Ohio has started its Mid-American Conference schedule with a win.
In its conference opener against Akron, Ohio put on a show in the second half. It scored 24 points to come back from a seven-point deficit and win its first game of the season 34-17. The win wasn’t perfect, but it was a step in the right direction.
Ohio will have a larger challenge ahead of it for its Homecoming game. Central Michigan, which handed Ohio its only loss in 2020, comes to Athens on Saturday with dynamic weapons on both sides of the ball. Central Michigan has significantly better numbers on both offense and defense compared to Akron, and victory for Ohio won’t come easy.
Ohio coach Tim Albin addressed the media Monday to discuss Ohio’s win over Akron, its upcoming matchup against Central Michigan and the adjustments it’ll need to make going forward. Here’s what The Post learned from Albin’s sixth weekly press conference:
Need for balance on offense
The Bobcats focused primarily on the ground game in the second half against the Zips, only putting up one passing attempt. It paid off for them, as their 235 second-half rushing yards overwhelmed the Zips and put 24 points on the board.
Against Central Michigan, however, Albin doesn’t plan on being as one-sided. He emphasized the importance of the wide receiver unit winning matchups and blocking along the perimeter.
“We’re going to build off the Akron run production going into this game,” Albin said. “But we’re going to have to be more and more balanced against (Central Michigan) to give us our best chance offensively.”
Armani Rogers took the reins at quarterback for the final two quarters against Akron, and Albin said Monday that both he and fellow quarterback Kurtis Rourke will both see time under center. Albin wants Rourke — Ohio’s primary passing quarterback — to have better protection going forward with starting offensive linemen Nick Sink and Kurt Danneker out for the foreseeable future due to injuries.
“Kurtis wasn’t able to practice on Monday last week but did practice the rest of the week,” Albin said. “Kurtis got the start, and he was a little frustrated, and he was getting bumped around and hit, harassed in the pocket, and we’ve got to do a better job on protecting him.”
Pressure on Central Michigan’s quarterback
The Bobcats recorded a season-high seven sacks for 49 yards against the Zips, including six on starter DJ Irons. With Central Michigan quarterbacks being sacked 21 times this season already, Ohio’s front seven might be ready for another big day in the opposing backfield.
Albin recognized the importance of sacks, but he also placed emphasis on a less recognized aspect of defense, which is pressure on the opposing signal caller. He brought up the significance of making quarterbacks feel uncomfortable by disrupting the pocket.
“I know sacks are a big thing,” Albin said. “But we also chart if we pressure, basically pressure (the quarterback) and cause his throwing motion to be altered.”
Watching for Nichols
Central Michigan’s Lew Nichols has been one of the most dangerous running backs in the MAC this season. His 405 rushing yards are the second-most in the conference, behind only Northern Illinois’s Harrison Waylee.
Nichols reminds Albin of Northwestern running back Evan Hull due to his size and physicality. In Week 4, Hull put up 220 rushing yards against the Bobcats. Albin was satisfied with the defense’s effort against Hull but recognizes the need to complete tackles in order to prevent big gains.
“We’re going to have to get (Nichols) wrapped up,” Albin said. “Get him to the ground at the line of scrimmage so we don’t have any of those long ones.”
Linebackers have a bright future
Ohio’s linebacker corps has had a few names stand out this season. With Keye Thompson and Jeremiah Wood missing time due to injuries, Albin is proud of how younger linebackers like Cannon Blauser have taken on larger roles and has seen improvement from them each week.
As a first-year starter, Blauser has become one of the Bobcats’ most reliable linebackers and recorded two sacks against Akron on Saturday. He’s second on the team in tackles with 31, right behind fellow linebacker Bryce Houston.
“Cannon is just a tough competitor,” Albin said. “It’s important to him, and he does a good job with our young guys on our football team as far as leading.”