The ‘Cats (7-3, 5-1 MAC East) picked up a second dominant win in a row over a quality opponent in the national spotlight this week over their blood rival Miami. Their fifth-straight MAC win leaves little doubt that Ohio is one of the best stories in the FBS so far in 2022.
Coming off a 3-9 season in 2021, the Bobcats have transformed this year into a squad peaking in performance late in the season and controlling its division title hopes with two games remaining. If Ohio wins out they are MAC East champs with a 9-3 record, the reverse of last season’s record.
In back-to-back weeks, Ohio has soundly thrashed some talented MAC East squads. Two weeks ago the ‘Cats scored a 45-24 blowout of well-rounded division contender Buffalo then this week Ohio unleashed a dominant offensive performance against one of the conference’s best defenses in Miami (4-6, 2-4 MAC East).
Before we head into the last two weeks of #MACtion, our takeaways from the 98th Battle of the Bricks.
Ohio’s running game impressive against a solid RedHawk defense
Things are getting downright scary for Ohio’s defensive opponents as the year rolls on. Ohio is dominating opponents on the ground now as well as through the air. The ‘Cats historic passing game this year is well documented, but the running game has been making strides of its own in the deeper parts of MAC play with a brilliant second half performance against the RedHawks.
Despite multiple injuries in the Bobcat running back room, Ohio had shown some effective work in the running game in the weeks leading up to the Miami game, against good front sevens in NIU and Buffalo.
Yet the Bobcats ground attack took things to a new level in the second half against Miami, running for a season best 194 on the day. Ohio’s Sieh Bangura had a career-best 145 yards on the ground. All the more impressive considering the RedHawks came into the contest ranked near the top of the MAC in several run defense categories including first in yards allowed with only 108 yards per game.
After netting less than 20 yards in the first half on 14 carries, Ohio rolled up 174 yards in the second half behind great blocking, with a ton of damage done on the interior behind center Parker Titsworth and guards Hagen Meservy and Kurt Danneker.
Still a Major Goal In Play for Miami
The season hasn’t gone the way that Miami had hoped and others predicted. The MAC East coaches preseason poll was high on Miami to win the division this year with the RedHawks ranking second by just one point to favorite Kent State.
Yet a week one injury sidelining Miami star quarterback Brett Gabbert for a majority of the season was a big blow to an offense that has struggled this year to consistently find points, ranking 11th out of 12 teams in the MAC with 19.6 per game.
That being said, a major goal still in play is bowl eligibility. If Miami can win its last two games it can get to 6-6 and a chance at postseason play.
The RedHawks might find a way to win out featuring one of the MAC’s best defenses and with the passing game finally heating up with Gabbert back in the lineup, finding wideout Mac Hippenhammer for three scores against Ohio.
Miami has a great chance for its defense to shut down a struggling NIU offense next week, as the Huskies are still breaking in a new quarterback to replace the injured Rocky Lombardi. If the RedHawks can dispatch the Huskies, then the last game of the year might be a battle for eligibility with Ball State.
The Cardinals also need one win with two weeks remaining for a chance to go bowling but would need to beat Miami in the final week if they cannot beat Ohio next week.
Finding A Way
Whether its injuries or units stepping up or bouncing back, Ohio consistently finds a way to win this season.
Ohio has been able to overcome the injury bug where both the running back and defensive back rooms have suffered significant attrition. The depth at running back has routinely been tested throughout the season, but the Bobcats have been productive with who has been available.
Ohio’s depth was tested early when RB O’Shaan Allison was lost for the season to injury and Julian Ross missed the majority of season after a week-one injury. Picking up the slack, Ohio had three backs lead the Bobcats in rushing yards in a single game this season including Sieh Bangura, Nolan McCormick, and Jake Neatherton.
The depth of the defensive backfield has been similarly tested this year, with several starters missing at least parts of multiple games. The Miami game was no different as head coach Tim Albin pointed out in his weekly press conference they were employing three true freshmen in the back end in the second half.
In addition to overcoming injuries, Ohio always seems to find a way for some group or unit to step up to get things done to overcome adversity.
In Week 1 against Florida Atlantic, in the fourth quarter, a 41-yard punt return by FAU led to a very short field and a seven-yard touchdown pass to cut Ohio’s lead to 41-38. After an Ohio punt, the defense stopped the Owls on the final drive of the game for the win.
In Week 4, the Bobcats defense allowed 52 points to Fordham so Ohio’s offense scored 53, setting the record for most passing yards in a game in school history in the process with 537. Ohio’s defense found a way to end the game on a strong note, stopping Fordham’s offense on the last series of the game.
In Week 7 against Western Michigan, the Broncos defense, led by their front seven, played a special game to hold Ohio’s offense in check for most of the game but Ohio’s defense and special teams rose up to secure the win. The Bobcats defense kept the Broncos off the scoreboard while giving the offense chances, holding WMU to 14 points while recording five interceptions. The field goal unit contributed 12 points, converting four field goals including a 55-yarder.
There are so many more examples but here are a couple more. After throwing a pick-six against Buffalo to narrow the Bobcats lead to 24-17, Ohio quarterback Kurtis Rourke and the offense responded on the next series with a 75-yard touchdown drive with 71 yards and a touchdown pass accounted for by Rourke.
Finally, after moving the ball but scoring only ten points in the first half against Miami, Ohio’s offensive line opened the second half by establishing a dominant ground game, helping the offense roll to 27 points in the second half.
As Ohio’s ground game was peaking last week, Ohio’s passing game still rolled with 362 yards, the ninth-most passing yards in a single game in Ohio history. While we have noted Ohio’s talented receiving corps throughout the season, the performance in the Miami game once again brought the topic into focus.
The RedHawks appeared to key on minimizing the impact of Ohio wideout Sam Wiglusz, who had run amok in many games in 2022, coming in to the Miami contest with 55 receptions for 710 yards and nine receiving touchdowns to that point. While the RedHawks successfully held Wiglusz to a season low four catches for four yards, the passing game simply got it done with other personnel.
Ohio wideout Miles Cross had a breakout performance with his first career 100-yard game, logging six catches for 133 yards on the evening. James Bostic made a big impact with five with five catches for 83 yards. Jacoby Jones demonstrated over the past few weeks that he has some of the best hands in the conference, adding another circus catch for score to his resume against Miami. Overall, the Bobcat receiver has 30 catches for 511 yards and five scores on the season.
The Bobcats have earned another opportunity in the national spotlight as Ohio travels to Ball State on Tuesday November 15th for a 7:00 PM ET game on ESPN 2. Miami heads to DeKalb to take on NIU the next night at 7:00 PM ET.