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2023 Week 1 Game Preview: Ohio Bobcats vs LIU Sharks

The Bobcats and Sharks meet looking for the first win of 2023 while protecting budding program streaks

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 16 Toledo at Ohio Photo by Graham Stokes/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

When the Bobcats (0-1) and Long Island University (LIU) Sharks duel at high noon it will be a streak buster for someone.

Ohio (0-1) returns home to play on “The Frank,” the new field unveiled in 2022 in honor of legendary former head coach Frank Solich. The ‘Cats are perfect so far in their defense of their newly-named gridiron, going 6-0 at home last year.

The Long Island University (LIU) Sharks head to Athens, Ohio for their first game of the season, riding a streak of their own after having bested their last four foes of 2022 to close the campaign on a positive note.

We take a look at what each squad has to offer heading into the contest and offer our predictions:

Game notes

  • Time and date: Saturday, September 2nd, at 12:00 noon ET
  • Network: ESPN+ (A valid subscription is required for viewing.)
  • Location: Frank Solich Field at Peden Stadium in Athens, Ohio
  • Spread and over/under: N/A
  • All-time series: First meeting

Getting to Know The Ohio Bobcats

NCAA Football: Ohio at San Diego State Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

The Bobcats come into the contest with a week 0 defeat at the hands of a tough San Diego State squad. Overall, the ‘Cats lost the defensive struggle 20-13 but battled hard until the end, having a chance late in the fourth quarter to tie the contest but came up short deep in San Diego territory. With a key player returning on offense and with an eye towards minimizing turnovers and converting a few more red zone opportunities, the ‘Cats have a good shot to take a step in their maturation this week.

Ohio’s starting QB is reigning MAC MVP Kurtis Rourke, who should be available to face the Sharks after leaving last week’s contest in the first quarter with an apparent injury. At his weekly press conference, head coach Tim Albin said about Rourke “he’s on schedule to go this Saturday,” that keeping him out the remainder of last week’s game was “precautionary,” and that the injury versus San Diego State “had nothing to do with his (surgically repaired) knee.”

Rourke looked sharp last week in the time he played, connecting on 8-of-10 pass attempts for 75 yards.

Rouke will have a bevy of proven players and some young risers in the group at his disposal this week.

One of Rourke’s main targets, 2022 first-team All-MAC wideout Sam Wiglusz, picked up where he left off last season by hauling in 10 passes for 103 yards in week 0.

Tyler Walton and running back O’Shaan Allison returned from significant 2022 injuries to provide a notable boost to the cause last week. Walton looked every bit back with six catches for 55 yards while adeptly handling punt return duties on some booming punts.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: AUG 26 Ohio at San Diego State
Ohio wide receiver Tyler Walton in action against San Diego State in week 0
Photo by Tony Ding/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

If starting wide receiver Jacoby Jones is unable to play for the second week in a row due to a soft tissue camp injury, the Bobcats may go deeper into the depth chart as coach Albin said that Wiglusz and Tyler Walton “played too many snaps” last week. Some possible options for reps would be camp phenom freshman Chase Hendricks and redshirt sophomore Aramoni Rhone.

The Bobcat have a few options at tight end that can make a difference in the running game as well as the passing game in Will Kacmarek and Tyler Foster.

As for running backs, O’Shaan Allison returned to spell starter Sieh Bangura and looked like the player who in his freshman year rushed for 6.2 yards per carry. A healthy Allison showed he will be an integral piece of the ‘Cats rushing attack in 2023, a great compliment to Bangura, who was MAC freshman of the year in 2022.

The offensive line had some success against a challenging San Diego defense, allowing only two sacks and controlling the ground game in spurts, paving the way for 380 yards total offense.

The Bobcats were effective in several ways last week, holding San Diego to just over 300 yards total offense while controlling the Aztecs on the majority of drives by forcing three punts, a fumble, a missed field goal, and a turnover on downs late in the fourth that Ohio needed to get the ball back for a final shot at tying the game.

What perhaps stood out the most though was the physicality and effort: Ohio will be tough to beat if they can deliver that intensity week in and week out.

