Ohio Game Notes (PDF)
ATHENS, Ohio -- The Ohio football team (0-0) kicks off its 124th season on Saturday (Sept. 1), playing host to NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision opponent Howard (0-0). Kickoff is slated for 2 p.m. EST at Peden Stadium. Click here for ticket information or call 1-800-575-CATS (2287).
Saturday's contest will be streamed live on ESPN+, with Matt Stewart and former Georgia starting quarterback Hutson Mason on the call. The game can also be heard on the Ohio IMG Sports Network. Russ Eisenstein returns for his 11th season as the "Voice of the Bobcats." Ohio alum Rob Cornelius, who has been a part of the broadcasts for close to two decades, is back in the booth. The 12-station network has an over-the-air coverage area that hits three states. In addition, the broadcasts are available online through OhioBobcats.com and TuneIn.com/OhioBobcats.com. They are also free on the TuneIn app.
WEEK ONE: Saturday, Sept. 1, 2018 | Howard (0-0) at Ohio (0-0) | 2 p.m. EST | Peden Stadium | Athens, Ohio | ESPN+ | Ohio IMG Sports Network
• The Bobcats are coming off of a 2017 campaign in which they went 9-4 overall and finished second in the Mid-American Conference East Division with a 5-3 mark in league play.
• The 2017 season saw Ohio earn bowl eligibility for the ninth-straight season and make its eighth bowl appearance during that span. The Bobcats ended the year on a high note, rolling to a 41-6 triumph over UAB in the Bahamas Bowl.
• Frank Solich is back on the Ohio sidelines as head coach for a 14th season. The Bobcats have gone 97-71 (.577) during Solich's tenure -- including 64-40 (.615) in MAC play. Three more victories will put Solich in the company of Don Peden (1924-46; 121 wins) and Bill Hess (1958-77; 108) as the only coaches in the history of the program to lead the Bobcats to at least 100 victories. Solich has guided Ohio to four MAC East Division titles (2006, '09, '11, '16) and three bowl victories in nine appearances.
• Ohio was tabbed MAC favorite in the league's preseason media poll, which was announced in late July. The Bobcats were picked first in the East Division with a league-best 140 total points. Ohio was also selected to win the 2018 Marathon MAC Football Championship Game, which will be held at Ford Field on Friday, Nov. 30 at 7 p.m. The contest will be televised nationally on ESPN2.
• Saturday's contest marks Ohio's first-ever meeting with Howard. Ohio is 1-0 all-time against current members of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. The Bobcats beat Norfolk State, 44-10, on Sept. 22, 2012, at Peden Stadium.
LIFTING THE LID
Ohio is 8-5 (.615) in season openers in the Solich era. The Bobcats are seeking their second-straight victory in a season opener and fourth in the last five seasons. Ohio will be opening the season at home for the third year in a row.
Ohio Season Openers Under Solich
Sept. 2, 2017 - vs. Hampton: W, 59-0
Sept. 3, 2016 - vs. Texas State: L, 56-54 (3OT)
Sept. 3, 2015 - at Idaho: W, 45-28
Aug. 30, 2014 - at Kent State: W, 17-14
Sept. 1, 2013 - at No. 9 Louisville: L, 49-7
Sept. 1, 2012 - at Penn State: W, 24-14
Sept. 3, 2011 - vs. New Mexico State: W, 44-24
Sept. 4, 2010 - vs. Wofford: W, 33-10
Sept. 5, 2009 - vs. UConn: L, 23-16
Aug. 30, 2008 - at Wyoming: L, 21-20
Sept. 1, 2007 - vs. Gardner-Webb: W, 36-14
Sept. 2, 2006 - vs. UT Martin: W, 29-3
Sept. 3, 2005 - at Northwestern: L, 38-14
A COACHING LEGEND
Entering his 20th season as the man in charge on the sidelines overall and 14th at Ohio, Solich has already cemented his legacy as legendary head coach. Among his achievements:
• Ranks third in MAC history in wins behind Herb Deromedi (110, Central Michigan, 1978-93) and Bill Hess (108, Ohio, 1958-77).
