Ohio has a 10-day reprieve following its 34-27 loss to Kent State to prepare for its game against Miami on Nov. 2. The matchup against Miami will be Ohio’s first game this season played on a Tuesday.
The Bobcats (1-7, 1-3 Mid-American Conference) will host and play the RedHawks (4-4, 3-1 MAC) for the first time since 2019. The annual “Battle of the Bricks” game had to be canceled last season, but now, the Bobcats have another chance to defeat the RedHawks for the first time since 2017.
Ohio coach Tim Albin addressed the media Monday to discuss Ohio’s loss to Kent State, its upcoming bye week and its subsequent game against Miami. Here’s what The Post learned from Albin’s ninth weekly press conference:
Ohio’s bye week came at the perfect time.
The Bobcats have dealt with injuries all season, particularly in their secondary. They’ve played eight consecutive games without a week off, but a break now might help some players return in time for the RedHawks’ visit to Peden Stadium.
The good news is Albin anticipates cornerback Justin Birchette and safety Michael Ballentine to return soon and provide a boost to a secondary that is stretched thin. The bad news? Cornerback Pierre Kemeni is expected to be out with a knee injury and could possibly miss the rest of the season.
The Bobcats plan on changing their practice schedule to align with their injury situation this week. The players get Monday and Tuesday off when they were originally supposed to get time off toward the end of the week.
“There’s so many guys that are banged up that can’t go,” Albin said. “We’re actually giving today, tomorrow off.”
Miami wins with defense
Albin gave praise to Miami’s defense and made note of its front seven’s capabilities. Miami sits at second for scoring defense in the MAC, allowing just 22.3 points per game. It’s a far cry from the Kent State defense, which allows 33.4 points per game, that Ohio faced last week.
“I think, defensively, they are one of the top in our league,” Albin said. “I would say they win with their defense, not to take anything away from their offense.”
The Bobcats will need to watch out for defensive back Matthew Salopek, who’s third in the MAC for tackles with 72. Defensive lineman Lonnie Phelps will also challenge Ohio. The sophomore is tied for second in the conference for total sacks with five and a half.
Equal reps for quarterbacks
Ohio spent its nonconference schedule with quarterback Kurtis Rourke taking the majority of snaps while fellow signal caller Armani Rogers only came in for a handful of plays. That system changed after Rogers took over in the second half against Akron, which later earned him the start in Ohio’s games against Central Michigan and Buffalo.
But after the offense ran cold on four straight drives against Kent State, Rourke returned to the field and took control of Ohio’s offense for three quarters.
The Bobcats seem to be back at square one in their quarterback battle, and Albin said both Rourke and Rogers will get equal reps going forward. Recent shifts between both quarterbacks were determined by whoever performed the best in practice. Albin said Ohio has to go off instinct as to which of the two will perform best going forward.
“You don’t have a crystal ball,” Albin said. “You’ve got to go off your gut, and that’s what we felt as a staff is to make the change, and we were able to get some things done.”
Ohio’s next three games will be played Tuesday nights, and a midweek-based schedule isn’t always easy for student athletes. When the athletes are at home, they have to play games after a day of classes and return to those classes the day after. Two of Ohio’s midweek opponents — Miami and Toledo — will be played in Athens.
“If you’re on the road in one of those games you’re at the hotel ... you can control their day with a meeting here or a walkthrough there,” Albin said. “At home, it’s like high school. It's got that element to it.”
Albin is confident the more experienced players, who are used to the schedule, will help the younger players adjust.