Ohio is coming off a 35-33 win over Miami, which was one of its toughest opponents in its Mid-American Conference schedule. Now, Ohio is moving on to another top contender in the conference when it travels to play Eastern Michigan on Tuesday.
The Bobcats (2-7, 2-3 MAC) started with a 28-0 lead against the RedHawks but ended the night with a narrow two-point victory. They took a step in the right direction by not cracking in the late game, but there’s still plenty to address before they play the Eagles.
Ohio coach Tim Albin addressed the media Thursday to discuss Ohio’s win over Miami, its strengths and weaknesses displayed in the victory and its upcoming game against Eastern Michigan. Here’s what The Post learned from Albin’s 10th weekly press conference:
Wide receiver Isiah Cox has returned to form. After missing two games early in the season, the redshirt senior is once again the reliable receiving threat he’s been in the past. He’s made 13 receptions in the past two games and had season-high 106 yards against Miami alongside two touchdowns.
Cox is versatile not just when he switches from the slot to the outside as a receiver, but also when he gives assistance to Ohio’s secondary when it’s suffered a plethora of injuries. Albin mentioned that Cox will be used as a defensive back in emergency situations.
“The last two games in particular, we have done a good job I think of moving him around,” Albin said. “You’re starting to see kind of what he’s capable of.”
Priority on Eastern Michigan’s passing
Eastern Michigan’s Ben Bryant is another dangerous MAC quarterback going against Ohio this season. Through nine games, he’s second in the conference in passing yards and fifth in passing touchdowns. The Eagles’ passing yards are also more than double their rushing yards.
“There have been games where the throwing game has carried them,” Albin said. “I view them as a little bit like Miami. We were able to make Miami one-dimensional. I think we shut down the running game pretty good.”
Eastern Michigan’s leading receiver is Hassan Beydoun. The junior has had three games with more than 100 receiving yards this year, including a season-high 197 yards in the Eagles’ most recent win over Toledo.
Help returning for pass protection
Quarterback Kurtis Rourke put up sturdy numbers in the air against Miami, passing for 289 yards and three touchdowns on 32 attempts. There’s one stat that isn’t as pretty, however. Against the RedHawks’ pass rush, Rourke was sacked four times Tuesday.
Ohio’s offensive line, like its secondary, has been beaten up and many of its members have gone down with injuries throughout the season. Fortunately for the line, it’s slowly returning to full strength. Albin is hoping for Nick Sink, who was injured against Northwestern in September, to be active against Eastern Michigan. Brody Rodgers, who hadn’t been active since Ohio’s loss to Louisiana, received limited playtime against Miami and is expected to see further reps.
Albin is looking at Rourke to lighten the sack numbers with quicker releases. He also expects Ohio’s tight ends and running backs to sufficiently assist the pass protection.
Like Miami, Eastern Michigan has its own set of threatening pass rushers. Defensive linemen Jose Ramirez and Turan Rush have combined for eight-and-a-half sacks this season and have caught Albin’s eye going into Tuesday.
“The Rush kid and the Ramirez kid,” Albin said. “They’re really talented. They gave Miami problems.”
Rourke’s improved rushing
Rourke’s passing performance isn’t the only thing he’s improved on recently. He’s also slowly become more of a reliable rusher for Ohio as the season has gone on. He had a career-high two rushing touchdowns against Kent State and has put up over 40 yards on the ground in each of the past two games.
In the second quarter against Miami, Rourke recorded a 33-yard scramble up the middle for his longest career rush.
“That was a nice scramble there,” Albin said. “We call the pass and caught a different look coverage-wise. It opened up the middle with the twisting game they had on, and he took off. That’s a huge play in the game.”