Ohio was led in that effort by their starting linebackers Bryce Houston and Keye Thompson with Houston all over the field with 13 tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss.

The defensive line came into the season replacing three key graduates but looked to be a deep group in their first test with program staples like tackle Rodney Mathews joined by many underclassmen logging snaps including sophomores Bralen Henderson, Bradley Weaver, Tristan Cox, and Ryan Long and true freshman Kobi Gorman and Kadin Schmitz.

The ‘Cats should be able to keep the d-line fresher longer in games if they can maintain that number of contributors.

The secondary was effective on the whole against a run-oriented San Diego with CBs Justin Birchette and Roman Parodie looking sharp with San Diego racking up only 164 yards on 27 attempts. New full-time safety sophomore Austin Brawley mixed it up at every opportunity, finishing the contest with eight stops, a fumble recovery and pass defensed.

Figure the ‘Cats secondary to perhaps get more tested in the air in the contest versus the Sharks with LIU boasting a few more established playmakers in the passing game.

Getting to Know The LIU Sharks

NCAA Football: LIU at West Virginia Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

LIU is led by their second-year head coach Ron Cooper. Cooper has decades of coaching experience primarily on defense and has recently worked with some top programs including LSU, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Alabama. Long time MAC fans may remember Cooper from his days as head coach of Eastern Michigan in 1993-94, where he finished with a 9-13 record.

The Sharks head into this year coming off a season that started rocky but finished promising. After losing the first seven contests in 2022, including a 63-10 loss to Kent State and 37-0 loss to Toledo, LIU flipped the script by winning the last four, keyed by a quarterback change to true freshman Luca Stanzani.

Stanzani is the straw that stirs the drink on offense, a dual-threat option who can beat defenses through the air or on planned or improvised runs. Stanzani came on strong last year finishing the 2022 campaign completing 58 percent of his passes for 1,219 yards with a 13:4 interception ratio. Stanzani also contributed 194 yards on the ground and two scores.

The LIU gunslinger will distribute the ball to a number of options the Northeast Conference preseason polls recognize as among their best.

Penn State transfer tight end Owen Glasco is an NFL prospect and the Sharks’ main weapon, especially in the red zone. Glasco is a load at six-foot-four, 258 lbs., and has elite career production at LIU with 112 receptions for 1327 yards and eight scores. Glasco racked up 101 yards on five catches and a score last year versus Kent State.

The Sharks boast an all-conference tandem in wideouts Michael Love and Davon Wells who had breakout campaigns in 2022 for LIU. Love appeared in 17 games with Iowa Western CC before transferring to LIU for 2022, delivering in his first season with 51 catches for 702 yards and three touchdowns.

Wells, a deep threat option, had eight receptions total in 2020-21 before making a big jump in production in 2022 with 38 catches for 636 yards and four scores and a team-leading 16.7 yards per reception.

Rounding out the NEC preseason all-conference performers, the Sharks return their main guy at the running back spot, Pat Bowen, who led the club with 597 yards rushing and five scores.

LIU begins the year with a new defensive coordinator, Eric Mathies, who was promoted after coaching the defensive line last year.

Mathies will have several talented players at his disposal with six-foot-three, 250 lbs. redshirt sophomore defensive end Eric O’Neill leading the charge. O’Neill took the league by storm last season as the NEC Rookie of the Year award after racking up 10 sacks and 21 tackles-for-loss. O’Neill was one of the 35 players named to the 2023 watchlist for FCS player of the year.

The Sharks also bring some notable and experienced players at other levels of the defense including linebacker Matthew Nieves and defensive back Larry Elder, with both having appeared in 23 games each for LIU.

Nieves ranked in the top ten in tackles in the NEC in 2022 with 65, while Elder is a preseason All-NEC nominee with 151 career tackles and ten passes defensed.


The ‘Cats’ versatile offense, physical defense, the Marching 110, and a raucous crowd is a tough combination to beat and LIU will have their hands full in Athens, Ohio. The Sharks have some notable talent on both sides of the ball and are starting to figure things out as evidenced by their 2022 winning streak but in the end Ohio defends The Frank, 45-13.