For the second straight season, the Ohio Bobcats football team is off to a 3-0 start. They return home after an epic come-from-behind victory over rival Marshall, last Saturday, to take on Norfolk State.
Much like the Spartans who took down Missouri in the NCAA basketball tournament this past spring, Ohio head coach Frank Solich knows not to take their gridiron counterparts lightly.
“They’ve got a lot of transfers and a lot of junior college players on their team,” Solich said. “So they’ve got themselves a good football team. They’re very athletic when you look at them on tape. They’re capable of winning and so we’re just going to have to be on top of our game.”
The Spartans are coming off a tough loss to Howard, where they had their game-tying extra point blocked in overtime. Norfolk State’s quarterback, Nico Flores, is fresh off of a stellar 387-yard passing performance with four touchdowns, meaning the young Ohio secondary can’t catch a break.
Ohio’s defense has faced air raid offenses the past two weeks and just last week gave up 432 yards to Marshall’s Rakeem Cato. Despite the yards his defense has given up, Solich has been impressed with his secondary.
“I think they’ve done a good job,” he said. “We were expected to have a secondary that was really experienced with our starters. The problem is we lost the two starting corners. When you look at it from that standpoint, the guys that are playing now have done a remarkable job.”
Ohio’s offense has yet to reach full potential this season, having gotten off to slow starts in two of their first three games.”I don’t know that there’s anything that you can work on to get off to a faster start,” Solich said. “It’s a matter that we played pretty good football games the first three games, and things aren’t just going to go as smoothly as you’d like them to go normally. You’ve got to kind of settle into the game and get adjusted to what they’re doing.”
Getting off to a fast start will be vital against the Spartans. After three tough matchups to start the season, a blowout win over an FCS opponent would be ideal for the ‘Cats as they look to improve to 4-0 for the first time since 1976.
About the Opponent
Location: Norfolk, Va.
Colors: Green and Gold
Notable Alumni: Comedian Tim Reid, former Arena Football star James Roe, and Gerald Moore, Sr. (father of Bobcats safety Gerald Moore)
Keys to the Game
1. Quarterback Pressure – If Flores and the Spartans plan on airing it out again this week, a strong defensive line push will be necessary to allow the young secondary to make plays. The unit has recorded eight sacks through three games this year.
2. Young Running Backs – Solich admitted that neither Beau Blankenship or Ryan Boykin were 100 percent last week. In a contest in which the ‘Cats should have no problem pounding the rock, Daz’mond Patterson and Kyle Hammonds could see a healthy number of carries.
3. Safety Play – Everyone can pick on young corners Ian Wells, Larenzo Fisher and Devin Bass, but it will be up to the veteran safeties to communicate and prevent big plays. Gerald Moore, Josh Kristoff and Xavier Hughes will need to do their part in protecting the seems and gambling on short routes to cause turnovers.
Bobcats to Watch
Offensively: Troy Hill – The redshirt junior tight end continues to have an expanded role in the ‘Cats offense. Against New Mexico State, he had a big reception to set up Ohio’s first score and last week scored his first career touchdown against Marshall. Hill’s size and athletic ability makes him a dangerous weapon crossing the field and in the red zone.
Defensively: Alphonso Lewis – Keith Moore has stepped up as the new Noah Keller racking up the tackles all over the field and Jelani Woseley has made a name for himself picking off passes late in games. This should be the week Lewis can make a name for himself, either in coverage or getting after the quarterback.
Quote of the Week
“As far as the toughest part of our schedule being behind us, we never see it that way. Those games are done with. The toughest part of our schedule lies ahead of us. So we’re going to continue to take this game like we have all the others, one game at a time.”