Last Saturday, Ohio dropped the ball — literally and figuratively — against the Central Michigan Chippewas.
The Bobcats had four turnovers, all from quarterback Nathan Rourke, and plenty of other problems in the 26-23 Homecoming loss at Peden Stadium. No loss is good, but an early conference loss like this leaves Ohio with almost no wiggle room in the future.
“Obviously, a disappointing game for us; a disappointing loss,” Ohio head coach Frank Solich said during his press conference on Monday. “It’s a credit to our guys that despite four turnovers, despite having a touchdown called back, and despite having a field goal blocked that went the other way for a score we still had a chance to win it at the end. Obviously, we didn’t play well enough to get the win. There was certainly some technique missing.”
Now for the good news: Ohio won the Mid-American Conference East last season with two losses. Conference play started a bit better last season, however. Ohio began the year 2-0 in MAC play in 2016 after defeating Bowling Green and Miami, but then fell to Eastern Michigan on Oct. 15 for the first conference loss.
The Ohio Bobcats so far this season had only mustered one conference win over Eastern Michigan before last weekend’s loss to Central Michigan. No loss is good, but early losses can more as the season plays out.
Ohio (4-2, 1-1) will travel to Bowling Green on Saturday for a hoped-for MAC rebound. Bowling Green (1-5, 1-1) began the season with five straight losses before a momentum-changing 37-29 win at Miami on Saturday.
The RedHawks were 15-point favorites but a key play late in the game gave BGSU a victory and some momentum heading into the meeting with Ohio. While Bowling Green led 30-29 with under two minutes remaining, Miami had the ball at the Falcon one-yard-line. A bad snap was picked up Brandon Harris of Bowling Green and returned for a touchdown, nailing down BG’s first victory.
Despite the 1-5 record, a conference opponent can never be doubted. Ohio should have beaten Central Michigan. They didn’t. Miami should have beaten Bowling Green. They didn’t. There are no easy games at this point in the season, and Ohio is aware of that.
“They have come alive a little bit,” coach Solich said, referring to the Falcons. “That was huge win for them against a very good Miami football team, so their confidence is shooting through the roof. So obviously we’re going to be taking that on. I think they have a very good running game; they have three really good running backs. One receiver had 117 yards, a second receiver had 197 yards. So obviously they are throwing the ball well. You put running the ball well and throwing the ball well together, and you have a football team that is playing well at the moment.”
The Falcons will have some weapons on display against an Ohio defense without much depth that has allowed big plays and points in the last two weeks.
BG quarterback James Morgan has only completed 73 passes in 159 attempts for 1,007 yards, but he has the wide-receiver talent to overcome a lower completion percentage. Morgan also has thrown seven touchdowns and four interceptions.
Teo Redding leads Bowling Green with 416 yards on 27 catches for three touchdowns. Scott Miller has the most receptions on the team with 31 for 306 yards and two touchdowns. Datrin Guyton is the third receiver with over 250 receiving yards on the team. Guyton has 16 receptions for 284 yards, though he did not play in the win over Miami.
On the ground, Bowling Green’s big weapon in Josh Cleveland. Cleveland has 72 carries on the year for 406 yards and two touchdowns. The Falcons have other rushers used less often, but Andrew Clair played a key role in the win over Miami. Clair has 30 rushes for 198 yards on the season, but in just the one game against Miami had 16 of those attempts for 121 yards.
The Falcons, however, have not been able to put that offense together for much of this season. They’ve only put up19.5 points per game, allowing 34.3. The Bobcats should be able to exploit the Falcons for big points. Ohio has the second highest-scoring offense in the MAC, putting up 38.3 points per game.
Don’t expect Bobcat quarterback Rourke to commit four turnovers again. The Ohio offense has been the more finely tuned part of the team. For Ohio, the Homecoming loss against Central Michigan better be an anomaly.
The game at Bowling Green will kick off at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday and can be watched online on ESPN 3.