• Is tied for second in MAC history in conference-only wins with Hess, with both trailing Deromedi (90 wins).
• Is tied with Oklahoma State's Mike Gundy as the third-longest tenured head coach in NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision behind Iowa's Kirk Ferentz (20th season) and TCU's Gary Patterson (19th).
• Has coached four All-America honorees at Ohio.
• The program has tallied 94 All-MAC selections during his tenure.
• Nine players have been selected in the NFL Draft under his watch.
CONSISTENCY IS KEY
Ohio is the only program in NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision to have the same head coach, offensive coordinator and defensive coordinator for the last 14 years as Tim Albin (Assistant Head Coach/Offensive Coordinator/Running Backs) and Jimmy Burrow (Associate Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator/Safeties) both return to Solich's staff in 2018.
Longevity is a theme on the Solich staff. Dwayne Dixon(12th year; Wide Receivers) and Brian Haines (11th year; Special Teams/Tight Ends/Recruiting Coordinator) have both coached under Solich for over a decade. Three other assistants have been with Solich for at least five years -- Ron Collins (Eighth year; Co-Defensive Coordinator/Linebackers), Scott Isphording (Sixth year; Quarterbacks) and Chris Rodgers (Sixth year; Assistant AD for Football Operations). Pete Germano (Defensive Line), De'Angelo Smith (Defensive Backs) and Ryan Bainbridge (Director of Player Personnel and High School Relations) are all beginning their second seasons, though this is Germano's second stint at Ohio; he spent 11 seasons on the Bobcats' staff before serving as the defensive line coach at Fresno State for five seasons.
New to the Solich coaching staff in 2018 are Bart Miller (Offensive Line) and Tremayne Scott (Defensive Tackles). Miller comes to Athens after serving as tight ends coach at Air Force last season. He has coached the offensive lines at Minnesota, Florida Atlantic, New Mexico State and Wisconsin. Scott is a familiar face to followers of the Bobcats. At 2012 graduate of Ohio, he played in 35 games on the defensive line for the Bobcats, registering 71.5 tackles, 7.5 sacks, six forced fumbles and one interception. He earned All-MAC Second Team recognition after his junior season. He was also named Defensive Player of the Game following Ohio's 45-14 victory over Louisiana-Monroe in the 2012 Advocare V100 Independence Bowl. Scott spent the last two years coaching at Carthage College in Kenosha, Wis.
PUTTING UP THE POINTS
Ohio set new single-season standards for points scored (508) and highest scoring average (39.1), average yards per carry (5.7) and rushing touchdowns (44). Ohio ranked 34th in the country in total offense (433.1 yards per game) -- including 16th in rushing offense (244.5 yards per game) -- and ninth in scoring.
Not surprisingly, the Bobcats boasted one of the most opportunistic red zone offenses in the nation a year ago, scoring on 91.9 percent (57-of-62) of their trips inside the opponents' 20-yard line to rank 12th in the country. Ohio scored a staggering 35 red zone rushing touchdowns, which was good for third in the country.
POUND THE ROCK
Ohio's ground game was crucial to its offensive success in 2017. The Bobcats ranked 16th in the country in rushing offense (244.5 yards per game). In total, Ohio compiled 3,179 rushing yards to rank 15th in the country -- the fifth-most rushing yards in a single season in program history. The Bobcats' 5.74 average yards per carry ranked as the most in program history and ninth-most in the country while their 44 rushing touchdowns set a new program standard and ranked fourth in the nation.
The Bobcats ran for at least 200 yards seven times a year ago -- including three performances of over 300 yards. The high mark came in a 38-10 thumping of eventual MAC champion Toledo on Nov. 8 at Peden Stadium when Ohio racked up a season-high 393 yards on the ground.
RUNNING DOWN A DREAM
Redshirt senior running back A.J. Ouellette (Covington, Ohio) has blossomed from walk-on buried on the depth chart heading into his 2014 freshman campaign to climbing the charts on Ohio's rushing records.
