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MAC East Race Heats Up with Game at Kent State

MAC East Race Heats Up with Game at Kent State

Oct. 23, 2006

Transcript of Head Coach Frank Solich's Weekly Press Conference

Ohio Football Gameday Central

ATHENS, Ohio - The Ohio football team (5-3, 3-1 MAC) will try for a share of the MAC East Division lead when it travels to Kent State (5-2, 4-0 MAC) on Saturday, Oct. 28. The game is scheduled for 2 p.m. and will be televised live on FSN Ohio.

Saturday's game between Ohio and Kent State will determine which team will control its own destiny in the race for the MAC East Division championship. The Bobcats will be trying to force a tie atop the division at 4-1, while the Golden Flashes can take a two-game lead with a victory. Neither team has won a division championship since the format was put in place in 1997.

This is the second straight year that the Bobcats have been in the thick of the MAC East race during the season's final month. Last year Ohio was in a four-way tie for first with Akron, Bowling Green and Miami heading into the final three weeks of the season.

The Bobcats' 42-7 win against Buffalo last week was their third straight. It is the first time since the 2000 campaign that the Bobcats have won three in a row. One of the MAC's two-longest winning streaks will continue this week. The Golden Flashes have won five straight games.

The Ohio running game has gotten back on track during the Bobcats' three-game winning streak. Through the first five games, Ohio averaged 66.0 yards per contest with four rushing touchdowns. In the last three victories, the Bobcats are putting up 201.3 yards per game on the ground with eight scores. Kalvin McRae (Decatur, Ga.) has rushed for at least 100 yards in each of the last three games. McRae has six of the Bobcats' eight rushing scores during the last three outings. Ohio is 5-0 under Head Coach Frank Solich when running for at least 200 yards and 8-2 during McRae's career when he goes for at least 100 yards in a game. McRae has a team-high 579 rushing yards and a career-best nine rushing touchdowns.

Senior quarterback Austen Everson (Brentwood, Tenn.) passed for 112 yards and a touchdown against Buffalo. His season passing total through eight games is now 1,020, just 131 shy of his career-high output of last season. Everson already has thrown a career-best six touchdown passes. Everson accounted for two touchdowns, one throwing and one running, in the win against Buffalo. It was the third time in his career that he had a passing and running touchdown in the same game. He did it against UCF in 2003 and versus Kent State in 2004. Everson has now accounted for 29 touchdowns in his career. He is tied for eighth with Steveland Hookfin on the Bobcats' all-time touchdowns responsible for list.

Senior linebacker Tyler Russ (Stetsonville, Wis.) leads the Ohio defense with 62 tackles. Classmate Matt Muncy (Miamisburg, Ohio) has made 51 stops, including a team-high 8.5 for loss, from his middle linebacker spot. Senior cornerback T.J. Wright added two pass breakups to his career total and is now tied with Bop White for the most in school history (34). Wright has defended a team-high 10 passes and is tied for 22nd in the nation with 1.25 passes defended per game.

The Ohio defense is ranked in the top half of the Mid-American Conference in nearly every statistical category. The Bobcats are second in scoring defense (18.2), third in pass defense (168.1), sixth in rushing defense (142.2), third in total defense (310.4), second in pass efficiency defense (102.6), third in opponent first downs (129), third in opponent third-down conversions (34.9), tied for first in opponent fourth-down conversions (33.3) and fourth in red-zone defense (77.3).

The Bobcat special teams features three-time MAC East Division Special Teams Player of the Week Matt Lasher (Copley, Ohio) who has gone 7-for-12 on field-goal tries, including the game-winner at Illinois, 20-for-21 on extra points and owns a 40.4 punting average. The Bobcats also boast the nation's top punt returner in freshman Chris Garrett (Bristow, Va.) and his 20.59 yards-per-return average.

