Ohio (3-3, 1-1 MAC)
Peden Stadium 2:00 p.m. ET
By Justin Holbrock
Ever since its 49-0 drubbing by Bowling Green last year, Ohio has had this Saturday’s homecoming game circled on its schedule. Now, the time has finally come to see if the Bobcats can rise to the challenge against the defending MAC champion Falcons, who currently own the top-ranked passing offense in the conference.
“You’ve got to bounce back. . . It’s homecoming. And if you can’t get excited to play for homecoming — play against BG, a team that beat us bad last year—I don’t know what you can get excited for.” -- Ohio senior captain Josh Kristoff
On their second game of MAC play, the Bobcats lost 28-10 and were dominated in every aspect of the game against Central Michigan. The Chippewas tallied 467 yards of total offense and did not allow Ohio to pick up a first down until midway through the third quarter.
Bowling Green, meanwhile, held off the Buffalo Bulls at home with an exhilarating 36-35 win. On the game-winning drive, the Falcons took the ball 80 yards down the field on four plays and scored with 2:19 remaining on a four-yard touchdown run by Fred Coppet.
This game between Bowling Green and the Bobcats is Ohio’s chance to prove itself as a legitimate contender for the top spot in the MAC East.
The Bobcats are coming off an all-around dismal loss to Central Michigan in which they allowed running back Thomas Rawls to gain 229 yards and score two touchdowns. They were also burned by wide out Titus Davis who caught 10 passes for a season-high 181 yards.
Things won’t be any easier for Ohio’s defense against Bowling Green as it faces a Falcons squad that leads the MAC in passing offense and ranks first in scoring with 37.3 points a game.
In order for Ohio to have any hope of containing the Falcons’ high-octane offense, it must keep constant pressure on quarterback James Knapke, who has already thrown seven interceptions through six games.
The ‘Cats must also keep wide receiver Roger Lewis in check. He leads the MAC with 45 receptions and ranks second in yards receiving at 595 yards. In fact, Lewis, a true freshman, has now earned a spot on the Biletnikoff Award Watch List for the country’s top receiver.
Stopping the Falcons’ offense is much easier said than done, but if Ohio can accomplish this feat -- even to a degree -- then it gives the ‘Cats a shot to beat Bowling Green for the first time since Nov. 16, 2011.
The one weakness that has plagued Bowling Green all season has been its defense, which ranks dead last in the MAC. The Falcons are allowing opponents to score almost at will, giving up more than 40 points a game and more than 575 yards of total offense.
Taking advantage of Bowling Green’s defense will be crucial for Ohio this week, and all eyes will be on how Ohio quarterback J.D. Sprague responds after last week’s loss.
“You’ve got to bounce back. We get to come home. It’s homecoming. And if you can’t get excited to play for homecoming — play against BG, a team that beat us bad last year—I don’t know what you can get excited for,” senior captain Josh Kristoff said. “I have confidence that we’ll bounce back, have a good week of practice and come ready to play next Saturday.”
“They’re extremely productive from an offensive standpoint. If you look at total offense, they’re leading the Mid-American Conference. Their passing game has been special,” head coach Frank Solich said.
“I think it’s a great time of the year, and if you look at the kind of crowds we draw on Homecoming, I think that’s special,” Solich said. “I think a lot of alumni come back for several reasons. They appreciate this campus and the education they got here, they appreciate Court Street, they appreciate everything and it seems like they’re very glad to get back.”
· Senior wide receiver Chase Cochran caught his 15th career reception of 40-plus yards with a 46-yard catch from Sprague to start the fourth quarter
· After not having a single forced fumble through their first five games, the ‘Cats forced three against Central Michigan and recovered one. That was forced by Tarell Basham and recovered by Kylan Nelson
· In the Frank Solich era, Ohio is 4-6 against Bowling Green
· Cornerback Devin Jones is out for Saturday’s game after suffering a right knee injury
· Linebackers Javon Johnson and Blair Brown are listed as day-to-day after both suffered injuries in last week’s game
· Ohio was held to a season-low 187 yards against Central Michigan last week
· Saturday afternoon’s contest will be Ohio’s first home game in MAC play
· Bowling Green trailed on four different occasions during its 36-35 victory over Buffalo.
· First-year head coach Dino Babers coached at the helm of Eastern Illinois last year, a team that Ohio defeated 34-19 two weeks ago.
· In total, Babers has coached more than 30 NFL players.
· Defensive end Bryan Thomas leads Bowling Green with three forced fumbles, the same number that Ohio has forced as a team all season.
· Bowling Green paces the MAC in first downs with 159 compared to 102 by the Bobcats (4th worst in the MAC) .
· Place kicker Tyler Tate was awarded MAC East Special Teams Player of the Week for the third time this season for his 12-point performance against Buffalo.
· With a victory, Bowling Green would move to 3-0 in the MAC for the second straight season.
· Running back Travis Greene is just the 12th player in team history to eclipse 2,000 career rushing yards. He currently ranks ninth with 2,144 yards