Ouellette heads into his final season with the Bobcats ranked ninth in school history with 2,478 career rushing yards. He needs just 48 more yards to pass Arnold Welcher (1974-77) for eighth place and 137 more to pass Kevin Babcock (1976-79) for seventh. His 506 career carries rank as the 10th-most in program history, and his nine career games with at least 100 yards rush are good for ninth-most in program history.
In 2017, Ouellette became the first Ohio back to rush for at least 1,000 yards in a single season, finishing with 1,006 to become the first since Beau Blankenship piled up 1,604 in 2012.
AIR CANADA (WITH GROUND SUPPORT)
Quarterback Nathan Rourke (Oakville, Ontario, Canada) burst onto the scene for Ohio in 2017, earning All-MAC Second Team honors for his efforts. He etched his name in the program's top-10 for passing yards (2,203; ninth), completions (161; tied-10th), touchdown passes (17; seventh) and passing efficiency (132.9; ninth) in a single season. He threw for the most yards by an Ohio sophomore signal caller since Tyler Tettleton passed for 3,302 yards in 2011.
Rourke proved problematic for opposing defenses not only because of his arm but because of his legs as well. He set the program record for rushing touchdowns in a single season with 21, which tied him for third-most in NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision in 2017 with Washington running back Myles Gaskin and ranked as the most by a quarterback in the country last season. His 6.66 yards per carry a year ago rank as the fourth-highest in a single season in program history and ranked as the 11th-highest average in the country, finishing just behind former Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson (6.90) of Louisville. Rourke tallied five 100-yard games last season, tying him for the 10th-most in a single season in program history.
In all, Rourke accounted for 3,115 total yards of offense (sixth-most in a single season in program history), averaging 7.26 yards per play (second-most in a single season in program history) and 239.6 yards per game (fourth-most in a single season in program history. He set Ohio's single-season scoring record with 132 points (tied for sixth-most in the nation in 2017), 22 touchdowns scored (fifth-most in the nation in 2017) and 39 touchdowns responsible for. His 234 points responsible for tied him for ninth-most in the country last year.
Rourke enters his junior season with his name appearing on the Manning, Maxwell and O'Brien award watch lists.
STRENGTH IN THE SECONDARY
Ohio returns three-fourths of its defensive backfield in 2018.
Redshirt junior free safety Javon Hagan (Jacksonville, Fla.) was an All-MAC Second Team pick a year ago after ranking second on the team with 85 total tackles (45 solo, 40 assisted). He picked off one pass and forced one fumble. The 2016 MAC Freshman of the Year is on the watch list for the Thorpe Award entering this season.
The Bobcats return redshirt senior Kylan Nelson (Lexington, Ky.) at strong safety. Nelson was sixth on the team with 53 total tackles (28 solo, 25 assisted) and third with eight pass breakups.
Redshirt senior Jalen Fox (Cincinnati, Ohio) is back as the starting right cornerback after tying for second on the team with two interceptions and ranking second with 11 pass breakups a year ago.
Ohio's secondary lost All-MAC Third Team left cornerback Bradd Ellis, who led the Bobcats with 19 pass breakups and tied for second on the squad with two interceptions. Two sophomores who are natives of Miami, Fla., Jamal Hudson and Marlin Brooks, are vying to take the starting spot this year.
KICKING GAME SPECIAL
The Bobcats have the luxury of returning one of the top special teams tandems in the country in redshirt junior kicker Louie Zervos (Tarpon Springs, Fla.) and redshirt junior punter Michael Farkas (Mishawaka, Ind.).
Zervos enters the season having been named to the Groza Award Preseason Watch list for the second year in a row. He was an All-MAC Third Team pick in 2017 after making 15 of his 18 field goal attempts and drilling 61 extra points. He enters this year tied for fourth in program history in career points scored (229) and ranked second in career field goals made (44) and fourth in career extra points made (96). His 83.1 percent career field goal percentage is good for second-best in program history.
Farkas enters his third season as Ohio's punter ranked eighth in program history in career punting yards (5,261).
Also back for the Bobcats is senior Jake Hale (Powell, Ohio) to once again handle the long snapping duties.
