Ohio’s nonconference schedule ended on a sour note.
Its 35-6 loss to Northwestern on Saturday exemplified the flaws that it hasn’t been able to get a hold on this season. The offense was shut out until the closing seconds. The defense allowed 461 total yards to a Big Ten Conference team that struggled against Duke a week prior. Even the special teams slipped in reliability after missing a mid-range field goal attempt.
Little, if anything, has gone right for the Bobcats through their first four games.
That’s not to say there haven’t been flashes of good. The Bobcats can still make decent plays and set themselves up for success, but they fail when following through.
Here’s a handful of the notable performances from Ohio’s loss to Northwestern and what they mean going forward:
Blauser has moved in silence for the Bobcats, never standing in the spotlight but performing excellently. The linebacker led the Bobcats in tackles against the Wildcats, recording seven on Saturday.
Blauser has been on a tear through 2021, racking up the third-most tackles on Ohio’s roster and having a knack for forcing opposing quarterbacks out of the pocket. The redshirt sophomore has only started in four games, but his performance shows that he is a linebacker Ohio’s defense can lean on.
Quarterbacks Kurtis Rourke and Armani Rogers have had their work cut out for them by splitting snaps every game. While the system showed promise during Ohio’s first drive Saturday, it wasn't effective enough to score until Rogers went on a 55-yard touchdown run on the last play of the game.
Rourke and Rogers alternated time under center even in the middle of drives, which interrupted whatever rhythm either quarterback could establish. Both were intercepted in the fourth quarter, made worse by the fact the ball was turned over both times in Ohio territory. Utilizing both quarterbacks hasn’t worked out for Ohio this season, and that didn’t change against Northwestern.
The Bobcats’ tackling has been less than stellar aside from a handful of individual performances. Both broken and missed tackles allowed Northwestern running back Evan Hull to run roughshod through Ohio’s defense and take over the game by the first quarter.
Ohio’s tackling woes in Week 4 could be chalked up to the physicality of Northwestern’s roster, but it's become a recurring issue. Ohio’s opponents have run the field and will continue to do so in Mid-American Conference play unless Ohio tunes up its tackling.
Kicking has become another perennial problem Ohio hasn’t found an answer to. Redshirt sophomore Tristian Vandenberg started against Northwestern in place of struggling Stephen Johnson, but Vandenberg didn’t fare much better. He missed a 31-yard field goal attempt on Ohio’s first drive of the game.
Vandenberg excelled in kickoffs, with a 65-yard kick on Saturday. However, kickoffs don’t get points on the board. Coach Tim Albin said that he’s evaluating the kicker situation ahead of Ohio’s game against Akron, and he will name a starter as the week progresses. Ohio now has two kickers that are struggling to produce heading into conference play, and that raises concern.