"There is such a thing as a home field advantage. We'll be glad to get back to having that," Ohio head coach Frank Solich said as the team prepared for the home opener.
It's been a wild and often difficult three weeks to open the 2014 season for the Ohio Bobcats. After a thrilling victory at Kent State, the offense went M.I.A. for most of the next two games as the heralded defense could not stop the powerful Kentucky Wildcats and Marshall Thundering Herd. Now the Bobcats return to Peden for the first time this year and look to pull back to .500 against the Idaho Vandals.
The Vandals have been struggling of late. After a short burst of success in 2009 and 2010, Idaho has gone 4-32. In 2013, they went 1-11. Head coach Paul Petrino (Bobby's brother) has opted for a quick rebuild, trying to draw as many transfers as possible to the program. It's a risky move; one that could lead to Petrino's firing if the Vandal's fortunes do not improve soon.
Starting off 0-2 probably isn't what Petrino had in mind, and it would probably be 0-3 if the game against Florida had not been cancelled. Last week Western Michigan racked up 45 points on its way to a 45-33 win.
The offense, led by quarterback Matt Linehan, isn't half bad. Linehan is the son of the Dallas Cowboys offensive coordinator Scott Linehan, and Matt has grown up around NFL quarterbacks. His game is still unpolished, but he has the talent. The rest of the offense is a bit of a question mark—Petrino continues to filter in numerous players in the backfield and on the line.
As for the much-maligned defense, there are some quality players on the line. Quayshawne Buckley and Maxx Forde have been effective in limiting opponents' run game. But the secondary is a mess, and has been ripped to shreds on a few occasions this year.
Ohio is in a bit of disarray itself after a deflating loss at the hands of Rakeem Cato and the Thundering Herd. Despite putting in J.D. Sprague for the second consecutive game, Solich confirmed that Derrius Vick will start against Idaho, while hinting that RB A.J. Ouellette could see increased playing time in a changed-up running back rotation:
"It could be [changing]. A.J. [Ouellette] came in and provided us a little bit of a spark and I think he gets a lot out of a play. It's not that Daz'mond [Patterson] is not doing well or not performing well, we just have to find more ways to keep drives alive and that doesn't just come back to Daz, that's really across the board."
Solich seemed confident in his defense this weekend, and reaffirmed his support for Devin Bass, who struggled against Marshall.
Idaho is still a bit of a mess, and is making its second long trip of the season. Ohio wins, 27-14.