Ohio's strong second and fourth quarters lifted the Bobcats to a 5-2 record after defeating the Bowling Green Falcons, 48-30, on Saturday afternoon. Mike Jinks' struggling team fell to 1-6 but displayed one of its best offensive performances of the 2017 season.
Here's what we learned at Doyt Perry Stadium in Week 7:
Ohio's rushing offense is the best in the MAC
Statistically, at 1,611 yards per game, this is true. And Ohio is 15th in the nation in the category. But if you watch Nathan Rourke and A.J. Ouellette, it's easy to see that they overmatch every single conference opponent's rush defense.
Rourke guided the unit with 143 rushing yards on just eight carries (17.9 average). The sophomore dual-threat quarterback actually ran for more yards than he achieved through the air (105) after an inconsistent passing day.
Ouellette is closing in on his season-high personal best in rushing yards that he set his freshman year in 2013. The power back added 123 yards on the ground — his fourth game over the 100 mark this year. Ouellette scored two rushing touchdowns, while Rourke found the end zone three times with his legs. And for the third time this season, Rourke (second in the nation with 12 rushing touchdowns) earned a hat trick with his scoring effort.
Bowling Green's run defense shows no sign of improvement
The Falcons have yielded 1,732 rushing yards to opponents this season:
Michigan State: 215
South Dakota (FCS): 214
Middle Tennessee: 243
Miami (OH): 244
When it appeared Bowling Green's defense was turning the corner after the Middle Tennessee and Akron games, the unit took a major step back against Ohio's powerful running game on Saturday. The Bobcats couldn't find much success through the air at all, so Bowling Green primarily needed to key on Rourke and Ouellette to effectively force fourth downs and stop Ohio's offense.
That didn't work. Bowling Green allowed the dynamic duo to combine for 266 rushing yards and also allowed 71 to the Bobcats' secondary back Dorian Brown. Allowing a quarterback to nearly average 18 yards per carry is unforgivable. Rourke's incredible rushing average also means Bowling Green was unable to put pressure on Rourke during his 22 pass attempts and come up with a single sack.
The Falcons allowed five rushing touchdowns, which contributed to the majority of Ohio's 48 points. Bowling Green takes on Northern Illinois next Saturday, a team with an offense similarly constructed to that of Ohio's. Option, run-first quarterbacks and strong powerful running backs. Can the unit finally show a sign of improvement then?
Bowling Green's inability to refrain from turnovers is worrisome
For the second time in three weeks, the Falcons committed four turnovers. Ohio had no problem taking advantage, scoring touchdowns on three of them. With a 13-7 lead in the middle of the second quarter, James Morgan threw his most inopportune interception of the day. Backed against his own end zone, Ohio returned a 15-yard pick-six to the house to lead 14-13.
Prior to the pick-six, a Bowling Green fumble deep in its own territory, while up 6-0, paved way to an easy Ohio touchdown. Then, in the third quarter, the Bobcats pulled away when Morgan was sacked in his own territory by Quentin Poling. Morgan's fumble was recovered by Ohio's Bradd Ellis — the same player who returned the interception for a touchdown. Ohio then turned to Ouellette to power it into the end zone for a quick score to go up 41-23.
When you lose a game by 18 points and allow 21 points off of turnovers, every turnover becomes more crucial. Bowling Green has struggled with interceptions all season long, and Morgan and backup quarterback Grant Loy both tossed one apiece in the loss. Fumbling proved deadly too, and both Bowling Green fumbles occurred at the beginning of drives with unfavorable field position.
After beating Miami (OH) and playing Ohio tight for over a half, Bowling Green has proved it can compete, but surpassing the three-turnover mark multiple times in a season is one way to almost guarantee an abysmal record.
Quentin Poling is the MAC's best linebacker
Poling achieved the 19-tackle mark several weeks ago. Week after week, the senior continues to amaze. His Saturday outing ended in 10 tackles, one sacks, two tackles for loss, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery, and a pass deflection. The star inside linebacker does it all.
Poling is locking his spot up on the All-MAC First Team once again to cap off an amazing career at Ohio. Just like his former teammate Blair Brown, Poling could find himself selected in the NFL Draft after displaying his stellar tackling ability week after week. He pressured Morgan all game long and often forced him into making ill-advised decisions (finished 16-of-41 passing).
Ohio's defense is giving up more a lot more points than it did a year ago, but Poling continues to keep the unit calm and steps up to make game-changing plays. This will not be the last time No. 32 impacts a game in a magnificent way this season.
Ohio is winning the MAC East
Yes, Ohio had the bad home loss to Central Michigan. At the time of this writing, Akron is 3-0 in conference play after an upset at Western Michigan, where the Zips scored just 14 points. I do not think Akron has the offensive firepower to match Ohio's rushing game, and the Zips' defense will struggle to keep up.
Ohio-Akron in mid-November will likely decide the division. Both teams will likely enter matchups with Toledo as underdogs, but Ohio managed to upset the Rockets last season. Rourke and Ouellette should be tough to contain for an Akron defense that has struggled against several formidable opponents this year, including Penn State and Iowa State. If the Bobcats limit fumbles (that plagued them against Purdue and Central Michigan) versus Akron and don't take another opponent like Miami (OH) or Buffalo lightly, Ohio is set to punch its ticket to Detroit for the second-consecutive season. The offense is just too good.