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Five Things Learned: Ohio Bobcats v. Rhode Island Rams

Ohio is gonna be just fine on offense, that's for sure.

NCAA Football: Frisco Bowl-Ohio vs San Diego State Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Five things learned by watching Ohio’s 41-20 win over Rhode Island:

Ohio’s offense is gonna be just fine

This is more confirming what we knew than what we learned, but Ohio’s offense looks like it is going to be fine in 2019 despite key losses.

Ohio lost a massive amount of offensive talent to graduation in 2018 from an offense that averaged over 40 points a game including First-Team All-MAC LT Joe Lowery, LG Joe Anderson, RB A.J. Ouellette, and Papi White, Second-Team All-MAC RG Durrell Wood, and current CFL Hamilton Tiger-Cat RB Maleek Irons.

Ohio’s starters scored on all seven drives Saturday, not counting a one-play drive that was a QB kneel to end the first half.

Ohio did not punt once the entire game.

Ohio rolled on offense with 466 total yards. QB Nathan Rourke completed 73% of his passes for two touchdowns and Ohio averaged 7.3 yards per carry on 38 carries.

Ohio’s running backs can play: the question now, which ones will get the carries?

Coming into the 2019 season, fans wondered which of Ohio’s inexperienced running backs could replace the production after A.J Ouellette and Maleek Irons were lost to graduation.

The answer? four. A total of four running backs played, starting with O’Shaan Allison, who averaged 6.3 yards per carry on six carries. Julian Ross ran hard and for 68 yards. De’Montre Tuggle contributed 65 yards and Ja’Vahri Portis 33 yards.

The question now becomes, who will get the carries? Ohio under head coach Frank Solich likes to employ a two back system, but which two? De’Montre Tuggle was the third back to get carries against Rhode Island but may be in the top two next week. De’Montre made the most of his four carries which included a 55-yard td run during which he showed nice vision and physical tools. Tuggle also had an 84-yard run negated by a holding penalty.

The Defense passed its first test, picking up where it left off last year

Fans wondered if Ohio’s defense would start the 2019 campaign as it had the 2018 season-slowly. In week one of 2018, Ohio’s pass defense surrendered 439 yards passing and several big plays.

As it turned out, Ohio’s defense started 2019 much better for several reasons.

The communications was visibly better among Ohio’s defensive players, resulting in less frequent big plays. The big plays surrendered in the passing game were much more a result of the unbelievable talent of Rhode Island’s wide receiver Aaron Parker than the blown overages and missed assignments that occurred against Howard in game one of the 2018 season.

A major area of improvement in week one for Ohio vs. its 2018 performance was its third down conversion percentage. In 2018, Ohio allowed an average of 43.8 percent of third downs to be converted by opposing offenses.

Yesterday vs Rhode Island, Ohio’s starting defense only allowed one of nine third-downs to be converted: 11.1 percent. Overall, including the numbers with backup players, Ohio’s defense only allowed 4 of 14 third-down conversions vs Rhode Island, or 28.5 percent, which is a 35 percent improvement over their 2018 average.

Rhode Island’s wide receiver Aaron Parker has NFL talent

Aaron Parker is an NFL talent and showed that on Saturday with 9 catches for 144 yards and a TD. Parker made several catches not typically made by college wide receivers, often in double coverage. Parker also played the game with an awareness not typically seen, such as when he came back to break up a pass which almost certainly would have been a pick-six by Ohio’s Jamal Hudson.

Ohio’s special teams specialists picked up where they left off at the end of 2018

Ohio’s senior special teams battery of punter/kickoff specialist Michael Farkas and Louie Zervos picked up where it left off in 2018. Although Farkas did not have a punt on the day, he hit some well-placed kickoffs which were a major field position factor and which also helped eliminate the dangerous Rams returner Ahmere Dorsey from getting any big returns (Dorsey had two kickoffs and punt returned for TDs last year).

Louie Zervos was 2-2 on FGs, with plenty of leg, and 5-5 on extra points.

The coverage teams were very strong except for two errors which are correctable. An Ohio player was offsides on a fourth and four which resulted in a first down for Rhode Island. Also, a miscommunication and lack of awareness contributed to a fumbled punt which was recovered by Rhode Island.