Get to Know an Opponent: Ohio

The Bulls take on the Bobcats in Buffalo Saturday

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Following a dispiriting 34-20 loss to Miami(OH) (2-3), UB football (2-3) will return to UB Stadium to take on Ohio University (1-3) for their homecoming game Saturday.

In their final non-conference game, the Bobcats were stymied by Louisiana-Lafayette, 45-25. Ohio enters conference play with a 1-3 record, after dropping contests to Pittsburgh, Marshall and Louisiana-Lafayette.

The 2019 Mid-American Conference Football Media Preseason Poll projected the Bobcats to finish first in the East Division, so they are a capable opponent for the Bulls. Over the first five weeks of the season, the Bulls have yet to figure out what type of football team they are, marking their early season with inconsistency.

Buffalo is 2-3 following wins over Robert Morris and Temple and losses to Penn State, Liberty and Miami(OH). 

Here’s what to expect when the Bulls take on the Bobcats Saturday afternoon:

COACH: Frank Solich, 165-97, 15th season at Ohio

LOOKING BACK

The Bobcats challenged the Bulls for the top spot in the MAC East last season, as they finished with a 9-4 record and a 27-0 win over San Diego State in the DXL Frisco Bowl.

HustleBelt named quarterback Nathan Rourke the best player in the Mid-American Conference in August. He completed 59.9% of his passes for 2,434 yards, 23 touchdowns and 8 interceptions. Most impressively, he rushed for 860 yards and 15 touchdowns on 134 carries. Over the past two seasons, he is No. 1 among all FBS signal-callers in rushing scores.

On Nov. 14, 2018, Rourke amassed 286 yards and four total touchdowns in a 52-17 win over Buffalo. The Bobcats controlled the whole contest, handing the Bulls their only conference loss of the 2018 campaign.

The 2018 Bobcats averaged 285.5 yards per game on the ground, ranking No. 9 in Division I-A. Running back A.J. Ouellette led the way with 1,306 yards and 12 touchdowns on 213 attempts, but he was surrounded by an impressive supporting cast: running back Maleek Irons, who rushed for 831 yards and eight scores, and guards Joe Lowery and Joe Anderson, who were named All-MAC selections.

On the other side of the ball, linebacker Evan Croutch was named second-team All-MAC after recording 90 total tackles, 5.5 sacks and two interceptions. He was complemented by safety Javon Hagan, who was named first-team All-MAC after posting 78 total tackles and two interceptions.

The Bobcats’ defense allowed 26.7 points per game, ranking No. 87 in Division I-A. In November, they held Bulls quarterback Tyree Jackson to just nine completions and 116 passing yards.

LOOKING FORWARD

The Bobcats went 1-3 in non-conference play, with their lone win coming against Rhode Island in week one.

Rourke has amassed 1,044 yards and eight total touchdowns in four games. He has developed a rapport with redshirt freshman wide receiver Shane Hooks, who totaled 157 yards and two touchdowns. Meanwhile, the rushing game has felt the loss of Ouellette to graduation.

On the defensive side of the ball, Hagan continues to lead the way with 39 total tackles. Cole Baker, who is a senior defensive tackle, has 14 total tackles and a team-leading 2.5 sacks. The Bobcats have allowed 464 yards per game, ranking No. 119 in Division I-A. The Bulls will look to take advantage of their especially porous run defense, which ranks toward the bottom of the NCAA.

Solich, 75, is the oldest and one of the longest-tenured head coaches in the Group of Five. Since taking the Ohio job in 2005, he has only had two losing seasons. That record is in danger in 2019.

BOTTOM LINE

With a week-five loss to Miami(OH), the Bulls will have to be nearly flawless the rest of the way to have a chance of making the MAC Championship Game. On Saturday, they will need to capitalize on their home crowd and curb Nathan Rourke to beat the Bobcats. Expect running backs Jaret Patterson and Kevin Marks to run wild on the Bobcats’ defense — especially after quarterback Matt Myers completed just 25% of his passes for 59 yards and two interceptions last Saturday.

Sports desk can be reached at sports@ubspectrum.com.