnover [against Miami]," Quinn said. "That's a sign of maturity and he's getting more comfortable with the offense. He's in [the film room] late at night watching film…[We need Alex] to bring others along."
As far as this week goes, the Bulls have a very difficult task on their hands - slowing down the Ohio offense.
The Bobcats offensive attack is unlike any other in the MAC. The duel threat of Jackson and junior quarterback Phil Bates presents another difficult challenge for the second-best pass defense in the MAC.
Quinn has been impressed with the play of the Bobcat quarterbacks this season and thinks Ohio is very well coached.
"It's going to be a tremendous challenge for us, going into [Ohio]," Quinn said. "I told the team yesterday that we simply need to find a way to win."
Jackson has thrown for 1,302 yards this season and rushed for 371 yards. The senior quarterback is the MAC's version of Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson.
The most important factor in the game against the Bobcats could be the ability of the Bulls to move the ball. Zordich will rely on his running game to step up their game against Ohio.
It's been three games since the Bulls have hit the 100-yard plateau in the rushing category. To have a shot against Ohio, they must find a way to move the ball on the ground.
Freshman running back Branden Oliver has struggled to find consistency in his running this season, and it shows on the stat sheet. He is averaging only 2.8 yards per carry and has yet to record a touchdown this season.
Quinn thinks that when everyone on offense figures the system out, it will be more effective on a consistent basis.
"We don't ask players to win the game [on each play], we ask them to do their jobs," Quinn said. "When 11 men on offense collectively do that, you're going to see results that are important for this offense."
Quinn is hoping his receiving corps is able to make an impact in the game as well. The Bobcats frustrate wide outs at the line of scrimmage with their press coverage.
Zordich will attempt to get junior wide receivers Marcus Rivers and Terrel Jackson more involved this week.
In spite of his team's struggles, Quinn feels that there is hope for the future because his team continues to stick together.
"Our kids play hard," Quinn said. "They're still providing the effort. We got better as an offense [last week]. And I know people will say, ‘that's crazy coach, you didn't win the game.' And I get the winning and losing, but we're trying to get consistency with our offense and start moving the chains."
Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on Thursday night at Peden Stadium. The game can be seen on ESPNU.
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