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What We Learned from Ohio’s 38-14 win over Bowling Green

Ohio played like champions in a statement win to clinch the Mid-American Conference East Division title.

Ohio v Penn State Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

Ohio (9-3, 7-1 MAC East) dominated Bowling Green (6-6, 5-3 MAC East) last Tuesday so thoroughly as to leave no doubt the Green and White should represent the MAC East in next week’s MAC championship game.

While Bowling Green was competitive early, the ‘Cats controlled the middle of the game so completely that the bulk of the fourth quarter of a game with MAC East implications for both teams was played by the reserves.

Ohio achieved the win by playing team football in all phases with championship-level effort. Bowling Green played well in the first quarter but is looking for that consistency to take the next step. We take a detailed look at what we learned about both squads in this one.

Team efforts deserving of awards

It is funny perhaps that in a team sport there are only individual post-season MAC awards. But if there were best units or sub-unit awards, Ohio and Bowling Green would figure to be in the mix.

Defensively, Ohio would be in the conversation with Western Michigan and Toledo as one of the best MAC defenses of 2022. In just over three quarters, Ohio’s defense stymied BGSU, allowing just seven points and a little over 200 combined yards before the reserves entered in the fourth.

The Bowling Green game continues the streak of Ohio’s defensive stinginess as Ohio has allowed only one opponent to score 20 or more points in the last six weeks (rival Miami had 21 points).

The Bobcats are also one of the more explosive defensive units nationally, ranking ninth in turnovers gained (24) and 32nd in team sacks (32).

Offensively, the Bobcats’ showed they are among the league’s best units, putting together scoring drives of 79, 77, 71, and 51 yards last week without their starting quarterback Kurtis Rourke, who is out for the year with a knee injury.

Scoring four touchdowns on drives of that length tells you all you need to know about how good the Bobcats’ offense is as a group: not every team can lose an all-league caliber quarterback and perform this well the very next week with a division championship at stake.

That not to suggest that Ohio quarterback CJ Harris was just for along for the ride against BGSU. Harris had a heck of a starting debut surrounded by that talent with 261 all-purpose yards and four touchdowns (three rush, one pass).

On the season, Ohio offensively performed on a national level too, ranking 30th in points per game (34) in the FBS while protecting the ball ranking 12th in turnovers lost, giving up only 11 in 12 games.

While it was not the Falcons’ night defensively, they would be in the running for some defensive awards, disrupting offenses throughout the season ranking 20th in the FBS in turnovers gained (22) and 9th in team sacks (37).

The Falcons did not have a great opportunity versus Ohio to display their vaunted pass rush as the Bobcats dominated on the ground, rushing 54 times versus just 21 pass attempts.

Palpable progress for the Falcons

As the regular season ends, we can say without a doubt that Bowling Green has also taken some big strides this season despite the loss to Ohio. The Falcons are going bowling for the first time since 2015, with the extra game and practice giving the unit more time to grow with an even better 2023 in mind.

Winning is the name of the game and the Falcons have a shot at record above .500 for the first time also since 2015, locking up a 7-6 record for 2022 if they can win the bowl game.

Putting the success into more context, Bowling Green has a chance to tie its win total from the last three seasons combined at seven (one of the three seasons was the COVID-shortened one in 2020, where the Falcons played only five games).

Hustle wins out

As our name makes plain, we appreciate hustle and no one is doing it better at this point than the Bobcats, who showed again in the win over the Falcons that they will not be outworked or outhit.

Here are a few examples, from the obvious to the more subtle.

As we noted in our Ohio-BGSU game recap, Ohio running back Sieh Bangura is playing with championship-level effort, a physical style that is tough to beat. There were so many examples in the second half of the second quarter where Bangura’s hard-charging runs were the difference, like how the extra effort converted a key third down leading to a score.

Another example of great hustle last week was the 48-yard tunnel screen by Ohio wideout Jacoby Jones. As Jones broke through the initial defense and raced down the sideline, he was escorted by center Parker Titsworth and left guard Kurt Danneker. The Ohio lineman sprinted the entire 45 yards downfield, working to help the play until Jones was tackled. Seeing a 330-pound guard working that far down field says everything about the effort on this team.

Fab Froshes

Although there was plenty of senior leadership on the field for both squads, emerging young talent on each side is very noticeable and their progress should be great for fans to watch.

Bowling Green’s true freshman tight end Harold Fannin Jr. caught two passes against Ohio including a 42-yarder and looked impressive doing so, logging most of the yards after catch. Fannin Jr. is a versatile player with 270 all-purpose yards this year and five touchdowns and should get plenty more opportunities to shine in an offense that knows how to use talent in his position group.

An example of a Bobcat with a great early campaign is redshirt freshman Sieh Bangura, who we already discussed above. Bangura is closing in on 1,000 yards in his first season as starter with 884 and has 11 touchdowns with two games remaining.

Defensively, redshirt freshman cornerback Torrie Cox Jr. continues to make strides versus the run and pass, coming up especially big the last two weeks with 14 stops and two fumbles forced and recovered and two pass break ups.

On special teams, Ohio’s true freshman kicker Nathanial Vakos has made an immediate impact, connecting on 86 percent of his field goal attempts (19-of-22), including a 55-yarder. The field goal unit's success this season is a significant improvement over last season when the Bobcats hit on just 66 percent of its kicks (16-of-24).

Top 25 aspirations?

The big win this weekend had some ‘Cats fans and media thinking that a Top-25 ranking in at least one poll is within the grasp of a surging Ohio squad who have won seven-straight.

This Bobcat supporter headed to Columbus, Ohio on Saturday, appearing on College GameDay with a sign to remind the AP voters that Ohio State is not the only talented squad in the state; and looking at the numbers, the Bobcats indeed could (and maybe should) should get some run in the rankings.

In Sunday’s AP poll, two voters agreed with the GameDay signmaker, giving Ohio its first two votes of the season.

Should Ohio beat Toledo next week in the championship game, then win their bowl game, the Bobcats may indeed make a case for a top-25 ranking as they would finish the season with an 11-3 record and as MAC Champions, with competitive losses to Penn State and Iowa State.

Ohio’s last visited the top-25 in week eight of the 2012 season, peaking at number 23 in the AP poll. Ohio won seven in a row to start that year, including a signature 24-14 win over Penn State.

Ohio will have its hands full as it takes on the MAC West division winner Toledo Rockets in the MAC Championship December 3, 2022 at noon Eastern time, while the Falcons wait to learn their bowl destination and opponent.