Ohio evened its record at 1-1 against Long Island University in its home opener at Peden Stadium. With the 27-10 win against LIU, Ohio not only picks up its first win of 2023 but it extends its winning streak at home to seven games dating back to the start of the 2022 season.
Ohio has yet to lose a game at home since the field was renamed Frank Solich Field at Peden Stadium last season.
“It sure gives us the energy that we know our fans are behind us…it’s (Peden Stadium) the twelfth man, it's loud down there, we have to be smart when we're calling things on offense, it's hard to hear because of our crowd. It’s just not like that in other places.”
After winning the coin toss, Ohio started the ball on defense. LIU quarterback Luca Stanzani started the game 5-for-6 with 36 passing yards including a 19-yard pass to Quincy McDuffie that got the Sharks into the red zone. A sack by Rayyan Buell forced LIU to attempt a 31-yard field goal that was missed by Michael Coney.
Following a red zone defensive stand, quarterback CJ Harris and the Ohio offense took the field for its first drive of the game. The big news out of the opener is that Rourke, originally slated to play, was sidelined for the duration of Ohio’s Week One game with an apparent injury.
Harris split reps with third-string quarterback Parker Navarro throughout the game on Saturday.
“There was some good, some bad and some stuff to learn from,” Navarro said. “It feels good just being out there, to get that experience to have those plays to learn from and improve upon.”
Harris bounced back well after a rough Week Zero that included three interceptions. The backup quarterback was 7-8 for 44 yards including a touchdown pass in the second quarter to redshirt fifth-year Tyler Walton in the back corner of the end zone.
Navarro was able to record a more impressive stat line than Harris despite each quarterback staying relatively consistent throughout the 27-point offensive effort. Navarro was 5-7 for 60 yards including two touchdown passes and one interception.
Navarro recorded his first-ever touchdown pass as a Bobcat after transferring from the University of Central Florida in 2022. His second touchdown pass was a 32-yard toss to true freshman tight end Mason Williams.
With Rourke out for the game, there was a heavy emphasis on the run game. Sophomore back Sieh Bangura had 19 rushes for 107 yards. The quarterbacks were also a major part of the rushing attack as both Harris and Navarro broke big runs of 10-plus yards.
Despite Bangurra’s impressive performance, he fumbled at the end of the first half resulting in LIU being able to complete a pass with 20 seconds left on the clock. The completion set up a 41-yard field goal for Michael Conley that was put perfectly through the uprights as time expired on the first half.
Going into the half, Ohio had a 17-3 lead.
The game slowed down in the second half after Ohio came out of the half with a quick touchdown on its first drive of the third quarter.
The defense did not allow any points in the third quarter. An impressive third-quarter performance was capped by Bryce Houston’s first career interception. The fifth-year currently leads the team in tackles with a combined 24 tackles in the first two weeks of the season.
“I think, you know, just kind of backing up everybody on the defensive side of the ball,” Houston said. “We (the defense) feel like we've been overlooked as far as accolades and pre-season polls and other stuff like that. We just want everybody to know that we're coming for it all this year.”
Gianni Spetic was once again impressive as Ohio’s field goal kicker in replacement for Nathaniel Vakos who transferred to Wisconsin at the conclusion of last season. Spetic was two for two on field goals along with making all three of his extra-point attempts.
LIU’s offense started to pick up again in the passing game during the fourth quarter where Stanzani was able to record his first passing touchdown of the season. Stanzani finished the game with 172 yards and a total of 21 passing completions.
Ohio’s defense stepped up big in a game where it was missing several key starters on offense including its top two receivers Jacoby Jones and Sam Wiglusz. It was key during training camp for the defense to start fast and after only allowing 20 points last week and 10 this week, it’s safe to say that they are achieving that goal early on in the season. Bangura also played a large part in stepping up for Ohio’s key players missing in the passing game.
On Saturday the Bobcats proved that they can beat teams in a number of different ways. Known for its passing attack, Ohio’s defense and run game stepped up to carry the team to its first win of the season against LIU.