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Previewing The Enemy: Ohio Bobcats

After recovering from what felt like a game-ending pick-six against Purdue, Penn State football (1-0, 1-0 Big Ten) is heading home with a clean record.

The Nittany Lions will welcome the Ohio (not State) Bobcats (1-0) of the MAC conference to Beaver Stadium on Saturday. Penn State and Ohio have faced off just six times in history, with the Nittany Lions holding a 5-1 edge.

Penn State is a massive favorite in this matchup and will hope to work in its reserves by the time the dust settles and it’s time to head to Auburn. Let’s take a look at the Bobcats ahead of Saturday’s matchup.

The Team

Just like the home team, Ohio enters this matchup 1-0, squeaking by Florida Atlantic 41-38 in its opener last weekend. Quarterback Kurtis Rourke threw for 345 yards and four touchdowns at an impressive 79% clip.

Head coach Tim Albin is in his second year at the helm of the Bobcats and is so far on track to recovering from a 3-9 season in 2021. He’s been with the program since 2005 and previously had head coaching experience at Northwestern Oklahoma State in the late 1990s.

Ron Collins, the Bobcats’ former defensive coordinator and safeties coach, retired following last season. Ohio seems to be missing him so far, as the team was gashed for 38 points in its opener and gave up 364 yards and five scores through the air.

Offense

With former quarterback Armani Rogers out of the picture, Rourke will have the offense to lead on his own this year. He’s off to a hot start and is already improving on a 2021 season where he threw for 1,801 yards at a very good 65% rate.

James Bostic, Tyler Walton, and Sam Wiglusz are Rourke’s top targets through the air. Bostic led the way in week one, scoring once and piling up 136 yards on six catches, while Wiglusz had two scores of his own.

Walton was the team’s top target last season and recorded 380 yards. No wideout found the end zone more than four times last season, so the early development of Bostic seems to be a good sign for the Bobcats.

Sieh Bangura was a workhorse for the Bobcats on the ground last week, logging 114 yards on 23 carries. Bangura is picking up De’Montre Tuggle’s load from last year. Tuggle headed for the NFL after scoring seven times and rushing for 804 yards last season.

Rogers, the backup quarterback, was the team’s second-leading rusher last season and scored seven times on the ground. Rourke, who would be considered a dual-threat quarterback as well, rushed 14 times of his own and found the end zone once in week one.

Right guard Hagen Meservy, who started as a true freshman and has now seen 40 game appearances over six years, anchors Ohio’s offensive line. This group will have to hold strong against a strong feisty, Big Ten-caliber Nittany Lion defense.

Defense

Safety Ben Johnson led the way for the Bobcats in week one, registering 15 tackles, which was more than double defensive end Jack McCrory, who had the second-most. McCrory combined with the other defensive end, Vonnie Watkins, for 13 tackles, three QB hurries, and a sack against FAU.

Last year’s leading tackler, outside linebacker Bryce Houston, returns in 2022 for his final year of eligibility. He put up four stops in week one. He’s joined by Keye Thompson and Vonnie Watkins at linebacker, who don’t have much experience and make that spot a question mark for the defensive unit.

Defensive tackle Rodney Mathews had a key strip-sack in week one and logged two tackles. Kareem Caesar, the other tackle, assisted with two stops in week one after collecting seven tackles last year. The defensive line heavily rotated players last week, which allowed 23 guys to put their names on the stat sheet.

James Franklin is also keeping an eye on safety Tariq Drake. While he didn’t make a big impact against FAU, Drake was a big contributor in 2021 and led the team with three interceptions.

Overall, this group will need to punch heavily above its pay grade if it wants any chance of stifling Penn State’s offense through the air. However, Ohio did not let any Owl gain more than 60 total yards on the ground in week one, which is a positive for the Bobcats, who are going up against a talented but struggling group of Nittany Lion rushers.

Special Teams

True freshman Nathanial Vakos handled kicking duties for Ohio against FAU, making both of his two attempts. Jonah Wieland returns as the punter and averaged 44 yards per punt in week one.

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About the Author

Ryan Parsons

Ryan is a redshirt senior majoring in business and journalism from "Philadelphia" and mostly writes about football nowadays. You can follow him on Twitter @rjparsons9 or say hi via email at ryanparsons@onwardstate.com.

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