This game features a couple of squads looking to build on week one successes, as the Bobcats (1-0, 0-0 MAC) travel to Happy Valley to take on the Nittany Lions (1-0, 1-0 B1G).
The last time these teams met, September 1, 2012, Ohio stunned Penn State 24-14 on the strength of a 21-0 run in the second half. Ohio went on to win its first seven in a row that year and cracked the top 25 in all the major polls, peaking at number 23.
Fast forward ten years and the squads are set to do battle again. We take a look at what each bring to the table for the 2022 matchup.
- Time and Date: Saturday, September 10, 2022, at Noon ET
- Network: ABC
- Radio/Streaming: Both teams can be heard via the Varsity Network App. Veterans Russ Eisenstein (Play-by-play) and Rob Cornelius (Color) on the Ohio call.
- Location: Beaver Stadium, University Park, PA
- Weather: Partly Cloudy, 78 degrees, Wind SSW 5-10 MPH per Weather.com
- Spread/Total: Penn State is a 24.5-point favorite.
- All-time series: Penn St. leads the series 5-1, with PSU’s lone loss in 2012.
- Game Fact: Current Ohio DL coach Tremayne Scott started as a defensive lineman the last time these clubs met in 2012.
MEET THE BOBCATS
Tim Albin returns for his second year as head coach after replacing Ohio coaching legend Frank Solich.
Ohio wasted no time turning the page on a 3-9 record in Albin’s first year as both sides of the ball showed marked improvement in the 2022 season opener. The 41-38 win against a respectable Florida Atlantic squad gives the Bobcats its first September win against an FBS opponent since 2018.
Ohio’s offensive dominance in the season opener was reminiscent of the production of the 2017-2019 squads, where the Bobcats finished in the top 20 in the FBS in scoring each of those years.
When clicking, the Bobcats’ offense is tough to stop because defenders are fooled by misdirection or play action for big plays. For instance, last week, after several successful option runs by the QB, Ohio gives the option look against an eight-man defensive box only to pull up and throw to a WR who has gotten behind the defense for a huge gain.
Orchestrating the offense, QB Kurtis Rourke put it all together last week for a career day, completing 79 percent of his passes for 345 yards passing and five TDs (four passing, one rushing.)
Rourke has plenty of options in the passing game, led by six-foot-three, 230 lbs. Vanderbilt transfer WR James Bostic, who torched FAU last week with six grabs for 136 yards and a score. When not connecting with six-foot-one, 220 lb. WR Jacoby Jones, Rourke can go to smaller and shiftier guys like Sam Wiglusz, an Ohio State transfer whose impressive debut included five catches and two TDs.
WR Tyler Walton has taken over series at times in his career as he did early in the third quarter last week, catching four passes during an 87-yard TD drive.
Rourke will get some designed runs on options or draws but Ohio will turn to RB Sieh Bangura to shoulder most of the load on the ground. In his first career start last week, the redshirt freshman ran for 114 yards on 23 carries and showed power and elusiveness. With early-seasons injuries in the RB group, Bangura is poised for a breakout year with the extra carries.
Keeping Rourke clean and opening holes for Bangura is an offensive line whose strength and experience lies on the interior, led by RG Hagan Meservy and C Parker Titsworth. Meservy started 11 games as a true freshman and appeared in over 40 career games for the ‘Cats.
Defensively, the Bobcats’ front seven looked as good or even better than forecasted.
The D-line rotated about 8-10 players, with starting tackles Kai Caesar and Rodney Mathews leading the charge. While they don't typically pile up the stats doing the dirty work, Mathews had a strip sack that led to critical Ohio points last week.
New defensive ends Jack McCrory and Vonnie Watkins were impact players in week one, combining for 13 stops, 3 QB pressures, and a sack.
Behind the DL, the ‘Cats bring what could prove to be one of the better linebacker corps in the MAC in 2022, led by Keye Thompson, who returned from injury a 2021 injury to reclaim a starting role. Kyle Kelly emerged last week, looking physical and athletic making four stops including blowing up a screen pass to Owl standout WR LaJohntay Wester.
Safety Ben Johnson was highly productive in his first career start with 15 stops but will not be available for the first half due to a targeting call versus the Owls last week.
MEET THE NITTANY LIONS
Head Coach James Franklin returns to guide PSU in 2022 after signing a 10-year contract extension late last season.
Franklin is 68-34 as Penn State’s coach and has his squad headed in the right direction for 2022 after picking up a tough road win last week against a game Purdue Boilermaker squad.
Here is what the Bobcats are up against this week versus Penn State.
Going back to last season, PSU operated a fairly balanced offense, with a few more passes per game than runs on average.
The passing attack is led by an experienced signal caller in Sean Clifford, whose career numbers include more than 1,000 passing attempts for over 8,000 yards, and 66 TD passes.
Clifford has some ability as a runner with almost 900 career yards rushing and 11 scores. He showed poise and skill in guiding team to a win last week with a eight-play, 80-yard TD drive to take a 35-31 lead with less than a minute to play.
Clifford has some playmakers in the passing game starting with WKU transfer Mitchell Tinsley, who smoked the competition last year in Conference USA for 87 catches, 1,402 yards, and 14 TDs. Tinsley made an immediate impact last week with seven catches for 84 yards and a score.
The Lions’ rushing attack is a work-in-progress relative to its B1G competition, as the team finished tied for 13th (out of 14 teams), averaging 3.2 yards per rush last season. The team divided the carries last week among three backs looking for the hot hand, ultimately mustering 3.1 yards per tote on the day.
Defensively, Penn State will give the Bobcats all they can handle, featuring an above-average B1G front seven and the best defensive backfield the ‘Cats will face all season.
The defense is led by CB Joey Porter Jr., who had eight tackles and 6 of PSU’s 16 PBUs against pass-happy Purdue.
Safety Ji’ayir Brown will make Rourke pay for any errant throws as Brown showed a nose for the ball with six interceptions in his first year as a starter last year.
PSU is 24-point favorites for a reason. They are well-coached and feature a Big Ten defense that projects to be one of the better units in the conference in 2022. They feature an experienced QB who can get the ball through the air to dynamic playmakers like WR Tinsley.
That being said, last week shows the Bobcats have some tools to compete in this one. Ohio has a deep front seven with improved run defense that can keep players fresher and may be able to keep PSU from getting its running game on track for one more week.
To make a go of it, Ohio will need to play mistake-free and prevent big plays by PSU’s passing game early on, while adjusting to the size and speed of the opponent. If Ohio can settle in, they have the coaching and offensive firepower to put up some points while making some stops on defense.
Look for Ohio to get enough done to at least cover the points with a shot to keep it interesting into the fourth quarter if they play their best football.