A win against the Golden Flashes would give the Bobcats their first four-game winning streak since the 1997 team won six in a row and mark Ohio's best start since the 1997 team started 8-1. A victory would also give the Bobcats their third road victory of the season, something that the team has not accomplished since 2000.

Kent State owns the MAC's longest winning streak with five consecutive victories since losing its first two games to Minnesota and Army. The Golden Flashes are the Bobcats' second opponent in the last three weeks to enter the game with Ohio after a bye week (Western Michigan).

The Golden Flashes defeated Toledo, 40-14, at Dix Stadium in their last game on Oct. 14. Kent State scored the game's first 33 points. Eugene Jarvis had three touchdown runs, while quarterback Julian Edleman ran for a score and threw for another. The Golden Flashes' defense accounted for another score on a 44-yard interception return by Jack Williams. Jarvis ran for 179 yards on 31 carries, while Edleman added 73 yards on 13 attempts. Edelman completed 8-of-15 passes for 78 yards, a touchdown and an interception. Najah Pruden was the squad's leading receiver with four catches for 44 yards and a score. The Kent State offense ran for 270 yards. Andre Kirkland led the defensive effort with 11 stops, including three for a loss. The Golden Flashes limited the Rockets to just 234 yards of offense in the game.

Kent State enters Saturday's game with the 17th-ranked rushing offense in the country, averaging 188.86 yards per game. The Golden Flashes 362.71 yards of offense per game is fourth in the MAC and 46th in the country. Jarvis leads the Kent State ground game with 494 yards (82.3/game). Edelman ranks second with 418 yards and a team-high five touchdowns. Edelman has completed 59.3 percent of his passes (83-for-140) for 1,221 yards, seven touchdowns and seven interceptions. Pruden has been Edelman's favorite target with 29 catches, 20 more than the next-closest Kent State player. He has 610 yards and five scores. His 87.1 yards per game ranks second in the MAC.

The Golden Flashes' defense is not only one of the highest-rated in the MAC, but also in the nation. Kent State is second in the league and 38th in the country, allowing 297.71 yards per contest. The KSU defense has been particulary tough on opponents' passing games. The unit is allowing 154.14 yards per game, first in the MAC and 14th in the nation. Kent State has racked up 24 sacks, second best in the MAC. The team's 3.43 sacks per game is 11th in the NCAA. Kirkland leads the team with 59 tackles. Daniel Muir has a team-high 8.0 tackles for loss, while Kevin Hogan has 5.0 sacks.

Kent State's kicking game has gone 2-for-7 on field goal attempts this season. Reid Macko is 1-for-5, while Nate Reed is 1-for-2. Jake Kilroy is averaging 35.4 yards per punt, while Edelman has punted four times for a 36.8-yard average. Jon Drager is averaging a team-high 9.6 yards per punt return, while Shawn Bayes is averaging 16.0 yards per kickoff return.

Ohio leads the all-time series with Kent State, 36-20-2. The Bobcats have won seven of the last 10 meetings, but two of the Golden Flashes' wins have come in the last three years. The Bobcats won last year's meeting, 35-32, at Peden Stadium.

The Bobcats' last visit to Dix Stadium resulted in a 42-16 loss on Oct. 30, 2004. Despite that loss, Ohio has won four of its last five trips to Kent State.

Ohio and Kent State have met every season since 1949. The Golden Flashes are the Bobcats' second-oldest rival behind Miami which has played Ohio every year the Bobcats have fielded a team since 1928. The 58 previous meetings between Ohio and Kent State is the second most in school history behind Miami's 83 contests with the Bobcats.

The game at Kent State is the first of two straight road games for the Bobcats. Ohio plays at Eastern Michigan on Nov. 4 before its bye week on Nov. 11. The Bobcats return home for their final game at Peden Stadium on Thursday, Nov. 16 versus Akron. That game is set for 7:30 p.m. and will be televised live on ESPNU. For ticket information, call the Ohio Athletics Ticket Office at 1-800-575-CATS.

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