Nov. 20, 2006
ATHENS, Ohio - The Ohio football team will try to extend its winning streak to seven games when it takes on Miami at noon on Friday, Nov. 24 at Yager Stadium. The game is the regular-season finale for both schools.
For the first time in 38 years, Ohio's regular-season finale will not be its last game of the season. With their 17-7 win versus Akron on Nov. 16, the Bobcats clinched their first-ever MAC East Division championship and their first MAC title of any kind since the 1968 squad went 10-0 in the regular season before losing to Richmond in the Tangerine Bowl. Ohio will face Central Michigan in the Marathon MAC Championship Game on Nov. 30 at Ford Field in Detroit.
The Bobcats (8-3, 6-1) are riding a six-game winning streak into Friday's match-up with the RedHawks (2-9, 2-5). The streak is the program's longest since the 1997 squad also won six in a row. A seventh straight win would be the longest since the 1968 team won 10 in a row.
MAC Offensive Player of the Year candidate Kalvin McRae (Decatur, Ga.) has put the Bobcats' offense on his back during the winning streak. McRae has run for at least 100 yards in each of the six games. The Bobcats are unbeaten this season (7-0) when McRae reaches the century mark. Through the first five games, McRae averaged 13 carries for 48.4 yards per game with three touchdowns. In the last six games, the junior has carred the ball an average of 23.5 times for 119.5 yards and nine touchdowns.
The Bobcats' defense has carried more than its share of the load during Ohio's run to the division championship. Ohio has not allowed an opponent to score more than 20 points in the last six games and has limited foes to 10-or-less points in the last four games. The Bobcats are the MAC's number-one scoring defense, and rank 17th in the nation, giving up an average of only 15.45 points per game.
Ohio has been one of the toughest teams in the country to throw against so far in 2006. The Bobcats are fifth in the nation in pass efficiency defense, allowing opponents a rating of 97.33. Ohio is 12th in the nation in pass defense, giving up 159.82 yards per contest.
Ohio has held opponents to less than 200 yards passing seven times. The Bobcats have limited three opponents (UT Martin, Rutgers & Kent State) to less than 100 yards passing and another three to less than 150 yards (Bowling Green, Buffalo, Eastern Michigan). Last season, Ohio allowed more than 200 yards via the pass in 10 of its 11 games. The lowest passing output by an Ohio opponent was 120 (Pittsburgh).
Statistically speaking, the Bobcats boast the top cornerback tandem in the nation. Ohio is the only team in the nation to have two players ranked among the NCAA's top 10 in passes defended per game. Senior T.J. Wright (Beaumont, Texas) is fifth in the country, averaging 1.55 passes defended per contest. Sophomore cornerback Mark Parson (Richmond, Va.) is tied for seventh with 1.45 passes defended per game.
Friday's game will mark the 100th game for Bobcats' mentor Frank Solich as a head coach. Solich coached 77 games as the boss at Nebraska and has roamed the Ohio sideline for 22 games in the last two seasons. Solich has won 70 of his first 99 games for a 70.7 winning percentage. He is 12-10 at Ohio (.545) since taking over prior to the 2005 season.
Miami enters Friday's tilt with a 2-9 overall record and a 2-5 mark in MAC play. Both of the RedHawks' victories have come on the road (at Buffalo; at Bowling Green). They are currently 0-4 at home. Miami has been one of the MAC's top programs in recent history. The last time the RedHawks did now win at least five league games was 1993.
Miami is coming off a 9-7, rain-soaked victory at Bowling Green. The RedHawks overcame a 7-0 halftime deficit to outscore the Falcons 9-0 in the second half. Trevor Cook started the scoring with a 27-yard field goal, and Mike Kokal tossed a 28-yard touchdown to Dustin Woods for the game-winning score. Bowling Green had a chance for the win, but its final field goal attempt was wide left. Kokal led the offense going 12-for-24 with 130 yards and a touchdown through the air despite the rain and muddy field conditions. Austin Sykes ran 13 times for 41 yards to pace the ground game. Ryne Robinson had nine catches for 86 yards. Joey Hudson led the defense with 16 tackles, including 1.0 for loss.
The RedHawks have been a primarily air-oriented offense in 2006. Kokal is among the league leaders in passing, averaging 233.9 yards per game through the air. He has completed 58.9 percent of his throws with 12 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Ryne Robinson has been Kokal's favorite target with a MAC-high 83 catches for 1,087 yards. He has seven touchdown receptions on the season. Robinson's 3,606 career receiving yards are the most of any active player in Division I-A. Dustin Woods is the next-closest RedHawk with 24 catches for 492 yards and four scores. On the ground, Miami is averaging 82.9 yards per game. Andre Bratton leads the team with 284 yards and four touchdowns. Brandon Murphy has battled injuries and has a team-high 33.0 yards per game. Kokal has carried the ball a team-high 123 times. As a team, the RedHawks are scoring 18.0 points and 319.2 yards per game.
Defensively, Miami is allowing 24.5 points and 322.2 yards per contest. Hudson leads the team with 87 tackles and 10 stops behind the line of scrimmage. He also paces the RedHawks with five interceptions. Clayton Mullins ranks second with 83 stops, while Joey Card has 82 tackles. Card is the RedHawks active career leader with 211 stops. Joe Coniglio has 5.0 sacks, while Tranaine Sills is right behind with 4.0 sacks.
The RedHawks feature one of the most prolific punt returners in NCAA history. Ryne Robinson's career total of 1,677 punt-return yards and seven punt-return touchdowns rank first among active players in Division I-A. This season, he is averaging 10.9 yards per return with an 80-yard score. Dustin Woods and Andre Bratton are averaging 23.2 and 21.4 yards per kickoff return, respectively. Jake Richardson is averaging 40.8 yards per punt, while Trevor Cook has made 9-of-12 field goal attempts.
The RedHawks lead the all-time series with Ohio, 51-29-2. Miami is the Bobcats' oldest rival having played every season the two teams have fielded teams since 1928 (Ohio did not have a team in 1943 or 1944 due to World War II).
Miami has won six consecutive games in the series, including a 38-7 victory at Peden Stadium in last season's regular-season finale. Ohio has lost five straight games at Yager Stadium. The Bobcats' last win in Oxford came on Oct. 23, 1993 (22-20).
Following Friday's game at Miami, the Bobcats will take on Central Michigan for the MAC title on Thursday, Nov. 30 at Ford Field in Detroit. For ticket information, call the Ohio Athletics Ticket Office at 1-800-575-CATS.