It’s a trap!
Ohio enters week four coming off of a 28-19 loss to Tennessee; a game the ‘Cats had within striking distance the entire time. At a quick look ahead to FCS opponent Garnder-Webb, this appears to be Ohio’s shot to get back to winning ways before kicking off MAC play, but hold the phone because this contest has trap-game written all over.
There are few people in football busier than the Ohio training staff as of late. Three running backs; AJ Ouellette, Dorian Brown and Maleek Irons, are all expected to miss Saturday’s game. Ouellette underwent season ending surgery, but Irons and Brown could both potentially be available. That being said, head coach Frank Solich is not taking any chances.
To compensate, Papi White is expected to be in the backfield rather than the slot receiver position more often this week and reportedly Bo Hardy (Ohio’s backup safety) has been taking reps for emergency situations. Walk-on running back Vinny Emanuele was forced into action at Tennessee with five carries for seven yards, and is expected to split the load with White if Irons and Brown are unable to go.
Hardy has experience, seeing some time late in the season last year, but has only played defensively to date. As far as the secondary goes, Hardy will need to answer the call to action there as well due to the fact starting safety Kylan Nelson is also expected to miss the game due to injury.
On the other side of the injury front, wide receiver Sebastian Smith is seemingly back to 100 percent after a dominating nine catches for 156 yards last week. Look for Smith and Jordan Reid to rack up some big time receiving numbers this week with the depleted backfield and Greg Windham’s maturation as starting quarterback. The Gardner-Webb secondary is allowing over 200 yards per game through the air and the defense has only sacked the opposing quarterback once in the first three games.
Ohio will look to continue to improve its discipline as a team as they have given away 76 penalty yards per game.
The bright spot for the Bobcats continues to be kicker Louie Zervos, who leads the country with over four made field goals per game.
The player to watch when Gardner-Webb is on the field will be Khalil Lewis who leads the team with over 120 yards of offense per contest. Ohio will match up well, as the Bulldogs are a run first team, having completed just 11 passes per game thus far. Look for big games out of Quentin Poling and Tarell Basham up front to stop Lewis before he gets going.
If Ohio can be successful throwing the ball on early downs and is able to stop the Garnder-Webb ground game, it should be able to get to .500 on the season before moving on to rival Miami next week. But, if the Bobcats don’t get a quick lead on the Bulldogs, they very well could find themselves scrambling late against this surprising FCS team in Athens on Saturday.