Ohio Game Notes (PDF)
ATHENS, Ohio -- The Ohio football team (6-6, 5-3 MAC) is set to battle Nevada (7-5, 4-4 MW) today (Jan. 3) in the 23rd Famous Idaho Potato Bowl at Albertsons Stadium in Boise, Idaho. Kickoff is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. ET/1:30 p.m. MT, and the contest will be nationally televised on ESPN, with Anish Shroff, John Congemi and Kris Budden on the call.
The Famous Idaho Potato Bowl 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.
23RD FAMOUS IDAHO POTATO BOWL
Friday, Jan. 3, 2020 | Ohio (6-6, 5-3 MAC) vs. Nevada (7-5, 4-4 MW) | 3:30 p.m. ET/1:30 p.m. MT | Albertsons Stadium | Boise, Idaho | ESPN | WatchESPN | Ohio Sports Network from Learfield IMG College | TuneIn | StatBroadcast
BACK TO BOISE
The Bobcats are set to make their second appearance in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. Ohio earned its first-ever bowl victory in the 2011 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, a 24-23 win over Utah State.
In its third-straight bowl appearance and fourth overall under head coach Frank Solich, Ohio rallied for a thrilling win over the Aggies. The Bobcats trailed 9-0 after one quarter of play, but quarterback Tyler Tettleton helped cut the deficit to two points when he threw a 26-yard touchdown pass to tight end Derek Roback with just under five minutes to play in the first half. Running back Michael Smith produced touchdown runs of 63 yards and 11 yards in the third quarter, though, to push the Aggies' lead to 23-10. Wide receiver LaVon Brazill kept the Bobcats in it, however, hauling in a 44-yard scoring strike from Tettleton with 3:45 remaining in the third quarter. Ohio's defense clamped down in the fourth quarter and forced Utah State to punt with just two minutes remaining. Tettleton then engineered a nine-play, 61-yard drive that was kept alive by a critical fourth-down completion to Brazill and capped off by the quarterback keeping it himself and scoring from a yard out with 13 seconds left. Kicker Matt Weller then clinched a 24-23 win for the Bobcats by knocking down the extra point. Brazill was named Most Valuable Player after tallying eight receptions for 108 yards and a score.
The Bobcats are making their 13th bowl appearance in program history, 11th in the last 14 years and fifth in a row. Ohio has won four bowl games in its history, posting back-to-back victories twice, and will be going for its third-straight bowl win. Ohio's 13 bowl appearances are tied for the second-most among MAC programs. Ohio's four bowl wins are tied for fourth-most among MAC programs, and a third-straight bowl win would tie Ohio with Toledo (1969-71) and Miami (1973-75) for the most consecutive bowl wins in conference history. In addition to the win over Utah State in the 2011 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, Ohio knocked off ULM, 45-14, in the 2012 Advocare V100 Independence Bowl, rolled to a 41-6 win over UAB in the 2017 Bahamas Bowl and posted a 27-0 shutout of San Diego State in the 2018 DXL Frisco Bowl. The Bobcats are set to battle a team out of the Mountain West in a bowl game for the second year in a row and second time in program history.
After back-to-back home losses to Miami (Nov. 6; 24-21) and Western Michigan (Nov. 12; 37-34, OT), Ohio's record stood at 4-6 overall and 3-3 in MAC play. The Bobcats finished the season strong, however, following up a 66-24 victory at Bowling Green on Nov. 19 with a 52-3 dismantling of Akron on Nov. 26 in the regular season finale. The victory over the Zips clinched an 11th-straight of bowl eligibility for Ohio and a winning conference record for the fifth year in a row.
The Bobcats won all four of their MAC road games in 2019, marking the first time Ohio has won all of its conference road contests since going 4-0 in 2009.
RETURN TO THE GEM STATE
Ohio is set to play a game in Idaho for the fourth time. In addition to the win over Utah State in the 2011 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, the Bobcats have played Idaho twice in the Gem State, falling by a score of 17-14 on Sept. 16, 1972, and posting a 45-28 victory on Sept. 3, 2015, in the 2015 season opener.
BETTER LATE THAN NEVER
The Famous Idaho Potato Bowl will mark just the second time a season has been extended into January for Ohio. The Bobcats played Southern Miss in the GMAC Bowl on Jan. 7, 2007, falling to the Golden Eagles, 28-7.
MAC WINS KING
Frank Solich has built the Ohio football program into one of the Mid-American Conference's most consistently successful over the last 15 years.
On Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2019, Solich etched his place in MAC history, becoming the conference's winningest head coach with his 111th victory -- an impressive 66-24 triumph over East Division rival Bowling Green.
Solich has turned the Bobcats into one of the Mid-American Conference's premier programs since his arrival in Athens in 2005.
Ohio is 112-81 during the Solich era. His 112 victories are the second-most in program history behind Don Peden (121; 1924-46). Ohio has gone 75-45 in conference play since Solich's arrival in Athens. His 75 MAC wins rank second to Deromedi's 90.
Solich entered the 2019 season as the dean of MAC head coaches. He is tied with Oklahoma State's Mike Gundy for fourth among active NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision 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 North Carolina's Mack Brown (30 years) and Alabama's Nick Saban (24).
Solich owns a career coaching record of 170-100. His 170 wins rank as the fourth most among active NCAA FBS head coaches, trailing only Brown (250), Saban (242) and TCU's Gary Patterson (172). He is well-respected by his peers, having been named the president of the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) in addition to receiving the Tom Osborne Legacy Award in January of 2019.
With the retirement of longtime Kansas State head coach Bill Snyder following the 2018 season, Solich is the leader in life experience among NCAA FBS head coaches at 75 years old. Solich turned 75 on Sept. 8.
SEVEN ALL-MAC SELECTIONS
Ohio was represented by seven student-athletes on the 2019 All-MAC Awards list.
Senior quarterback Nathan Rourke and redshirt senior defensive back Javon Hagan earned All-MAC First Team selection. Redshirt senior offensive lineman Austen Pleasants and redshirt senior punter specialist Michael Farkas garnered All-MAC Second Team recognition. Redshirt senior offensive lineman Marques Grimes, redshirt senior offensive lineman Steven Hayes and redshirt senior kickoff return specialist DL Knock received All-MAC Third Team honors.
Rourke earned All-MAC First Team honors after being named All-MAC Second Team each of the previous two seasons. He joined Bill Frederick (1953), Dave Wagner (1959, '60), Bob Babbitt (1962), Cleve Bryant (1968), Andy Vetter (1977) and Sammy Shon (1981) as the only quarterbacks in program history to be named All-MAC First Team and becomes the first Ohio quarterback to be named All-MAC three times in his career.
Hagan earned All-MAC First Team selection for the second year in a row after being named to the All-MAC Second Team in 2016 and '17. He is the first defensive back in program history to be named to the All-MAC First Team multiple times.
Farkas garnered All-MAC honors for the third time in his career after being named to the Third Team in 2016 and the First Team last year.
Pleasants, Grimes, Hayes and Knock all earned All-MAC recognition for the first time in their careers. Ohio has had three offensive linemen named to the All-MAC list each of the last three years.
ACADEMIC ALL-MAC HONORS
Eight student-athletes represented Ohio on the 2019 Academic All-MAC Team. The following Bobcats earned recognition from the conference for their work both on the field and in the classroom: redshirt senior linebacker Austin Clack, redshirt junior linebacker Dylan Conner, redshirt junior defensive end Austin Conrad, redshirt freshman linebacker Bryce Houston, redshirt senior long snapper Devin King, junior offensive lineman Brett Kitrell, senior linebacker Eric Popp and senior quarterback Nathan Rourke.
A total of 148 student-athletes across MAC football were named to this year's squad.
The Academic All-MAC honor is for a student who has excelled in athletics and academics. To qualify, a student must have at least a 3.20 cumulative GPA and have participated in at least 50 percent of the contests for that particular sport. First-year students and junior college transfers in their first year of residence are not eligible for the award.
Clack (finance major) earned Academic All-MAC Team selection for the fourth year in a row while Conner (biological sciences pre professional major), Conrad (marketing/business analytics major) and Popp (engineering technology & management major) all garnered recognition for the third-straight year. Kitrell (marketing major) and Rourke (physical activity & sport coaching major) were named to the Academic All-MAC Team for the second year in a row while Houston (management & strategic leadership/marketing/entrepreneurship major) and King (marketing major) both earned recognition for the first time in their careers.
On top of being named to the Academic All-MAC Team, Rourke earned MAC Distinguished Scholar Athlete recognition for the second year in a row.
Following each season from the fall sports schedule, any student with a 3.20 GPA and participation in at least 50 percent of the contests was automatically named to the previously announced Academic All-MAC Team from each sport. Also, first-year students, junior college transfers and graduate transfers in their first year of residence were not eligible for the award.
