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Ohio quarterback Kurtis Rourke (#7) hands off the ball to De'Montre Tuggle (#24) during the Bobcats' game against Syracuse on Saturday, Sep. 4, 2021.

Football: Stock watch following Ohio's loss to Syracuse

Ohio dropped its season opener to Syracuse on Saturday at Peden Stadium. It didn’t score a single touchdown even when given opportunities, and the defense failed to put a meaningful stop to Syracuse’s running corps.

There are a few bright spots, however. Several Bobcats had respectable performances against Syracuse. Ohio lost, but there is good that comes with the bad.

Here’s a look at some of the most notable performances from Ohio’s loss to Syracuse and what they mean looking ahead:

Stock up

Jerome Buckner

The wide receiver led Ohio with a career-high seven receptions for 102 yards, leagues ahead of the rest of the receiving unit.

Buckner didn’t record a touchdown against Syracuse — none of the Bobcats did — but he did help push Ohio downfield to at least get within the red zone. His 39-yard reception late in the third quarter initiated a drive that reached Syracuse’s 8-yard line. Nothing came out of it, but Buckner is the reason Ohio covered so much ground in short order.

It’s a promising start to the season for the redshirt junior, and it might spell further attention from quarterbacks Kurtis Rourke and Armani Rogers going forward.

Stephen Johnson

The redshirt senior is in his first season at Ohio since transferring from Oklahoma and is already making an impact. Johnson is a much-needed stabilizer in a special teams unit that struggled last season.

Johnson made three of his four field goal attempts without much hassle Saturday. He missed a 50-yard kick on Ohio’s first drive, sure, but he’s also the man responsible for getting Ohio on the board at all. Johnson is a welcome addition to Ohio’s special teams and will likely be a valuable asset.

Stock down

Run defense

283 allowed rushing yards by Ohio speak for themselves. Syracuse running backs Sean Tucker and Cooper Lutz made easy work of Ohio’s defense. Syracuse scaled back on its passing in the second half, only making eight pass attempts and sticking to a run game that worked too well to ignore.

It’s a rough patch Ohio needs to work through — and fast. Bending to running backs will only kill Ohio down the road, and it has to prove its performance against Syracuse won’t become a trend.

Coach Tim Albin was adamant that Ohio’s defense can correct itself in his press conference Monday. Ohio can’t afford to give up that many rushing yards in its remaining nonconference schedule.

Offense in the red zone

Aside from Buckner, Ohio’s offense struggled to produce. No wide receiver other than Buckner totaled more than 24 yards, and Ohio failed to follow through after reaching the red zone on three separate drives. 

Failing to score a touchdown after reaching the red zone three times is a death sentence for any offense. The blame can be placed on dropped passes and minor missteps, but Ohio still needs to address its issues in the red zone. The offense had opportunities to score, but it still needs to follow through.


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