It seems like forever ago that the Ohio Bobcat football team was the poster child of the Mid American Conference and was gaining national recognition. The 7-0 start to the season was quickly erased by a loss to rival Miami. Ohio rebounded with a blow out of Eastern Michigan but Ohio quickly became an after thought after consecutive blunders at the hands of Bowling Green and Ball State. Since then, the Kent State Golden Flashes have claimed elite status in the MAC and even earned a national ranking.Ohio, the first eligible collegiate football team to clinch a bowl berth, will have to make a statement in Kent on Friday in order to extend play into the postseason. Despite the dominating performances that the Golden Flashes have put together on offense, the “1-0” approach that the Bobcats have kept as their mantra all season long will keep them from shaking at the sight of Kent State running back Dri Archer and gang.
“What we’re after is to finish our regular season with a win, and that would make us feel fairly good,” head coach Frank Solich said. “We went through a stretch where we weren’t feeling good about what got done, but ending with a win would be big for us.”
The defense will have the daunting task of keeping Archer from becoming a frequent visitor in the Bobcat end zone. Even with the possibility of Carl Jones or Neal Huynh being out indefinitely, the Ohio linebackers will have the chance to prove their worth by not allowing the Golden Flashes rushing attack to breach the secondary on a constant basis. Kent State will be the most dangerous offense that the Bobcats go up against this season, and their rushing attack will be piloting the ship with an average of 244.6 rush yards.
Beside senior safety Gerald Moore, the Ohio secondary’s tackling habits have not been up to par. Granted they have a lot of time to grow, but they will have to display their most perfect form on Friday when Archer brings his 10.3 yards per carry average to the table. There has not been a game all season that Archer has been kept out of the end zone, but the Bobcats can limit him by swarming the elusive runner on initial contact. His style has been put under a microscope all season, but no one has been able to come up for a counter to it.
“Watching him against other teams, I just see his speed,” freshman running back Daz’mond Patterson said. “That’s something I’m working on too where nobody wants to chase me once I get behind them.”
The ‘Cats will have to stay turnover free on offense to give their defense as much time as possible on the sideline to rest and game plan for any little thing they pick up on the Kent State offense. Junior safety Luke Wollet, who is tied for first in the MAC in interceptions, will be staring down Ohio quarterback Tyler Tettleton all day, but the redshirt junior has played calm and collected against some of the best defensive attacks in the league thus far. With only two picks on the season, Tettleton and company are going into their final regular season game with the utmost confidence. Solich gave the team some much-needed rest this week to ensure that the team is replenished enough to perform.
“We’re hoping that the rest will do us good and that we’ll have the energy to play four quarters,” Solich said.
About the Opponent
Location: Kent, Ohio
Nickname: Golden Flashes
Colors: Navy Blue and Gold
Players Currently in the NFL: Cleveland Browns wide receiver/return specialist Joshua Cribbs. Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison.
Notable Alumni: Nick Saban, University of Alabama head coach and former NFL head coach. Lou Holtz, former college football coach, television sportscaster.
Keys to the Game
1. Limit Dri Archer – Stopping Archer has proven to be an unstoppable task to every opponent this season. Through the air, on the ground, with his arm and as a return specialist, the Kent State phenom has racked up 21 touchdowns so far this season. The Bobcat defense will have to keep the problematic Archer from escaping the grasps of the first Ohio player that lays a hand on him on any given play.
2. Play a clean game on offense – Giving the ball back to the Kent State offense via turnover will doom the Bobcats. Honestly, one fumble or misread pass may end up costing Ohio big time. Being a well-discipline team helps a lot in this category, but when going up against a Kent State defense that thrives off giving the ball back to their offense, one tiny mistake may prove costly.
3. 1-0 – It’s been stressed all year (and even mentioned in this article once before), but the Bobcats’ postseason hopes may still be intact even if they finish the season on a three-game skid. Regardless, Ohio hasn’t been looking ahead to a potential bowl game all season long, so why start now?
Bobcats to Watch
Offensively: Daz’mond Patterson – The true freshman recorded more playing time last week, and was ecstatic at the opportunity to play a more advanced role in the offense. Ryan Boykin will be gone the rest of the way, so Patterson will see extended time on Saturday. Patterson talked to Speakeasy this week about flaws that he has seen in the Golden Flash defense, so hopefully he puts his findings to good use.
Defensively: Keith Moore – Moore is leading the team in tackles this season, compiling 86 on the year. The next closest Bobcat falls over 30 tackles less than Moore’s mark. Since the defensive line has been battling injury problems all year, Moore will have to play a huge role in this game to prevent Archer from running wild. Few players on the Bobcat roster play with more passion than Moore, so look for an exciting game from the redshirt junior.
Quote of the Week
“Everbody seems like they want to win as opposed to giving up on the season. Back in high school I remember times seeing people give up on the team, give up on the season, and here everybody is fighting.” ~ freshman running back Daz’mond Patterson on how the team has dealt with losing this season