New for this season, the selection for the Distinguished Scholar Athlete included all student-athletes that were recognized as All-MAC selections and Academic All-MAC selections from their respective sport, along with maintaining a 3.50 GPA and above. Previously, a voting process among the MAC Faculty Athletic Representatives determined the selection of the Distinguished Scholar Athletes. MAC membership voted for the change in recognizing the Distinguished Scholar Athletes during the Conference Spring meetings in June of 2019.
Earlier this season, both Rourke and Conner garnered MAC Scholar-Athlete of the Week recognition, with Rourke receiving honors on Sept. 19 and Oct. 31 and Conner earning accolades on Dec. 5.
ACADEMIC ALL-DISTRICT HONORS
Redshirt junior linebacker Dylan Conner represented the Ohio football team on the 2019 CoSIDA Academic All-District 5 Division I Team, selected by the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA), the organization announced on Nov. 14.
The 2019 Academic All-District® Football Team, selected by CoSIDA, recognizes the nation's top student-athletes for their combined performances on the field and in the classroom. The CoSIDA Academic All-America® program separately recognizes football honorees in four divisions — NCAA Division I, NCAA Division II, NCAA Division III and NAIA.
First-team Academic All-District® honorees advance to the CoSIDA Academic All-America® ballot. First- and second-team (if applicable) Academic All-America® honorees will be announced in early December.
The CoSIDA Academic All-District® teams are divided into geographic districts across the United States and Canada.
Conner, who is a biological sciences major, has compiled a career-high 73 total tackles in 2019, which ranks second on the team. He has registered a career-high four tackles for loss, including half a sack. Conner has started all 11 games at strongside linebacker for the Bobcats so far this season.
MAC EAST PLAYER OF THE WEEK
The Bobcats tallied seven MAC East Division Player of the Week honors in 2019, with redshirt junior linebacker Jared Dorsa earning Defensive Player of the Week recognition for week one, senior quarterback Nathan Rourke garnering Offensive Player of the Week recognition for week three, redshirt senior placekicker Louie Zervos being named Special Teams Player of the Week for week four, redshirt freshman running back O'Shaan Allison earning Offensive Player of the Week honors for week six, Rourke again receiving Offensive Player of the Week honors for weeks eight and nine and Zervos being named Special Teams Player of the Week again in week thirteen.
LIKE A VIDEO GAME
Ohio boasts the MAC's second-highest scoring offense in terms of points per game (34.7) and third-highest scoring in terms of total points scored (416), both of which currently rank as the fourth-most in a single season in program history.
Ohio owns the MAC's highest scoring offense over past three seasons with 38.0 points per game, and three of the four highest-scoring seasons in program history have occurred the last three seasons Nine of the 10 highest-scoring seasons in terms of points scored in program history have been achieved during 15th-year associate head coach/offensive coordinator/running backs coach Tim Albin's time in Athens, with the 2017 team setting a new record with 508 points and the '18 squad promptly breaking that record by scoring 521. The 2018 team also set program records in points per game with 40.1 (surpassing the 2017 team's mark of 39.1) and average yards per game of total offense with 466.8. All 10 of Ohio's 10 most productive seasons in terms of yards gained have come under Albin's watch, with the 2018 team ranking second in program history with 6,068 yards. The 2019 team currently ranks seventh in program history with 5,320 yards of total offense and fourth of 443.3 yards of total offense per game.
The strength of the Ohio offense was on full display over the final two games of the 2019 regular season, as the Bobcats averaged 59 points and 606 yards of total offense. The 66 points scored at Bowling Green tied for the seventh-most in a single game in program history while the 609 yards of total offense ranks as the sixth-most. Ohio followed that effort up with 603 yards of total offense at Akron - the seventh-most in a single game in program history.
CONTINUITY ON OFFENSIVE STAFF
Associate head coach/offensive coordinator/running backs coach Tim Albin is the longest
In addition to Albin, three of Ohio's four other offensive assistant coaches have coached under Solich for at least seven years -- wide receivers coach Dwayne Dixon (13 years), tight ends/special teams coach Brian Haines (12 years) and quarterbacks coach Scott Isphording (7 years). The only new addition to the offensive staff is offensive line coach Allen Rudolph, who is in his first year at Ohio after spending the previous three years in the same role at Arkansas State.
MOVING THE CHAINS
Ohio ranks fourth in the country and first among MAC teams with a 51.6 percent third-down conversion rate (81 of 157).
Ohio's red zone offense is second in the MAC and 21st in the country, converting 90.6 percent (48 of 53) of its trips into points.
