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Defensive coordinator Jimmy Burrow, left, and offensive coordinator Tim Albin, right, run a drill during practice at Peden Stadium on Oct. 4, 2016. (FILE)

Football Column: Tim Albin's first season as coach left Ohio in regression

Tim Albin’s first season as Ohio’s coach was the worst year for the program in almost two decades.

After its 21-10 loss to Bowling Green on Friday, Ohio ended its first season of the Tim Albin era with a 3-9 record. Ohio hasn’t had a record that bad since it went 2-10 in 2003. Its game against Bowling Green was a near certain win before the season began.

However, Ohio turned another shoo-in victory into an embarrassing loss.

Albin was solemn in his post-game press conference Friday. The first-year coach shouldered the blame for the year going awry but vowed to get to the root of the problems that plagued Ohio all year.

“Starting with me and this coaching staff, I've got to get find ways to win the close games early,“ Albin said.

But Ohio had months to fix its problems. The struggles that surfaced against Bowling Green were the same ones it faced against Syracuse in week one. 

The offense shuffled between quarterbacks Kurtis Rourke and Armani Rogers without fully committing to either one. Both Rourke and Rogers concluded their seasons with lackluster performances. Rourke was intercepted three times and sacked twice, while Rogers lost four yards on three total rush attempts.

A lack of touchdowns grinded scoring to a halt. Ohio ranks 10th in the Mid-American Conference for scoring offense, averaging 22.6 points per game. Four of their losses this season came by a touchdown or less.

Albin and the Bobcats have been trying to fix the same problems for 12 games, and the lack of concrete solutions resulted in repeated embarrassment. They suffered their first loss to a Football Championship Subdivision opponent since 2002 when Duquesne upset them in their own stadium. They blew a three-touchdown lead and lost to Buffalo on a last second field goal. The Bobcats held leads in five of their losses.

The loss to Bowling Green was one of those five losses. Ohio scored 10 points in the second quarter but stalled out and allowed Bowling Green to wrestle away the lead.

“Their front seven controlled our running game,” Albin said. “We’re built and we control games with the line of scrimmage … and we feed off our play action, and we just couldn’t get it going consistently.”

When Albin was introduced as the newest coach of Ohio football, he spoke optimistically about the future of the program. He’d inherited a team that was a model for consistency among Group of Five schools. Albin even had a hand in forming that culture as the offensive coordinator under Frank Solich for 16 seasons.

But after he took the reins, the Bobcats regressed.

Over 12 weeks, the Bobcats have been riddled with injuries and evacuations. Seven players entered the transfer portal in the midst of the season. Injuries pecked holes in the secondary and offensive line, leading to younger players being forced into starting roles. Nine losses drained morale of both the players and the fan base.

Ohio has missed out on the commodities it became accustomed to. It’s without a winning season or much optimism for next year. Inconsistency took root where winning seasons once bloomed.

All of the faults Ohio experienced this season have happened before. The last coach to have a season record below .333 was Brian Knorr, who was sacked in 2004 after his fourth season.

When Albin became coach in mid-July, he signed a four-year deal that included a renegotiation of his contract set for Dec. 31, 2022 at the latest. If that renegotiation remains after the 2022 season, Albin has another year to turn the Bobcats around from their worst season in almost 20 years.

If he doesn’t, his four-year deal might stop after year two.

@thejackgleckler

jg011517@ohio.edu  

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