Central Michigan 2-3, 0-1)
Kelly/Shorts Stadium 3:30 p.m. ET
By Justin Holbrock
MAC play is finally here to stay for the Ohio Bobcats as they jump back into conference competition on Saturday afternoon to take on the Central Michigan Chippewas.
The Bobcats have not beaten Central Michigan since Nov. 10, 2011 and a win over the Chippewas would extend Ohio’s winning streak to three games. A victory for Central Michigan however, would break its current three-game losing streak.
Quarterback J.D. Sprague and running back A.J. Ouellette, both walk-ons for Ohio, led the Bobcats to a 34-19 victory over Eastern Illinois. The walk-on duo combined for 156 yards rushing and four touchdowns as Ohio’s ground game eclipsed 200 yards rushing for the second week in a row.
The Chippewas, however, have lost their last three games including a 42-28 defeat to Toledo last week when they gave up over 500 yards of total offense to the Rockets.
A vulnerable Central Michigan defense plays right into the hands of Ohio, who has found its offensive rhythm despite losing starting quarterback and captain Derrius Vick to a knee injury.
While the Chippewas have given up 106 points in their last three games, Ohio has scored at least 34 points and surpassed 200 yards rushing in its last two games, both victories at home.
Much of Ohio’s success on the ground is due to true freshman standout A.J. Ouellette, who made his collegiate debut against Eastern Illinois.
Ohio’s hasn’t been able to have the same amount of success through the air as sophomore quarterback J.D. Sprague committed two interceptions and overthrew several home run passes to wide-open receivers.
With Sprague looking to improve Ohio’s aerial attack, the ‘Cats should be aware of Central Michigan’s balanced offensive attack. Chippewas quarterback Cooper Rush, completed 24-of-31 passes for nearly 300 yards against Toledo, while running back Thomas Rawls ranks fourth in the MAC with 113.7 yards per game.
Central Michigan, however, is a team that is known for using four or five running backs in a single game, and that should be no different this week against the Bobcats.
“They [Central Michigan] utilize a lot of running backs. It’s not a deal where they’re going to line up one guy with the idea that that’s going to be the guy,” head coach Frank Solich said. “They all fit what they’re trying to do very well.”
“This last ballgame, we lost the turnover ratio and we’re very fortunate to be three and two, with a turnover margin where it’s at,” Solich said. “We’ve got to get that changed as we get into the MAC schedule. If we don’t get that changed, it will come back to haunt us.”
“We want to connect on deep throws. If he [Sprague] connects on some of those, his passing percentage goes up. He’s capable of definitely being a 60-plus percent passer, he just needs to connect on a few of those,” Solich said.
During the Frank Solich era, Ohio is 1-5 overall against Central Michigan
Two of those losses to the Chippewas came in the MAC Championship with a 31-10 loss on Nov. 30, 2006 and a 20-10 loss on Dec. 4, 2009
True freshman A.J. Ouellette is averaging 109.5 yards in the last two games
Ohio ranks 12th in the MAC in turnover margin at minus-6
The Bobcats rank first in the MAC with 12 defensive sacks
They also rank first in the MAC in sacks allowed with three given up in five games
Notes—Central Michigan Chippewas
Central Michigan defeated the Bobcats in Athens last year with a game-winning touchdown pass from Cooper Rush to Courtney Williams on third-and-goal with under a minute to play
This is 30th all-time meeting between these two teams
The Chippewas rank first in the MAC in interceptions with eight picks through five games
The Chippewas are also the only team in the MAC to return an interception for a touchdown.
Central Michigan has used a total of 10 running backs so far this season
The Chippewas' pass defense is ranked second in the MAC and its defense is ranked fourth despite giving up 543 yards to Toledo last week