AIR CANADA'S FINAL OHIO FLIGHT
Senior quarterback Nathan Rourke will play in his 39th and final career game and make his 37th and final career start at the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. He owns a 23-13 record as a starting quarterback.
Rourke is ranked first in program history with a career passing efficiency rating of 146.9 and 192.4 passing yards per game, second with 516 completions, 7,313 passing yards, and 60 career passing touchdowns, third with 877 passing attempts and a completion percentage of 58.8 percent and fifth with 14.0 yards per completion. He ranks second in program history with 48 career rushing touchdowns (second-most among active Football Bowl Subdivision players, most among active FBS quarterbacks) and 6.1 rushing yards per carry and ninth with 2,547 rushing yards and 67.0 rushing yards per game. He ranks second in program history with 9,860 career yards of total offense and first with 259.5 yards of total offense per game. He ranks first in program history with 50 career touchdowns scored (third-most among active FBS players) and fourth with 300 points and has been responsible for a program-record 110 touchdowns (second-most among active FBS players).
Rourke, who started all 12 regular season games for Ohio in 2019, set career highs with 191 completions (eighth-most in program history) and 311 attempts (ninth-most in program history) for a career-best 61.4 percent completion percentage (sixth-best in program history) and threw for a career-high 2,676 yards (fourth-most in program history) with a career-high 223.0 yards per game (fourth-most in program history). He threw 20 touchdown passes (third-most in MAC, tied for fourth-most in program history) against a career-low five interceptions. He threw for at least 200 yards seven times this season and at least 300 yards twice, including a career-high 342 in a 45-38 win over Kent State on Oct. 19. He threw multiple touchdown passes seven times, including three outings with at least three touchdown passes and a career-high tying four touchdown passes in a Rourke has also maintained his status as a top dual-threat quarterback, ranking second on the team with 780 rushing yards (10th-most in MAC) and leading the team with 12 rushing touchdowns (tied for fourth-most in MAC, tied for ninth-most in program history). He accounted for a career-high 3,456 yards of total offense (first in MAC, second-most in program history) and a career-high 288.0 yards of total offense per game (second-most in MAC, most in program history). Rourke ranked second on the team with 78 points, scoring 13 total touchdowns (fifth-most in MAC, tied for ninth-most in program history), including one receiving touchdown. His 33 touchdowns responsible for rank as the fourth-most in program history. He was named MAC East Division Offensive Player of the Week three times this season, bringing his career total to nine.
ROURKE RECORD WATCH
- Needs 169 passing yards to move into 3rd place in program history
- Needs 176 passing yards to move into 2nd place in program history
- Needs 10 pass attempts to move into 8th place in program history
- Needs 9 pass completions to move into 6th place in program history
- Needs 4 passing touchdowns to move into 8th place in program history
- Needs two rushing touchdowns to break program record
Currently held by Kareem Wilson (49; 1995-98)
- Needs 13 pass attempts to move into second place in program history
- Needs 3 points scored to move into 3rd place in program history
- Needs 69 rushing yards to move into eighth place in program history
CFL WINTER SCOUTING BUREAU RANKINGS
The Canadian Football League (CFL) Scouting Bureau ranked senior quarterback Nathan Rourke No. 3 in its second edition of its top-20 eligible prospects list.
The CFL Scouting Bureau, comprised of CFL scouts, as well as, player personnel directors and general managers from the league's nine clubs, releases its rankings three times each year: in September, December and April.
ROURKE INVITED TO NFLPA COLLEGIATE BOWL
On the same day he was named to the CFL's prospect list, senior quarterback Nathan Rourke also received an invitation to compete in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, which will be held on Jan. 18, 2020, at Rose Bowl Stadium in Pasadena, Calif.
Founded in 2012, the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl gives prospective players the best opportunity to showcase their talents to potential employers and fans. Nearly 200 scouts, player personnel staff, general managers and head coaches from all 32 NFL teams are expected be in attendance to watch live practices, conduct player interviews and review tape.
READY IF NEEDED
Ohio will enter the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl having been forced to make some adjustments to its depth chart behind senior quarterback Nathan Rourke.
Freshman Kurtis Rourke, the younger brother of Nathan, is recovering from season-ending surgery to his non-throwing shoulder. Redshirt freshman Joe Mischler opted to enter the NCAA's transfer portal following the conclusion of the regular season.
