By Pete Nakos
OhioBobcats.com Feature Writer
WEST LAFAYETTE, Indiana — Sitting in the back of the running backs meeting room, freshman Julian Ross always positions himself behind redshirt junior A.J. Ouellette. When Ouellette looks good on film, Ross will lean forward and give him quick compliment, sometimes even comments he wants to be just like A.J.
But after last week's 59-0 rout of Hampton, it was Ouellette who was saying he wanted to be like the true freshman who rushed for two touchdowns in his Ohio debut.
This week against Purdue, the Bobcats will face a bigger test and will need its stable of running backs ready to go. The Friday night primetime matchup is slated for 8:05 p.m. ET kickoff and can be watched on Fox Sports One.
"We're going to have to keep our heads and shoulders down," Ross said. "We have to watch for the blitzes and keep our eyes and brains wide open. Hopefully we come out and do what we need to do."
Between Ouellette, Ross and redshirt senior Dorian Brown, the three combined for 139 of the Bobcats 248 rushing yards last week. The week one win was unique, it was the first time that a Frank Solich led team had won big over an FCS opponent. It was the largest margin of victory since 1937 and the third under Solich.
The Ohio running backs expect the Boilermakers defense to key on the run, specifically because they will show multiple defensive fronts.
"The ideal way to do it is to run first and then set up the passing game," Solich said during his Monday press conference. "But if they are stopping the run we have the ability to throw. We are not going to run against a stonewall all four quarters. We want to be diverse and be able to do both and somehow one will lead to helping the other."
As strong of a running core the Bobcats have, Solich has plenty of confidence in his passing game, utilizing the quarterback duo of redshirt sophomore Quinton Maxwell and sophomore Nathan Rourke. Maxwell will start the game against Purdue, but Rourke will see time.
For the Bobcat offense, Purdue will be the first true test of the season, as they were able to get by on simple plays in week one. If the Bobcats can handle the pressure of Ross-Ade Stadium— it's the Boilermakers first ever Friday night game under the newly installed lights — they'll be in a good position to defend their Mid-American Conference East Division title.
"Our quarterbacks will have to be on point," Ohio Offensive Coordinator Tim Albin said. "And up front we'll have to be on point with getting things picked up. We'll know a lot more about ourselves after Friday."
Although young, Ohio got some quality production out of its wide receiving corps last week against Hampton. Redshirt freshman Cameron Odom led the squad with 75 receiving yards on four catches. Redshirt junior Papi White added 35 yards on three catches and a score.
With an experienced offensive line and veteran running backs, Solich will want the offense to setup the pass game with a strong running performance, that's how he's been doing it for the past 19 seasons. The strategy has worked too.
For the 2017 Ohio football team, Friday night will be its first time on a national stage and an opportunity to prove itself against a Big Ten opponent.