A LOOK AT THE SCHEDULE
Following the matchup against Howard, Ohio will play back-to-back road games at Virginia (Sept. 15) and Cincinnati (Sept. 22). The Bobcats will take on the Cavaliers for the first time since 1993 when Virginia was ranked No. 21 in the country at the time. The all-time series against in-state rival Cincinnati is deadlocked at 23-23-4, but the Bobcats have not faced the Bearcats since 1981. Ohio wraps up non-conference play with a battle with UMass (Sept. 29) at Peden Stadium. The Bobcats escaped Amherst with a wild 58-50 victory over the Minutemen last September.
MAC play opens with back-to-back road games at Kent state (Oct. 6) and Northern Illinois (Oct. 13). Ohio closes October out with a Homecoming matchup against Bowling Green (Oct. 20) and a home game against Ball State (Oct. 25). The Bobcats are back on the road again to start November, visiting Western Michigan (Nov. 1) and archrival Miami (Nov. 7). The regular season concludes with home showdowns against Buffalo (Nov. 14) and Akron (Nov. 23).
FOLLOW THE LEADERS
Ohio enters 2018 with seven team captains -- Ouellette, Lowery, Hagan, Rourke, Nelson, Berger and Croutch. Ouellette is a three-year team captain while Lowery and Hagan are both two-year team captains.
The Bobcats are set to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the 1968 team capturing the program's last MAC championship. Ohio went 10-0 in the regular season that year -- including 6-0 in league play -- under the legendary Hess. The Bobcats earned an invitation to the Tangerine Bowl, where Ohio fell to Richmond, 49-42. Ohio placed 10 players on the All-MAC team that season -- quarterback Cleve Bryant (First Team), offensive tackle Ken Carmon (First Team), fullback Bob Houmard (First Team), halfback Dave LeVeck (First Team), linebacker Steve Robinson (First Team), center Jeff Robison (First Team), end Todd Snyder (First Team), offensive tackle Frank Peters (Second Team), defensive back Craig Rader (Second Team) and tight end Phil Swindell (Second Team). Bryant, Carmon and Snyder were all also named All-Americans Snyder is still the one of the most decorated Bobcat receivers ever, still ranking sixth in career receptions (140), second in career receiving yards (2,241) and fourth in touchdown catches (15). Snyder's 214 receiving yards in the Tangerine Bowl remain an Ohio single-game record. Bryant still ranks eighth in career passing yards (3,414) and third in career touchdown passes (29) in program history.
Howard finished 7-4 a season ago in head coach Mike London's first season at the helm -- including 6-2 in Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference play. In London's first game as head coach of the Bison, Howard stunned UNVL, 43-40, in Las Vegas. London came to Howard after serving as the head coach at Virginia for six years (2010-15). He made his mark in the coaching profession at Richmond, where he led the Spiders to a 24-5 record in two years as head coach -- including a Football Championship Subdivision title in 2008.
The Bison return sophomore quarterback Caylin Newton -- the younger brother of Carolina Panthers starting quarterback Cam Newton. The 2017 MEAC Rookie of the Year became the first freshman in conference history to surpass 3,000 yards of total offense (3,185). Including Newton (Second Team), Howards boasts nine Preseason All-MEAC Team selections -- junior Jequez Ezzard (First Team-Wide Receiver; Second Team-Return Specialist), center James Holmon (First Team), offensive lineman Tyrone Ramsey (First Team), linebacker Marcellus Allison (Second Team), wide receiver Kyle Anthony (Second Team), defensive back Bryan Cook (Second Team), kicker Dakota Lebofsky (Third Team) and defensive lineman Aaron Motley (Third Team)
Following a bye week, Ohio visits Atlantic Coast Conference opponent Virginia on Sept. 15. Kickoff is scheduled for 3 p.m. from Scott Stadium in Charlottesville, Va. The contest can be seen on ACC Network Extra. The Bobcats will be looking for their first win over an ACC team since beating former conference member Maryland, 21-14, on Sept. 6, 1997, in College Park, Md.