That leaves the Bobcats with redshirt sophomore Drew Keszei and redshirt sophomore K.J. Minter backing up Nathan Rourke. A native of Fort Wayne, Ind., Keszei came to Ohio in 2017 as a quarterback, then moved to wide receiver prior to this season. He passed for 2,748 yards at Homestead High School and was a first team all-state selection in 2015. Minter has been at wide receiver since arriving in Athens in 2017 and has made three receptions for 36 yards this season. He played quarterback at North Marion High School in Gainesville, Fla., throwing for 1,246 yards and 13 touchdowns while also rushing for 886 yards and 13 touchdowns.
SHUFFLING THE DECK
Ohio has used three different combinations of players on the offensive line in 2019 and is expected to use a fourth in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. Redshirt senior center Steven Hayes and junior left guard Brett Kitrell are both expected to miss the contest, meaning redshirt junior Nick Sink is anticipated to get his fourth start of the season at center while redshirt freshman Kurt Danneker will make his first career start at left guard. Sink has made four other starts this season at left guard.
While the Bobcats have been forced to shuffle the deck several times at center and left guard, redshirt senior Austen Pleasants (left tackle), junior Hagen Meservy (right guard) and redshirt senior Marques Grimes (right tackle) have each started all 12 regular season games at their respective positions.
Despite the shuffling, Ohio's offensive line has paved the way for a running game that ranks fourth among MAC teams with 2,598 yards and 216.5 yards per game.
The line also produced five outings in which it did not allow a sack.
Ohio lost three All-MAC selections from last year's offensive line in left tackle Joe Lowery, left guard Joe Anderson and right guard Durrell Wood.
WHAT A RUSH
Ohio lost its top two running backs in 2018 to graduation in A.J. Ouellette and Maleek Irons. Ouellette, an All-MAC First Team pick last season, departed Athens ranked third in program history in career rushing yards (3,829) and fourth in career rushing touchdowns (32). Irons ranked second on the team with a career-high 831 rushing yards in 2018. He was selected with the 22nd overall pick in the third round of the 2019 Canadian Football League Draft by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, becoming the first Bobcat to be picked in the 68-year history of the CFL Draft.
A pair of newcomers in the backfield have primarily carried the load for a rushing attack that has remained productive. Redshirt freshman O'Shaan Allison leads Ohio with 823 rushing yards in 2019, which ranks ninth in the MAC and is the second-most by a freshman running back in program history. He has rushed for at least 100 yards in a game twice. Allison put together a career night at Bowling Green when he rumbled for 175 yards and three touchdowns. He was named MAC East Division Offensive Player of the Week for the first time in his career for his efforts in Ohio's 21-20 overtime win at Buffalo to open conference play, as he rushed for 96 yards and two touchdowns.
Junior De'Montre Tuggle, a transfer from Kilgore College, has accounted for 547 rushing yards to rank third on the team and has scored 10 rushing touchdowns, which ranks second on the squad and 10th in the MAC. Tuggle has scored at least two touchdowns in a game four times this year.
Ohio has been forced to replace one of its most prolific wide receivers in program history in 2018 All-MAC First Team selection Papi White. White finished his career as the Bobcats' all-time leader in receiving yards (2,620) and ranks second in career touchdown receptions (19) and fourth in career receptions (161). Ohio also lost Andrew Meyer, who ranked second on the team in receptions (36), receiving yards (505) and touchdown receptions (5) in 2018, to graduation, as well as their top tight end in Connor Brown, who led the position in receptions (8) and receiving yards (84).
A year after 13 different players caught at least one pass, Ohio's passing game has featured 17 different receivers in 2019, with eight players posting double-digit receptions. Redshirt sophomore wide receiver Isiah Cox leads the way with a career-high 36 catches and 590 receiving yards. Redshirt junior tight end Ryan Luehrman has set career highs in receptions (27) and receiving yards (351) and is tied for the team lead with a career-high five touchdown receptions with redshirt freshman wide receiver Shane Hooks. Hooks is also second on the squad with 515 receiving yards and third with 26 receptions. Redshirt freshman wide receiver Jerome Buckner is fourth on the team with 326 receiving yards and tied for fourth with 18 receptions.
CHANGE ON DEFENSE
For the first time since 2005, Ohio has a new defensive coordinator. Longtime associate head coach/defensive coordinator/safeties coach Jimmy Burrow retired following the 2018 campaign after 14 seasons serving at Ohio under Frank Solich. Burrow stepped away from coaching in order to follow the final collegiate season of his youngest son, LSU quarterback and 2019 Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow. During Burrow's tenure at Ohio, the Bobcats tallied 41 All-MAC selections on the defensive side of the ball. The Ohio defense consistently ranked among the best in the MAC in scoring defense and turnovers during Burrow's tenure and led the nation in turnovers in both 2009 and '18.
