PITTSBURGH — Ohio knew it needed to play a near perfect game if it wanted to grab its fourth win over a Power 5 opponent since 2012. The Bobcats looked ready for the challenge after a season-opening win over Rhode Island last week.
But the big offensive plays and key defensive stops weren’t as prevalent Saturday at Heinz Field. The Bobcats (1-1) fell 20-10 to the Panthers (1-1) and missed an opportunity to send an early shockwave through the Mid-American Conference.
The secondary did enough last week against Rhode Island to secure a win, but it needed to stop the big plays against Pitt, and that didn’t happen. The Panthers seemingly converted on big plays whenever they looked for one. Quarterback Kenny Pickett usually found a receiver downfield when he had time in the pocket, and Pitt’s top two receivers had no problems working around Ohio’s defensive backs to make contested catches.
Maurice Ffrench burned the Bobcats the most. The senior wide receiver totaled 138 yards on 10 receptions and helped Pickett set career highs with 321 passing yards and 26 completions.
Offensive line struggles
Ohio’s offense was limited to small gains and short passes. Quarterback Nathan Rourke opened the game with a few deep shots, but those opportunities shrunk when he received less time in the pocket in the second half. Pitt’s defense wore down Ohio’s offensive line and sacked Rourke six times. When the Bobcats needed big plays in the fourth quarter, they couldn’t find them.
The run game wasn’t strong, either. Julian Ross, O’Shaan Allison and De’Montre Tuggle combined for just 78 rushing yards and struggled to find quality holes at the line.
Let’s not overreact
Besides a third-quarter touchdown, Ohio won’t leave Pittsburgh with many positives. But don’t forget about what’s recently happened with the Bobcats against Power 5 foes.
Despite all the success the Bobcats have had in the past decade, it’s still a rarity for them to beat a Power 5 school. Two of those three wins since 2012 came against Kansas.
Ohio has typically kept the score close against Power 5 opponents, and it did that again Saturday. A win against Pitt would’ve been quite an early-season statement from Ohio, but a loss isn’t as big of a sting as it may seem.