Ohio Game Notes (PDF)
ATHENS, Ohio -- The 124th season of Ohio football kicks off on Saturday (Aug. 31) at Peden Stadium as the Bobcats open the 2019 campaign against Rhode Island. Kickoff is scheduled for 2 p.m. ET.
Saturday's contest will be broadcast live on ESPN+, with Michael Reghi and Dustin Fox on the call.
Saturday's game can also be heard on the Ohio Sports Network from Learfield IMG College. Russ Eisenstein returns for his 12th season as the "Voice of the Bobcats." Ohio Alum Rob Cornelius has been a part of the broadcasts for two decades. WXTQ (Power 105) in Athens returns as the 11-station network's flagship. The broadcasts are also available online through TuneIn.com/OhioBobcats and on the TuneIn app.
Saturday, Aug. 31, 2019 | Rhode Island Rams (0-0) at Ohio Bobcats (0-0) | 2 p.m. EST | Peden Stadium | Athens, Ohio | ESPN+ | Ohio Sports Network from Learfield IMG College | TuneIn | Live Stats
• Ohio is coming off of a 2018 season in which it went 9-4 (6-2 MAC), finishing in a tie for second with Miami in the Mid-American Conference's East Division. The Bobcats earned at least nine wins for the sixth time in 15 years under head coach Frank Solich. Ohio capped off the year by shutting out San Diego State, 27-0, in the 2018 DXL Frisco Bowl in Frisco, Texas. The Bobcats accounted for the MAC's lone bowl win in 2018 and earned the distinction of being the conference's first team to pitch a shutout in a bowl win.
• Ohio enters the 2019 season as the preseason favorite to win the MAC. The Bobcats were selected as the unanimous favorite to win the East Division in both the media and coaches polls. The Bobcats earned a league-high 13 votes to win the MAC Championship Game in the media poll.
• The Bobcats are set to square off against Rhode Island for the first time. The Rams are a member of Football Championship Subdivision's (FCS) Colonial Athletic Association.Ohio owns a 5-4 record against programs that are currently affiliated with the CAA, having gone 1-1 against Delaware, 2-1 against Richmond 2-2 against William & Mary.
• Since Frank Solich took over as head coach in 2005, Ohio has gone a perfect 13-0 against FCS opponents.
• Ohio is 9-5 (.643) in season openers in the Frank Solich era. The Bobcats are seeking their third-straight victory in a season opener and fifth in the last six seasons. Ohio will be opening the season at home for the fourth year in a row.
Ohio Season Openers Under Solich
Sept. 1, 2018 - vs. Howard: W, 36-32
Sept. 2, 2017 - vs. Hampton: W, 59-0
Sept. 3, 2016 - vs. Texas State: L, 56-54 (3OT)
Sept. 3, 2015 - at Idaho: W, 45-28
Aug. 30, 2014 - at Kent State: W, 17-14
Sept. 1, 2013 - at No. 9 Louisville: L, 49-7
Sept. 1, 2012 - at Penn State: W, 24-14
Sept. 3, 2011 - vs. New Mexico State: W, 44-24
Sept. 4, 2010 - vs. Wofford: W, 33-10
Sept. 5, 2009 - vs. UConn: L, 23-16
Aug. 30, 2008 - at Wyoming: L, 21-20
Sept. 1, 2007 - vs. Gardner-Webb: W, 36-14
Sept. 2, 2006 - vs. UT Martin: W, 29-3
Sept. 3, 2005 - at Northwestern: L, 38-14
• The Bobcats went a perfect 6-0 at Peden Stadium in 2018, marking the first time Ohio has won all of its home games since 1968. Ohio went unbeaten at home for the first time since 1988, when the Bobcats finished their home schedule with a record of 3-0-1. Ohio has won its last nine home games dating back to the 2017 season and has won 14 of its last 15 games played at Peden Stadium.
• Ohio is tied with Toledo for the most bowl wins (4) among MAC programs since Frank Solich took over as head coach in 2005. With its win over San Diego State in the 2018 DXL Frisco Bowl that followed a 41-6 triumph over UAB in the 2017 Bahamas Bowl, Ohio recorded back-to-back bowl wins for the second time in program history. In 2011, the Bobcats edged Utah State, 24-23, in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl to pick up their first bowl victory in program history, then rolled to a 45-14 triumph over ULM in the 2012 Advocare V100 Independence Bowl.
LIKE A FINE WINE
Frank Solich enters the 2019 season as the dean of MAC head coaches as he begins his 15th year leading the Bobcats. He is tied with Oklahoma State's Mike Gundy for fourth among active NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) head coaches in terms of longest tenure with their current school. Only Iowa's Kirk Ferentz (21 years), TCU's Gary Patterson (20 years) and Utah's Kyle Whittingham (16 years) have served as head coach at their respective institutions longer. Prior to arriving in Athens, Solich spent six years as head coach at his alma mater, Nebraska. Solich's 21 years of experience tie him with Ferentz (21 years) for the third-most among active NCAA FBS head coaches, ranking behind only North Carolina's Mack Brown (30 years) and Alabama's Nick Saban.