Ron Collins, who had served as linebackers coach for the previous eight seasons, was promoted to associate head coach/defensive coordinator/safeties coach following Burrow's departure. Under the tutelage of Collins, the linebackers have helped the Ohio defense rank among the best in the conference at stopping the run. He has previous defensive coordinator experience, having served in the role at Washington University in St. Louis (1988-2000), Boise State (2001-05) and Colorado (2006-10). He has served as Ohio's co-defensive coordinator since 2017.
Nate Faanes was named Ohio's new linebackers coach in March. Faanes spent the previous three seasons as a graduate assistant. He assisted Collins in coaching Ohio's linebackers the last two seasons after working with the running backs in 2016.
Pete Germano, who is in the third year of his second stint on Solich's staff, was promoted to co-defensive coordinator/defensive ends coach. Prior to his return to Athens, he spent five years as the defensive line coach at Fresno State after spending the previous 11 on the Ohio staff.
Ohio returns cornerbacks coach De'Angelo Smith for a third season and defensive tackles coach Tremayne Scott for a second season in 2019.
TURNOVER BELT RETURNS
The Ohio defense ranked first in the country in turnovers gained with 32 in 2018. All those takeaways thrust Ohio's Turnover Belt, a WWE Championship-style belt that is awarded to the team's defensive playmakers after creating a turnover, into the spotlight.
The Turnover Belt has not been quite as visible in 2019 as the Bobcats have gained just 13 turnovers. However, seven of those takeaways came in the final two weeks of the regular season. The Bobcats came away with a season-high five takeaways in the win at Bowling Green, including four fumble recoveries, after managing just six takeaways over the previous 10 games. Ohio then came away with two interceptions in the season finale against Akron.
Redshirt junior cornerback Marlin Brooks leads Ohio with three total takeaways, including a team-high two fumble recoveries. He is one of five Bobcats to log an interception this year.
A starter in 47 of the 51 career games he has played in and three-year team captain, redshirt senior free safety Javon Hagan has compiled 315 career total tackles (189 solo, sixth-most in program history; 126 assisted), with 9.0 career tackles for loss, has accounted for 32 career passes defensed (tied for eighth-most in program history), has tallied six career interceptions for 132 career interception return yards, has notched 26 career pass breakups (eighth-most in program history) and has forced nine career fumbles with four career fumble recoveries.
Hagan finished the regular season ranked eighth among MAC players with a career-high 99 total tackles to lead the team, including a team-high 44 solo stops and a career-high 55 assisted tackles. He recorded double-digit total tackles four times, including a career-high 16 against Western Michigan on Nov. 12. He matched his career high with three tackles for loss. Hagan's seven pass breakups led the team, and he logged one quarterback hurry, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.
APPLYING THE PRESSURE UP FRONT
In his second season as starting left defensive end, redshirt junior Will Evans leads Ohio with 6.5 tackles for loss and is second on the team with six quarterback hurries while redshirt junior Austin Conrad, a converted tight end, is tied for second with 5.5, including four sacks, which leads the team. His nine quarterback hurries are a career high. Conrad has started each of the last eight games at right defensive end. Redshirt senior defensive tackle Cole Baker, in his second season with the Bobcats after transferring from East Mississippi Community College (featured in the Netflix series Last Chance U in 2015) and first as a starter, ranks second on the team with three sacks. Redshirt sophomore Kai Caesar has started the last eight games at nose tackle and has produced 29 total tackles and five quarterback hurries, with the latter tying for third on the squad.
Three linebackers rank among Ohio's top-five tacklers through 12 games in 2019, with redshirt junior Dylan Conner ranking second on the squad with a career-high 79 total tackles (26 solo), redshirt junior Jared Dorsa ranking third with a career-high 74 (31 solo) and senior Eric Popp ranking fifth with 51 (23 solo). Redshirt freshman Keye Thompson has started the last six games at weakside linebacker and has compiled 50 total tackles (19 solo) over the last seven games. Thompson is tied for second on the team with 5.5 tackles for loss.
Ohio has had to replace the void left by their leading tackler in 2018, Evan Croutch, who finished last season with 90 total tackles and a team-high 5.5 sacks as well as two interceptions.
