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Ohio University wide receiver Chase Cokley (No.80) driving through the opposing team Kent State in effort to gain yards at Peden Stadium on Oct. 23, 2021.

Football: Evaluating Ohio midway through its Mid-American Conference schedule

Ohio’s Mid-American Conference schedule began on an optimistic note. On Oct. 2, it defeated Akron — its first conference opponent — 34-17 for its first win of the season. It wasn’t a pretty win, but it gave Ohio a boost in morale. After a disappointing nonconference slate, a win breathed a bit of life into the program.

In his weekly press conference the following Monday, coach Tim Albin was optimistic the Bobcats could build off of the win.

“I think it's a step in the right direction just for us playing four quarters,” Albin said in his press conference Oct. 4.

Albin was right. Ohio took a step forward after defeating Akron, but it hasn’t moved since. The Bobcats have dropped their last three games and are confined to a losing record no matter how well their season ends. Their win over the Zips remains their only win this season.

The Bobcats are now at the midpoint of their conference schedule, and little has gone right for them. The final four games of the season loom, and the Bobcats have yet to find firm ground to stand on. 

With a month left in the season, Ohio still has uncertainties that need addressing.

Return of the quarterback tug-of-war

Following its win over Akron, it appeared Ohio’s recurring issue of balancing two quarterbacks had been resolved. Armani Rogers played both games against Central Michigan and Buffalo in their entirety, and he started against Kent State. Ohio seemed to have found a quarterback to lead it through its conference schedule.

But after Kurtis Rourke was brought in against the Golden Flashes and threw for 308 yards, the Bobcats found themselves back where they started in their quarterback battle. Albin said both quarterbacks will get equal reps in practice going forward, and whoever performs best will get the starting spot.

Ohio tried to put both Rourke and Rogers to use during its nonconference schedule and ended up tripping over itself. Subbing in Rogers for Rourke and vice versa disrupted the offense more than it helped. Ohio’s found some success when it sticks to one quarterback, but that may go out the window now that the starting spot is up for grabs again.

Passing game blanks in the end zone

Albin said after the loss to Buffalo that Ohio needed to incorporate passing better into the offense. Ohio passed for 75 yards or fewer in its games against Akron and Buffalo and has the second-worst passing offense in the MAC.

Rourke fulfilled that need with his career-high passing performance against Kent State. But despite his performance, Ohio didn’t record a single passing touchdown Saturday. 

In fact, Ohio hasn’t had a passing touchdown since the second quarter of the Akron game. That’s 14 quarters without a passing touchdown. The Bobcats have 587 yards passing in those 14 quarters and haven’t found the end zone once. 

Can Ohio pick up another win?

On paper, it’s difficult to tell whether or not Ohio is destined for a one-win season. Its next three opponents — Miami, Eastern Michigan and Toledo — all rank above Ohio in both total offense and total defense and have each won at least two conference games. 

It’s not impossible for the Bobcats to beat any of their next three opponents, but the failure to capitalize on what success they can muster has hampered them since the season began.

Bowling Green is the only upcoming opponent Ohio beats out stat-wise midway through MAC play. Bowling Green hasn't defeated a MAC opponent since 2019 and averages 19.5 points and 314.9 yards per game on offense, the worst in the conference. What’s more, Ohio’s defeated Bowling Green every year since 2016.

But there is a good case for that streak to end. Ohio grappled with an underperforming Akron until late in the second half in Week 5. If it struggled to defeat a team with only one conference win thus far, Ohio’s final regular-season game won’t be a cakewalk, either.

@thejackgleckler

jg011517@ohio.edu 

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