With the retirement of longtime Kansas State head coach Bill Snyder following the 2018 season, Solich enters the 2019 campaign as the leader in life experience among NCAA FBS head coaches at 74 years old.
CHASING WINS WITH THE GOAT
Frank Solich owns a career coaching record of 164-94 heading into the 2019 season. His 164 wins rank as the fourth most among active NCAA FBS head coaches, trailing only North Carolina's Mack Brown (238), Alabama's Nick Saban (238) and TCU's Gary Patterson (167).
Solich is 106-75 during his tenure as head coach of the Bobcats, ranking him third in program history behind Don Peden (121; 1924-46) and Bill Hess (108; 1958-77). With five more wins, Solich will pass Herb Deromedi (110, Central Michigan, 1978-93) for the most by a MAC head coach. Ohio has gone 70-42 in conference play since Solich's arrival in Athens. His 70 MAC wins rank second to Deromedi's 90.
Ohio's offense will face the challenge of replacing a decent chunk of its production from the 2018 season.
The Bobcats lost 4,565 of their 7,312 all-purpose yards gained last year, including 2,405 of their 3,358 rushing yards and 1,829 of their 2,710 receiving yards. In terms of scoring, Ohio lost 43 of its 69 touchdowns scored a year ago
Air Canada is back for his senior season. Senior quarterback Nathan Rourke, a two-time All-MAC Second Team selection, has played in 26 games with 24 starts over the last two seasons with the Bobcats and owns a 17-7 record as a starting quarterback. Rourke is ranked first in program history with a career passing efficiency rating of 144.3, second with 40 career passing touchdowns, second with 178.3 career passing yards per game, fourth with 4,637 career passing yards, fourth with a career completion percentage of 57.4 percent (325-of-566), fifth with 14.3 career yards per completion and seventh with 325 career completions. He has also tallied 36 career rushing touchdowns, which ranks as the third-most in program history, and has rushed for more touchdowns than any other quarterback in NCAA FBS over the last two seasons. Rourke has been responsible for 77 career touchdowns -- the second-most in program history and the third-most in NCAA FBS over the last two seasons. He ranks third in program history with 37 career touchdowns scored and sixth with 222 career points scored. Rourke is a two-time winner of the Joe Cornish Trophy, which is awarded annually to the most outstanding Canadian player in NCAA Football. He has helped guide Ohio to a pair of bowl victories, with the Bobcats topping UAB, 41-6, in the 2017 Bahamas Bowl and shutting out San Diego State, 27-0, in the 2018 DXL Frisco Bowl.
The Ohio defense ranked first in the country in turnovers gained with 32 in 2018. When a Bobcat came away with a turnover, they were awarded the Turnover Belt, a WWE Championship-style belt for their efforts.
Javon Hagan is back for his redshirt senior season as the starting free safety. Hagan has earned All-MAC recognition in each of the last three years, earning First Team honors twice (2016, '18) and Second Team recognition once (2017). A starter in 35 of the 39 career games he has played in, Hagan has compiled 216 career total tackles (120 solo, 96 assisted), with 5.0 career tackles for loss, has accounted for 25 career passes defensed (10th-most in program history), has tallied six career interceptions for 132 career interception return yards, has notched 19 career pass breakups (ninth-most in program history) and has forced eight career fumbles with three career fumble recoveries. As a redshirt freshman in 2016, he was named to the Sound Mind Sound Body Freshman All-America Team by the Football Writers Association of America and earned MAC Freshman of the Year honors after picking off a career-high three passes and totaling 120 interception return yards and forcing a career-high six fumbles -- good for third in the country and first in the MAC -- with one fumble recovery.
• Louie Zervos is back for his redshirt senior season as placekicker. He enters the year ranked first in program history with 164 career extra points made, second with 57 career field goals made and second with 335 career points scored.
• Redshirt senior punter Michael Farkas earned All-MAC First Team honors a year ago and is second in school history in career punting average (41.36 yards). He also ranks fourth in program history in career punting yards (7,114) and sixth in career punts (172).
CROMER ERA BEGINS FOR OHIO ATHLETICS
• Saturday's game marks the first official day of work for new Director of Athletics Julie Cromer.
Ohio University President M. Duane Nellis appointed Cromer to the position on Aug. 15. She joins the Bobcats as Ohio's first female athletics director in University history.
Cromer comes to Ohio University from the University of Arkansas, where she has served most recently as senior deputy athletics director, associate vice chancellor and senior woman administrator for Razorback Athletics. In addition to her executive role at Arkansas, Cromer is a respected leader within college athletics nationally. She currently serves on the NCAA Division I Board of Directors and is a member of the Board of Directors of Women Leaders in College Sports.