WALK-ON TURNED STARTER AT STRONG SAFETY
Redshirt junior Jarren Hampton, a former walk-on, became the team's starting strong safety this season, taking over for Kylan Nelson, who graduated after tying for third on the team with 59 tackles, tying for the team lead with two interceptions and forcing a fumble in 2018.
A year ago, Hampton tied for the team lead with two interceptions and collected 25 total tackles a year ago. This year, he is fourth on the team in total tackles with a career-high 62 through 12 games in 2019, including a career-high 35 solo stops, which ranks second on the squad.
Redshirt senior placekicker Louie Zervos finished with 12 points in the victory over Bowling Green after making a career-high nine extra points and adding a 33-yard field goal. His effort brought him to 415 points for his career, setting the new program record. The mark was previously held by former placekicker Matt Weller (2009-12), who scored 409 career points.
Zervos will enter the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl carrying 425 career points after making seven extra points and a 40-yard field goal. He is currently ranked 22nd in NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision history in scoring, third in MAC history behind former Miami running back Travis Prentice (468 points; 1996-99) and Toledo placekicker Jameson Vest (446 points; 2015-18) and second among active players behind Georgia placekicker Rodrigo Blankenship.
Zervos ranks first in program history with 215 career extra points made and has made his last 123 (second-most in MAC history). He also ranks second in program history with 70 career field goals made.
JUST FOR KICKS
Redshirt senior punter Michael Farkas ranks second in program history with 219 career punts and a career punting average of 41.4 and third with 9,073 career punting yards.
Farkas punted 47 times for 1,959 yards (41.7 yards per punt) in the 2019 regular season. Three of his punts went for at least 50 yards, with a season-long of 56 at Pitt on Sept. 7. He ranked second in the MAC in punts fair caught (20) and third in punts inside the opponent's 20-yard line (22).
HAIL TO THE KING
Redshirt senior Devin King is in his second season as starting long and short snapper after earning the job as a walk-on a year ago. He was added to the Patrick Mannelly Long Snapper Award Watch List midway through the season. King, a former heavyweight on the Ohio wrestling team, is a second lieutenant in the Ohio Army National Guard.
MANY HAPPY RETURNS
Redshirt senior kickoff returner DL Knock finished the regular season ranked fourth in the MAC with a career-high 635 kickoff return yards (eighth-most in program history) on a career-high 26 returns (fourth-most in MAC, tied ninth-most in program history), averaging a career-high 24.4 yards per return (fifth-most in MAC) and 52.9 yards per game. For his career, Knock has returned 36 kickoffs for 878 yards (24.4 yards per return, 20.0 yards per game) with a long of 100 yards for a touchdown.
WE'VE GOT IT COVERED
Ohio's kickoff return defense is ranked second in the MAC and sixth in the country, surrendering just 16.09 yards per return.
CROMER ERA BEGINS FOR OHIO ATHLETICS
The season opener against Rhode Island marked 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.
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 are serving as Ohio's five team captains in 2019.
Hagan is in 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.
SERIES HISTORY VS. NEVADA
The Bobcats will square off with Nevada for the first time in program history. The Famous Idaho Potato Bowl marks Ohio's second postseason matchup against a team out of the Mountain West Conference and second in a row. Ohio owns a 2-5 record against current members of the Mountain West, with both victories coming in bowl games, though the win over Utah State in the 2011 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl came when the Aggies were members of the Western Athletic Conference.
Jay Norvell is in his third season as the head coach of the Wolf Pack. Norvell was hired as the 26th head football coach in Nevada program history on Dec. 9, 2016. Nevada has gone 18-19 under his watch, including an 8-5 mark in 2018 that included a 16-13 come-from-behind overtime victory over Arkansas State in the NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl.
Nevada was predicted to finish third in the West Division in the Mountain West Preseason Poll. The Wolf Pack went on to win seven games in the 2019 regular season, including a 34-31 home victory over Big Ten Conference foe Purdue to open the regular season on Aug. 30. Nevada won three of its final four games but dropped the regular season finale to rival UNLV, 33-30, on Nov. 30 to finish with a 4-4 record in Mountain West play.
The Wolf Pack are ranked last among Mountain West teams in points scored (256) and second-to-last in points per game (21.3) and yards of total offense (4,319). Defensively, Nevada is giving up 32.1 points per game, which ranks as the third-most among Mountain West teams.
