The MAC is a very diverse conference and the Ohio Bobcat football team has received a friendly reminder of that in their first two MAC East matchups. Massachusetts freshman quarterback Mike Wegzyn shredded the Ohio secondary for 373 yards in the conference opener, while the Buffalo ground game had their way with the Bobcat front seven at Peden last week. When the Akron Zips (1-5) come to town for the Homecoming battle, the ‘Cats will be expecting a heavy dose of offense from their visiting rivals.
“They’re ranked eighth in the country in terms of their passing offense and I think they build around that,” Ohio head coach Frank Solich said. “They throw to set up the running game, you can’t forget about the running game, (Dalton Williams) he’s a guy that’s going to drop back, that’s going to throw.”
The Zips have proven that theory in their first two conference games. Sophomore running back Jawon Chisholm has racked up 256 yards on the ground against Miami and Bowling Green, averaging 6.9 yards per carry. The Ohio ailing defense let up 5.6 yards per touch against the Bulls last Saturday, as Buffalo pounded the ball over 50 times. If the Bobcats allow Davey O’Brien candidate and Akron quarterback Dalton Williams to ease his way down the field through the air, it could be a long, over-bearing day for the D.
Williams is at the head of the league-leading Akron passing attack that averages 339.5 yards, leaving little question that the senior quarterback will pick on the young Ohio secondary any chance that he gets. Despite a two-interception performance in the second half of Akron’s game against the Tennessee Volunteers, a game that was tied at 23 going into halftime, Williams has looked elite among MAC quarterbacks.
A depleted safety core that has been without star Travis Carrie before the season started, and is now missing Xavier Hughes and Gerald Moor,e will have to effectively manage the game on Saturday in order to counter Akron’s vigorous offense.
“We need to execute better, we got a couple new things in this week so hopefully those will help us out,” redshirt sophomore safety Josh Kristoff said. “This week if we can shut down their pass and make them one dimensional, then we’ll be in good shape.”
Ohio will be on their bye week following their Homecoming game against Akron, so a convincing performance from the youthful defensive backs will bode great once battered Bobcat veterans make their way back onto the field. The key to the team’s success regarding the rest of this season will be depth and so far players such as Kristoff have stepped up tremendously.
The positives of building depth early on in the season is evident once those players that were formally injured return to the gridiron. That happens to be the case with redshirt junior running back Ryan Boykin, who found the end zone twice last weekend. Boykin missed the previous two games due to a nagging hamstring injury, but will again be going full force along with Phil Steele Midseason All-American Team selection Beau Blankenship against the Zips defense. Boykin touched on the complimentary-back system that the ‘Cats will most likely run from here on out at practice this week.
“I’m kind of a trying to run over people, more physical-style back and (Beau’s) more of a shifty, kind of a speedier type of back,” Boykin said. “We’re just going to go out and try to play balanced football.”
If the Bobcats can keep the offense composed from the onset, then the expected 24,000-plus at Peden Stadium will be witnesses to history. A win would put Ohio at 7-0 for the first time since the 1968 season, and if resounding enough, will push the ‘Cats into the AP Top 25.
About the Opponent
Location: Akron, Ohio
Colors: Blue and Gold
Players Currently in the NFL: New York Giants linebacker Chase Blackburn. New York Giants wide receiver Domenik Hixon.
Notable Alumni: Jim Tressel, former Ohio State Buckeyes head coach and current University of Akron vice president. Jason Taylor, retired All-Pro defensive end and outside linebacker for the Miami Dolphins.
Keys to the Game
1. Don’t forget the Akron ground game – The focus on defense will be aimed at getting to Williams, who has completed 62.1 percent of his passes and is averaging 317.8 yards through the air. Even though the Zips aren’t a particularly strong rushing team (ninth in the MAC), Ohio has to be a two-dimensional defense week in and week out. The ‘Cats defense was scorched for 313 yards on the ground last week against Buffalo, but held the Bulls to just 188 passing yards.
2. Getting the backs involved in the receiving game – Blankenship caught seven passes for 72 yards in Ohio’s season opener against Penn State. Since then the Bobcat backs have only caught a total of four passes. With wide receiver Mario Dovell and tight end Jordan Thompson out for the season and wide receiver Donte Foster expected to be on the sideline for the second straight game, Tyler Tettleton should look to the flats for his backs to continue the success that Blankenship had in Happy Valley.
3. Avoid the slow start – It’s hard not to say this every week, but it needs to be fixed sooner rather than later. The Ohio sideline looked deflated last week, and if it wasn’t for Daz’mond Patterson providing a spark in the team with his 100-yard kickoff return, I’m not sure if the ‘Cats would have left Peden last Saturday 6-0. The young secondary will be without Moore for the second consecutive week, and Akron will surely test them early and often.
Bobcats to Watch
Offensively: Tyler Knight – We all know what tight end Troy Hill (nine catches, 117 yards, two touchdowns) is capable of, but Thompson’s absence from Ohio’s two tight end set means that someone is going to have to step up tremendously. That someone will be Knight, who has yet to register a catch this season. Look for the redshirt junior to have a lot of blocking assignments against the Zips.
Defensively: Josh Kristoff – With the loss of Travis Carrie before the season started, missing Xavier Hughes for an extended period of time and Moore out for at least another week, the safety position has been the most banged up. However, Kristoff has filled in as a starter on the defense brilliantly, showing leadership on the field by pointing his fellow defensive backs in the right direction. Look for Kristoff to be more comfortable in that role this Saturday.
Quote of the Week
“He played a great game. It was his first time playing the whole game, his first time starting. It’s a lot that comes with that, it’s a lot of pressure, but I think he handled. He made a lot of good plays and he made some good tackles, so I think he handled it well.” – safety Gerald Moore on how redshirt sophomore Thad Ingol performed against Buffalo.