Bobcats seeking finale win
AMHERST, N.Y. — Ohio’s dream season came crashing down last week, but the Bobcats are trying to focus on their final regular-season game on Friday.
Frank Solich’s squad travels to Buffalo (5-6, 3-4) for a Mid-American Conference game at 1 p.m. at UB Stadium in Amherst, N.Y.
“All we care about is our next football game. We’ve always been that way in terms of how we look at things, always the next game,” Solich said. “The game that we have no control over will come about. There will be a winner. Wherever that takes us, it takes us. We have to do our own job. Our job is to play Buffalo and win that game.”
Ohio still has a chance to win the MAC East with a victory and an Akron loss to Kent State, but Solich and his coaching staff have told the players to “move on.”
“That’s what we have to be all about. I don’t care if you win a game or lose a game. You can only jump up and down and pat yourself on the back for so long, and you can only beat yourself up for so long,” he said. “I’ve done that. I’ve beaten myself up plenty, and I’ve moved on. I know the guys have moved on.”
It’s also a big game for Buffalo, who is trying to become bowl eligible for just the third time in program history.
“I’m excited (we) have a chance (considering) as hard as (we’ve) worked. They see what their potential is. Glad we have a chance to play a very meaningful game in week 12,” said Buffalo coach Lance Leipold. “We got a great opportunity to get a sixth win. Now have to face a team like Ohio, and that will be a big challenge. We know they stubbed their toe against Akron but doesn’t take away from the year they’ve had.”
The Bulls love to get the ball into the hands of wide receiver Anthony Johnson, who had seven catches for 153 yards and tied a school record with four receiving touchdowns in a 40-24 victory at Ball State last week. The junior had TD grabs of 21, 14, 11 and 56.
“He’s talented. He’s what you look for in an athlete,” Leipold said. “When you have a guy like that it’s like our positions in terms of when someone has special talent; you try to get them the football. When they have the football in their hands, they’re usually pretty productive. We’re going to look at ways to not let him have a special day, and that’s not easy to do. It’ll be difficult, and if you slow him down, then you accomplish something.”
With 12 touchdown receptions this season, Johnson is one TD catch shy of Buffalo’s single-season school record of 13.
“He’s making the difficult plays look routine, so when he actually misses a catch we’re all surprised,” Leipold said. “He’s played extremely well. He continues to work hard. He doesn’t miss practice.”
After missing four games due to an injury, Buffalo quarterback Tyree Jackson returned against Akron on Oct. 28 and has been one of the most productive passers in the MAC.
Last week at Ball State, Jackson threw for 350 yards and a career-best four touchdowns. It was his third straight 300+ yard passing game, making him the first quarterback in school history to throw for 300 yards in three straight games.
Buffalo defensive end Chuck Harris was the East Division Defensive Player of the Week after a 13-tackle performance against Ball State. He also had a sack in the Bulls first-ever win at Ball State. He ranks third on the team in tackles with 66.
As well as Ohio had been playing leading up to last week’s letdown at Akron, it seemed like everything that could go wrong did for the Bobcats.
“Broken coverage, dropped touchdown passes, and you can go on with similar types of plays there were difficult in terms of overcoming,” Solich said. “It is what it is, and it’s in the past for us. We’re going to look and improving where we need to improve and playing to our potential.”
Ohio’s offense is led by quarterback Nathan Rourke, who has thrown for 14 touchdowns and rushed for 19 more.
“You don’t get the overall stats he has without playing well. We’re really pleased with what he’s been all about in terms of developing into our system really quickly and getting things done at this level,” Solich said. “Our players have confidence in him. Obviously, he had two interceptions in this past ball game. That hurts him, and that hurts everybody. He’s a smart football player who figures things out. He keeps improving every day, and generally, when a guy is about that you will see improvement. He’s played really good football this season, and he’s just going to get better.”
Buffalo hopes to redeem itself after last year’s 34-10 loss in Athens.
“They took it to us pretty well last year, and I’m sure (Ohio’s coaches will) have them ready to play,” Leipold said.