Throughout the first six games of the season, all was well for the Ohio Bobcats.
They were 5-1, with two wins to start conference play and the lone loss coming on the road to a Big Ten opponent in Minnesota. The offense was in full stride and the defense was slowly becoming one of the best in the Mid-American Conference. Everything seemed to be going the Bobcats way.
Last week’s 49-14 home loss to Western Michigan nearly made all of that forgetful, taking a giant step back in a season with plenty of progress from last year. The offense stalled and the top-ranked defense was gashed on the ground.
Despite the disappointing loss, Ohio coach Frank Solich sees no need to panic.
“You don’t want to change everything dramatically because of one game,” Solich said. “You don’t want to all of a sudden throw everything out the window and act like you have to start over again.”
For the Bobcats, they will get to redeem whatever they lost last week when they take on Buffalo on the road this Saturday. In order for the Bobcats to get back to their winning streak, they’ll have to do so without two players that were a major factor in getting the Bobcats where they are at now: linebacker Quentin Poling and running back Papi White.
Poling, who has been named MAC East Defensive Player of the Week three times this year, has been the heart and sole of the defense. With senior Jovon Johnson being limited over the first few games, it was Poling who stepped up in his absences. And after Poling went down last week against Western Michigan, the Broncos ran roughshod all over Peden Stadium.
With both Poling’s and White’s injuries, the Bobcats will look to use the depth that has helped them throughout the year. Playing a Buffalo team that has struggled this year on both sides of the ball, the Bobcats have a chance to rebound from what coaches and players seem to deem a blip in this year’s radar.
Despite the injuries and the disapointing loss last week, Solich believes his team will be more than just physically prepared to win this weekend: “Mentally, we will be prepared to play the game.”
About the Opponent: Buffalo Bulls (2-4, 0-2)
Location: Buffalo, New York
Colors: Blue and Gray
Mascot: Victor E. Bull
Notable Alumni: NASA astronaut Ellen S. Baker and Emmy-winning journalist Wolf Blitzer
Players in the NFL: Oakland Raiders defensive end Khalil Mack, San Diego Chargers running back Branden Oliver, Tampa Bay Buccaneers punter Jacob Schum, Seattle Seahawks center Kristjan Sokoli, Green Bay Packers running back James Starks and Indianapolis Colts cornerback Josh Thomas.
Previous Bobcat Game: 34-17 Ohio win at Peden Stadium — Nov. 4, 2014
Current Matchup: 3:30 p.m. Saturday — UB Stadium
Bobcats to Watch
Offense: QB Derrius Vick – As bad as the defense was last week, the offense wasn’t much better. Vick specifically struggled to hit open receivers and the offense was unable to get anything going because of it. The defense has carried the Bobcats all season, and now it’s the offense’s turn to take over — and that starts and ends with Vick’s play.
Defense: DE Kurt Laseak – Although Poling has gotten all of the attention, Laseak has been just as good for the Bobcats’ defense. With Poling out and the rest of the linebackers hurting, it’s time for Laseak to shine. Laseak wasn’t pleased with their performance last week, and he has a chance to get Ohio defense back on the right track.
Panthers to Watch
Offense: RB Anthone Taylor – It’s hard to ignore the defensive lapse in the running game for the Bobcats last week. And with Poling looking to miss this game (and a few after), Taylor may use this to his advantage. Taylor ranks fifth in the MAC with 521 yards on the ground, and if he gets the upper hand against Ohio, it will be another long day for the Bobcats.
Defense: LB Brandon Berry – Berry, who has played both safety and linebacker in his career, has been all over the field for the Bulls, leading them in both tackles and tackles for loss. Expect him to be around the Bobcat carrying the ball, whether it be in the backfield or in the open field.
Bobcats 24, Bulls 20 – Even with the injuries, the Bobcats seem motivated by their loss last week. Buffalo will give the Bobcats a game, but expect a better defensive performance and the offense to take advantage of its opportunities, contrary to last week.