Ohio is on a win streak for the first time this season. A 34-26 victory over Eastern Michigan is Ohio’s second-straight win and what coach Tim Albin considered to be its finest performance of the season. It recorded 495 yards of total offense and beat out the top-ranked scoring offense in the Mid-American Conference.
But Ohio’s (3-7, 3-3 MAC) schedule isn’t getting any easier. It faces another cross-division opponent in Toledo for its final home game of the season at Peden Stadium on Tuesday.
Albin addressed the media Thursday to discuss Ohio’s win over Eastern Michigan, its upcoming game against Toledo and how it can build off its two-game win streak. Here’s what The Post learned from Albin’s 11th weekly press conference.
Rourke in a groove
Quarterback Kurtis Rourke has been on the upswing for the past three weeks. The redshirt sophomore has thrown for an average of 275.7 yards over his last three games and completed six touchdown passes in that same span.
It's a far cry from his performance in his first five games, during which he never passed for more than 168 yards in a game. Albin said Rourke has become comfortable with Ohio’s system and has improved at working against opposing defenses.
“Just from a play calling standpoint, we really haven't changed anything when we're calling,” Albin said. “I think just more execution at the right time is kind of the reason for the success.”
Improvement in the red zone
Ohio struggled to convert in the red zone during its nonconference schedule, but that has changed in recent weeks. Ohio is 19-of-20 on red zone conversions in its last six games, and scored touchdowns on 11 of those conversions.
Albin said that improvements in the offensive line have given Rourke and fellow quarterback Armani Rogers ample time to make a decision, which has led to offense becoming more productive closer to the end zone.
“We're kind of settled in, found some consistency up front,” Albin said. “We're protecting a little bit better up front when we choose to throw. We've just grown and gotten better.”
Ohio will need all the protection it can get come Tuesday. Toledo holds opposing offenses to 187.3 passing yards per game and has completed 27 sacks in 10 games.
Toledo is more than its season record
Toledo is floating with a 5-5 season record and is in a four-way tie with Ball State, Eastern Michigan and Western Michigan for third place in the MAC West Division standings. It also suffered a narrow 52-49 loss to Eastern Michigan, who Ohio defeated on Tuesday.
Despite this, Albin is still wary of the Rockets. They’ve lost four games by just three points or less, and took then-No. 7 Notre Dame down to the wire in Week 2. Albin also noted Toledo’s scoring offense, which averages 32.6 points per game and is ranked third in the MAC.
“They've lost some close games,” Albin said. “They're a couple of wins away from being an eight to nine-win team … But the last two weeks, they've kind of settled in and really done a good job with moving the football and scoring a lot of points.”
The Rockets have a different starting quarterback
Albin drew comparisons between Ohio and Toledo, namely in the quarterback department. Toledo began the season starting quarterback Carter Bradley with Dequan Finn at backup. However, Bradley underperformed in Toledo’s loss to Northern Illinois, and Finn was given the starting spot soon after.
Finn was 18-of-24 for 270 yards and three touchdowns in Toledo’s win over Bowling Green on Wednesday. The redshirt freshman also picked up 30 rushing yards, which Albin said has been noted while Ohio formulates a plan to counteract him.
“I personally think he’s a lot like Armani,” Albin said. “We'll definitely have to make sure that we know where he's at, and the things that come on for the wrinkles in the running game as far as the quarterback.”