The Bobcats (1-2) ran through the gauntlet, finishing the second of back-to-back games against very good power five opponents including #14th-ranked Penn State.
Coming out the other side, we take a look at what we learned about Ohio heading into the final non-conference game next week versus #21-ranked FCS Fordham Rams (3-0).
As Ohio heads into the final tune up before conference play one thing the Bobcats need to do is get off to faster starts.The Bobcats have started slowly in each of their games this season in one or more phases. The ISU game was an especially slow start in all phases.
Obviously, the level of the opponent in PSU and ISU played a role in the ‘Cats overall performance; yet, looking at the how ISU scored 24 points in the first 20 minutes, Ohio did not give itself a chance to compete due to multiple unforced errors.
These were not just things ISU was doing to Ohio, but also things Ohio did to itself that significantly contributed to the early deficit.
Special teams were especially an issue, as field position contributed to the score line in the first two quarters. ISU started two of its first three drives near midfield due to back-to-back 21-and 23-yard punts. Ohio’s offense started a first-quarter drive at its two-yard line when a ‘Cat punt returner fielded the ball backpedaling into the endzone instead of allowing a touchback.
On offense, a few passes were dropped and two illegal formation penalties were called in the early going, while defensively, the Bobcats lined up offsides, giving ISU another chance to convert a third down which ultimately led to a touchdown.
While things didn't work out against ISU, the good news is that the conference slate is still ahead and all of these types of errors are the kind that Ohio should be able to correct and without any major changes.
End of the Line
Looking back at preseason previews, we thought the ‘Cats could field some competitive offensive and defensive lines depending how the new starters at tackles and defensive ends worked out. So far, it looks like the ends of the lines are in solid shape for conference play on both sides of the ball.
Despite playing two strong Power Five front sevens, left tackle Jay Amburgey and right tackle Shedrick Rhodes Jr. did not look overmatched, which bodes well for conference play. The line as a whole performed admirably in pass protection against ISU and PSU, allowing only a combined five sacks against high-quality opponents including 2021 first-team All-American DE Will McDonald IV.
New defensive ends Jack McCrory and Vonnie Watkins have made some impact plays on the other side of the trenches, with a combined 20 tackles, 2.5 sacks, and five QB Hurries. Depth also looks promising, like former DT Jeremiah Burton who has 1.5 sacks so far in his new role.
Running Back Depth
Ohio’s running position went from team strength to a position of uncertainty in short order due to injuries as veteran O’Shaan Allison was lost for the season just before the opener and Julian Ross has been out since his first carry in Week 1.
With the ‘Cats looking to identify some depth to spell RB Sieh Bangura, redshirt freshman Nolan McCormack showed against ISU he could be that guy. More of a bruiser than a speed guy like Ross, the 220 lb. back led Ohio in rushing with 43 yards and a 6.1 yards per carry averge against ISU. McCormack also showed soft hands, hauling in six passes for 19 yards, mostly in the flats or as a safety valve.
Since Louie Zervos graduated in 2019, Ohio has been looking to stabilize its field goal kicking. In the two seasons prior to 2022, the Bobcats have converted just 60 percent of their field goals, a far cry from Louie Zervos’ lifetime 80 percent mark as Ohio’s primary placekicker.
With the parity in the MAC, a reliable option may be the difference in what will surely be some close games in 2022.
It's still a small sample size, but Ohio may have found its guy in true freshman Nathanial Vakos. The new kicker was awarded MAC Special Teams Player of the Week against FSU in Week 1, and hit his first long attempt of the season, 45 yards, against ISU in front of a hostile crowd of almost 60,000.
On the season, Vakos is 4-4 on FGs and 7-7 on XPs.
Tune in this Saturday at 2:00pm Eastern time, as Ohio returns home to take on the Fordham Rams.