Six Nevada players earned Mountain West honors for the 2019 season, including sophomore defensive end Dom Peterson who was named first-team All-Mountain West. Freshman kicker Brandon Talton earned second-team honors, while senior defensive back Daniel Brown, sophomore wide receiver and punt returner Romeo Doubs, senior linebacker Gabriel Sewell and sophomore running back Toa Taua earned All-MW Honorable Mention accolades.
Taua leads Nevada with 759 rushing yards and is tied with sophomore running back Devonte Lee for the team lead with six rushing touchdowns.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Carson Strong has completed 63.4 percent of his passes (206-of-325) for 1,933 yards with 10 touchdown passes against seven interceptions. His top receiver is junior wide receiver Elijah Cooks, who leads Nevada in receptions (62), receiving yards (729) and touchdown receptions (7).
Defensively, sophomore defensive back Tyson Williams leads the squad with 77 total tackles (43 solo) and seven pass breakups. Peterson has compiled a team-high 13.5 tackles for loss and eight sacks. The Wolf Pack have picked off 11 passes, with Brown accounting for a team-high four.
Talton has knocked down 18 of his 22 field goal attempts with a long of 56 yards. Senior punter Quinton Conaway has punted 58 times for 2,482 yards (42.8 yards per punt) with a long of 67 yards. Ten of his punts have gone for at least 50 yards. He's placed 15 punts inside the opponent's 20-yard line.
BOBCATS IN THE NFL
As the NFL celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2019, the Bobcats are represented by three alumni in the league.
Cornerback T.J. Carrie (2010-13) is in his sixth year in the league and his second as a member of the Cleveland Browns. Outside linebacker Tarell Basham (2013-16) is in his third season in the NFL and his second as a member of the New York Jets. Linebacker Quentin Poling, who spent the 2018 season on the practice squad of the Miami Dolphins, was signed to the Oakland Raiders practice squad on Sept. 25 and was promoted to the active roster on Nov. 7 but was subsequently released on Dec. 4. Poling was signed to the Atlanta Falcons practice squad on Dec. 10.
Former quarterback Tyler Tettleton (2009-13) is completing his first season as the offensive quality control coach for the Cleveland Browns in 2019.
IRONS REPRESENTS OHIO IN GREY CUP
Former Ohio running back Maleek Irons (2014-18) represented Ohio in the Canadian Football League championship game on Nov. 24 as his Hamilton Tiger-Cats took on the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in the 107th Grey Cup. Hamilton ultimately fell to Winnipeg, 33-12. In his first season as a member of the Ti-Cats, Irons rushed for 208 yards and a touchdown in 11 games.
WELCOME TO OHIO
On Dec. 18, Ohio added 11 student-athletes for the 2020 season as part of Early National Signing Day. The Bobcats welcomed offensive lineman Joseph Habinowski (Hollywood, Fla./Chaminade-Madonna High School), quarterback CJ Harris (West Bloomfield, Mich./West Bloomfield High School), cornerback Peter Kemeni (Milton, Ontario, Canada/Clarkston North High School), linebacker Bryce Kitrell (Ashland, Neb./Ashland-Greenwood High School), offensive lineman Bryce McNair (Deerfield Beach, Fla. / Deerfield Beach High School), defensive tackle Dane Middlebrook (Indianapolis, Ind. / Brownsburg High School), cornerback Roman Parodie (Fort Lauderdale, Fla./Cardinal Gibbons High School), offensive lineman Shedrick Rhodes Jr. (McDonough, Ga./Eagles Landing Christian Academy), offensive lineman Wyatt Walton (Johnstown, Ohio/Johnstown-Monroe High School), wide receiver Keegan Wilburn (Nelsonville, Ohio/Nelsonville-York High School) and punter Jack Wilson (Lancefield, Victoria, Australia/ProKick Australia/Gisborne Secondary College).
Ohio is scheduled to open the 2020 season on Sept. 5 against North Carolina Central at Peden Stadium. The Bobcats will then visit Boston College on Sept. 12, host longtime rival Marshall in the Battle for the Bell on Sept. 19 and visit Texas State on Sept. 26.
Ohio recently learned its eight MAC opponents for the 2020 season. The Bobcats are set to play four conference home games at Peden Stadium and four conference contests on the road. Ohio will play host to MAC East Division rivals Akron, Bowling Green and Buffalo in addition to a contest against MAC West Division opponent Eastern Michigan. The Bobcats will visit two East Division rivals next year, with trips to Kent State and Miami on the docket. Ohio will travel to Central Michigan and Toledo for its two road games against West Division opponents.
The dates of Ohio's eight MAC games will be announced at a later date, as will kickoff times and broadcast information.