Prior to Arkansas, Cromer spent 10 years of her career in the NCAA national office, including as the director of academic and membership affairs, working to advance NCAA academic reform and other policy initiatives. She left the NCAA to join Indiana University as the executive associate athletics director, where she was one of the first women in the Big Ten to supervise all elements of a collegiate football program.
• Ohio will be joining the MAC, the NCAA and ESPN in celebrating the 150th anniversary of college football in 2019. The campaign will culminate when Ohio takes on archrival Miami in the 'Battle of the Bricks' on Wednesday, Nov. 6 at Peden Stadium in a nationally televised matchup on ESPN2 that will be played on the 150th anniversary of the first-ever college football game. Ohio will look to make history that day with a call to students and fans to create the first-ever sellout of a MAC midweek game.
AYE AYE, CAPTAIN
• Redshirt senior safety Javon Hagan, redshirt senior offensive lineman Austen Pleasants, senior quarterback Nathan Rourke, redshirt junior wide receiver Cameron Odom and redshirt senior defensive lineman Will Evans will serve as Ohio's five team captains in 2019.
Hagan enters his third season serving as a team captain while Rourke is in his second. Evans, Odom and Pleasants are all serving as captains for the first time.
DEGREES IN HAND
• Ohio's roster features four players who have already earned their undergraduate degrees -- punter Michael Farkas (Communications Studies), free safety Javon Hagan (Sport Management), long snapper Devin King (Health Services Administration) and offensive lineman Austen Pleasants (Physical Activity and Sport Coaching).
STANDOUTS IN THE CLASSROOM
• The Bobcats return nine players who earned Academic All-MAC honors in 2018 -- linebacker Austin Clack, linebacker Dylan Conner, defensive lineman Austin Conrad, linebacker Jared Dorsa, cornerback Tariq Drake, offensive lineman Brett Kitrell, running back Jake Neatherton, linebacker Eric Popp and quarterback Nathan Rourke. Conner, Kitrell and Rourke all earned MAC Distinguished Scholar Athlete recognition.
SCOUTING RHODE ISLAND
• Rhode Island is coming off a 6-5 campaign in 2018 -- the first winning season for the Rams in 17 years. Rhode Island broke into the STATS FCS Top 25 on Sept. 10 for the first time for the program since 2005, and the team got as high as No. 16 in the STATS poll and No. 15 in the AFCA FCS Coaches poll during the season.
• The Rams are led by sixth-year head coach Jim Fleming.
• Rhode Island averaged 387.1 yards of offense a year while allowing 345.1 yards per game.
• The Rams played one FBS opponent in 2018, dropping a 56-49 decision on the road at UConn last September.
• Rhode Island received seven votes in the 2019 STATS FCS Preseason Top 25 poll.
• Senior offensive lineman Kyle Murphy and senior wide receiver Aaron Parker were named to the STATS FCS Preseason All-America Team. Murphy has started 25-straight games on the line for Rhode Island. Parker led all CAA players in receiving yards, receiving yards per game and touchdown receptions. He finished the season with 61 catches for 955 yards and 10 touchdowns. He led Rhode Island with 66 points scored, as he also rushed for one touchdown.
• Redshirt junior Vito Priore is expected to get the start at quarterback for Rhode Island on Saturday. He started four of the six games he played in 2018, throwing for 781 yards and seven touchdowns.
• Senior running back Naim Jones ranked second on the team with four rushing touchdowns last year while redshirt senior Zoe Bryant, Jr. led the Rams with 456 rushing yards and add three touchdowns.
• Junior kicker C.J. Carrick converted six of his eight field goal attempts last year while going 43-of-44 on extra points.
• Senior linebacker Branyan Javier-Castillo tied for the team lead with 78 total tackles (25 solo, 53 assisted).He was also tied for second on the squad with two interceptions.
• Senior wide receiver Ahmere Dorsey accounted for a team-high 1,291 all-purpose yards a year ago. He led he nation with 1,085 combined special teams yards, piling up 851 kickoff return yards and two touchdowns to go along with 234 punt return yards and a touchdown.
Ohio hits the road for the first time in 2019, traveling to Heinz Field for a matchup against Pitt on Saturday, Sept. 7. Kickoff is slated for 11 a.m. ET from the Steel City. The contest will be televised on the ACC Network. The Bobcats are set to battle Pitt for the first time since Sept. 9, 2005, when Ohio knocked off the Panthers in overtime, 16-10, at Peden Stadium in Athens. Ohio last visited Heinz Field on Sept. 11, 2004 -- a 24-3 loss to Pitt. Ohio is set to play an ACC team for the second year in a row. The Bobcats fell to Virginia, 45-31, on Sept. 15, 2018, in a contest that was moved from Charlottesville to Nashville due to Hurricane Florence.