Getting to know: Ohio football
After losing by multiple touchdowns last week, along with problems protecting the ball, the Kansas football team is hoping it can turn around its season Saturday in Athens, Ohio. On the other sideline, the Ohio Bobcats have the same thoughts.
“Ironically, I have a feeling both teams are going to be working on some of the very same stuff this week,” KU coach David Beaty said Tuesday.
The Bobcats (1-1) had a disastrous second quarter in a 44-21 road loss to Purdue last week. Their defense gave up 558 yards and allowed a few big plays.
Ohio was picked to win the East Division in the MAC preseason poll, but is adjusting to a pair of new quarterbacks and several new faces in big roles on defense.
BREAKING DOWN OHIO:
The Bobcats are expected to mix two QBs against KU. Sophomore Nathan Rourke (6-2, 209), a transfer from Fort Scott CC, is a dual-threat signal caller. He’s completed 66.7 percent of his passes for 283 yards, one touchdown and zero interceptions. On the ground, Rourke has rushed for 86 yards and three scores on 15 attempts. Redshirt sophomore Quinton Maxwell (6-3, 224) is more of a pocket passer but has only completed 8 of his 15 attempts for 112 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Maxwell started the first two games.
A.J. Ouellette (5-9, 205) only played in one game last year before suffering a season-ending Lisfranc tear in his foot. The redshirt junior Ouellette, a former walk-on, has gained 101 yards through the first two games with one touchdown in 23 attempts. He was the team’s leading rusher in 2015. Freshman Julian Ross (5-9, 186) and senior Dorian Brown (5-11, 208) share the backfield with Ouellette. Ross, from Kansas City, Mo., has 82 yards and three scores on 20 carries. Brown had 122 yards against KU last year.
Even with two quarterbacks, the Bobcats feature a pair of big-play threat receivers in junior Papi White (5-9, 168) and freshman Cameron Odom (6-1, 188). White, who previously played running back, has 10 catches for 138 yards and one touchdown. He scored a rushing touchdown against Kansas last season. Odom has 121 yards and a touchdown on seven receptions. No other receiver has more than three catches through the first two games.
Ohio returned three starters on the offensive line: junior left tackle Joe Lowery (6-7, 305), center senior Jake Pruehs (6-1, 316) and senior right guard Durrell Wood (6-3, 294). Pruehs, a third-team all-MAC pick last year, has landed on a couple of preseason watch lists. Junior left guard Joe Anderson (6-6, 340) and senior right tackle Jared McCray (6-5, 340) fill out the rest of the line.
Ohio’s defensive line set a school record with 44 sacks last year and ranked fifth nationally against the run. Some players in the current group made spot starts last year, including defensive tackle Tony Porter (6-1, 278), nose tackle Cleon Aloese (6-0, 295) and defensive end Kevin Robbins (6-4, 250). Porter and Robbins have both recorded 0.5 sacks through the first two games. Senior defensive end Trent Smart (6-4, 260) is another starter.
One of the most experienced position groups, the Bobcats returned all two of their linebackers: MLB Quentin Poling (6-0, 235) and strong side linebacker Chad Moore (6-0, 222). Poling was a first-team all-MAC selection last season and he’s recorded eight tackles (one for loss) and one pass breakup in the first two games. Moore is third on the team with nine tackles. Weakside linebacker Evan Croutch (6-0, 227) leads Ohio with 11 tackles and two sacks.
The Bobcats gave up several big plays through the air in their loss to Purdue last week. Cornerbacks Bradd Ellis (5-10, 177) and Jalen Fox (5-11, 186) both played a little bit last year, but are essentially new starters. Free safety Kylan Nelson (5-10, 192), a returning starter, has seven tackles and one pass breakup. Strong safety Javon Hagan (6-0, 207) started seven games last season and has recorded six tackles through the first two weeks.
Sophomore kicker Louie Zervos earned freshman All-America honors last season, setting an NCAA freshman record with 29 made field goals. His career long is 51 yards, but he’s only attempted a 38-yarder this season. Punter Michael Farkas has averaged 38.6 yards per punt, downing five of his eight punts inside of the opponent’s 20. Papi White returns punts, while Kylan Nelson is the team’s leading kick returner.
Solich, in his 13th season, is the third-longest tenured head coach in the NCAA behind Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz and TCU’s Gary Patterson. Solich owns a 7-0 record vs. Kansas.
Ohio by 7.5. The over/under is set at 58.5.
After KU’s loss against Central Michigan last week, the Jayhawks likely won’t be favored for the remainder of the season. But Saturday’s game against Ohio is one of their more winnable games on the road.
A key will be Ohio’s rushing attack, which had some success against Purdue, against the Jayhawks. Ohio ran for 329 yards versus KU last year.