Sept. 4, 2006
ATHENS, Ohio - The Ohio football team will attempt to start the season 2-0 when it takes on Northern Illinois in DeKalb, Ill. on Saturday, Sept. 9. The Bobcats are 1-0 after defeating Tennessee-Martin, while the Huskies are coming of season-opening loss to Ohio State.
The Bobcat defense limited the Skyhawks to just 123 yards and accounted for nine points of their own with a fumble return for a touchdown by senior T.J. Wright (Beaumont, Texas) and a safety. The Ohio offense had 144 yards, snapping a 30-game losing streak (since 1988) when gaining less than 200 yards of offense. Senior quarterback Austen Everson (Brentwood, Tenn.) and junior running back Kalvin McRae (Decatur, Ga.) each had a rushing touchdown, while senior Matt Lasher (Copley, Ohio) kicked his first two collegiate field goals, made three PATs and served as both the Bobcat punter and kickoff man. Lasher was named MAC East Division Special Teams Player of the Week for his performance.
Saturday's game at Northern Illinois begins a three-game road swing for the Bobcats. After facing the Huskies, Ohio will travel to Rutgers on Sept. 16 and Missouri on Sept. 23 before returning home to face Bowling Green on Sept. 30.
"It's obvious when you play as many road games as we do, you have to learn how to travel, and travel well," Ohio Head Coach Frank Solich said. "You have to make sure a new environment doesn't cause you problems, especially the young players. In terms of preparing, you have to make sure you don't get taken out of it by not having a home crowd. If you have great focus, it really doesn't matter if you're playing at home or on the road."
The Bobcat defense will have a tough time topping its effort against Tennessee-Martin. The 123 yards allowed were the fewest the Bobcats have given up since limiting UCF to 98 yards in 2003. The Bobcats gave up just 49 yards on the ground to the Skyhawks which marked its best defensive effort against the run since holding the Golden Knights to -6 yards. Ohio has won eight of its last 11 games when holding opponents to less than 100 yards rushing
After its first game, the Bobcat defense sits atop several of the MAC statistical rankings. The Bobcats lead the league in scoring defense (3.0 ppg), rushing defense (49.0 ypg), pass defense (74.0 ypg), total defense (123.0), pass efficiency defense (75.9), opponent first downs (9), and opponent third-down conversions (14.3).
Northern Illinois began its 2006 campaign with a 35-12 loss at top-ranked Ohio State on Sept. 2. Preseason All-America selection Garrett Wolfe, the nation's leading returning rusher, ran for 171 yards on 26 carries and caught five passes for 114 yards and a touchdown. He was a part of 291 of the Huskies' 343 yards of offense.
Northern Illinois has 15 starters and 42 letterwinners back from last season when the team went 7-5 and won the MAC West Division. The Huskies were the MAC News Media Association's preseason pick to win both the West Division and the MAC Championship Game.
The Bobcats and Huskies have met 16 times since 1968 with Northern Illinois holding a 9-7-0 advantage in the all-time series. This is the first meeting between the two teams since the Bobcats lost a 30-23 game in overtime in DeKalb on Oct. 4, 2003. Ohio is 1-6 all-time on the Huskies' home field. The lone victory came on Nov. 1, 1997 (35-30). In Northern Illinois' first go-around in the MAC (1975-85), the Huskies won eight of 10 meetings. Since re-joining the league in 1997, Ohio has won two of the three contests the two teams have played.
After traveling to Rutgers (Sept. 16) and Missouri (Sept. 23), Ohio returns home to face Bowling Green at Peden Stadium on Sept. 30. For ticket information, call the Ohio Athletics Ticket Office at 1-800-575-CATS, or click here.