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Five Things Learned: Ball State Cardinals at Ohio Bobcats

Ohio asserted itself in the MAC East with a dominant rushing attack.

Ohio v Cincinnati Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images

The Ohio Bobcats (5-3, 3-1 MAC) proved that they are still a serious threat in the MAC East with a 52-14 walloping of the Ball State Cardinals (3-6, 2-3 MAC) at home. Is Thursday’s win a foreshadowing of things to come for the ‘Cats, or did they merely take advantage of a rebuilding BSU? Let’s dig deeper and find out.

They Ran, They Ran So Far Away

There’s not much to say about Ohio’s total domination of the ground game other than to be in awe of the numbers. The team rushed for 411 yards on 7.2 yards per rush with A.J. Ouellette, Maleek Irons, and Nathan Rourke each rushing for a pair of touchdowns. It’s pretty evident that Ball State was not up to the challenge on defense, but Ohio’s offense runs through their ground game (particularly with the rushing threat of Rourke) and they’ll be a hard team to stop if they’re able to rush 57 times in a game.

The Fountainhead of the Offense

Like we mentioned earlier, Rourke is a vital cog in the offense with his running ability (77 yards, two scores) and his management of the passing game (11-19 for 127 yards, a touchdown and an interception). He fits the mold of a Ohio quarterback under Frank Solich: he is a legitimate threat on the ground and while he’s not going to stand back in the pocket and shred a defense, he’s generally going to make the right decisions to keep the offense on the field.

Chirpin’ Up the Wrong Tree

Part of the offense’s woes for Ball State was due to Ohio’s defense (three takeaways, 5.1 yards per pass, 3.5 yards per rush), but BSU has to shoulder at least some blame for their planning and execution. If you’re Ball State and you know you’re outmatched, why does your best player in James Gilbert only get nine carries in the whole game? It would have been wise to limit OU’s possessions by managing the clock with the offense.

Special ‘Cats

Ohio certainly got a boost from their special teams on Thursday as they were able to control field position. Kicker Louis Zervos contributed 10 points despite missing a field goal in the contest while Michael Farkas only punted once for 43 yards. The return game is where the Bobcats shined as they nearly averaged 25 yards per return on kickoff while the Cardinals were held to under 11 yards per kickoff return.

A #MACtion-packed Finish

Ohio has a chance to make a late push for the East title depending on what happens Tuesday between Buffalo and Miami. The Bobcats face both of these teams in back-to-back weeks before closing out the season with Akron, so they’ll have some pretty meaningful games to play as far as MAC standings go. Meanwhile, Ball State has a tough road ahead with games against Toledo and Western Michigan looming before the season concludes with the Redbird Rivalry in Oxford. Getting a win down the stretch would be huge for the morale of the program; getting two would be tremendous going into the 2019 season.