Football: Bobcats, Falcons matchup to test strengths of each team

Ohio running back Beau Blankenship is taken down by an Eastern Michigan player during Ohio’s game against EMU Nov. 1 at Peden Stadium. Ohio defeated EMU 45-14. (Brien Vincent | Staff Photographer)

As icy, bone-chilling temperatures creep closer to Athens each day, Ohio is looking to keep its offense from freezing up against the Mid-American Conference’s stoutest defense.

Ohio (8-1, 4-1 Mid-American Conference) is tasked with moving the ball against Bowling Green’s (6-3, 4-1 MAC) defense, which is anchored by senior defensive tackle Chris Jones, who has been wreaking havoc in opponents’ backfields throughout his career.

Jones leads a unit that returns 10 defensive starters from last season and has 31 tackles, and leads the conference with 16 tackles for loss and leads the nation with 11.5 sacks.

“(It’s) not a very common trait for a man of his size to play with the speed and the aggressiveness that he plays with,” redshirt senior offensive lineman Eric Herman said. “It’s going to be difficult for us but it’s going to be a really good matchup; it’s going to be our strength against their strength and hopefully it turns out well for us.”

Herman added that understanding the three techniques — where an offensive guard is tasked with blocking a defensive tackle — and competitive edge of players lined up opposite Ohio is critical to figuring out an opponent’s defensive scheme.

Ohio coach Frank Solich said it’s more than just X’s and O’s that set the Falcons’ defense apart from the pack in the MAC.

“They’re a very physical unit all the way around,” he said. “They’re a ball-hawking unit when the ball is in the air. They’re very good at the turnover margin, right at the top of the conference if you look at just the MAC games alone. They have a great combinations of things going for themselves.”

If Ohio’s offense finds that edge and pushes Jones and company out of running lanes, then the Bobcats’ running game will have the opportunity to wear down the opposition. Ohio’s backfield has averaged almost five yards per carry this season.

“They all have motors and we understand that and we have to physically tax them throughout the game so we can end up with the win,” Herman said.
Ohio will not only be fighting for control of the trenches against Bowling Green, but is jockeying for conference positioning as well. Only two weeks remain of regular season play.

After faltering less than two weeks ago to rival Miami, Ohio was helped out by its rival Saturday, when the RedHawks fell to Buffalo, giving them two conference losses, thus putting Ohio in control of its own destiny once again.

If Ohio were to walk away victorious and win each of its remaining games, it would play in a second consecutive MAC Championship.

“It’s always nice to control your own destiny and we have to win this game and get back in the driver’s seat, and it will be good for us to get the ‘W’ so we can do what we want to do,” Herman said.

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