What a season it was for the Ohio Bobcats. And if this year was impressive, the future looks just as bright.
Now we understand things can change quickly in college football. Players can exit for the transfer portal and change the dynamics of a team. Yet, assuming that the major players remain with the program, the Bobcats have a lot to be excited about.
First off, after a 3-9 season in Tim Albin’s first year as head coach in 2021, Ohio went 10-4 this season. The Bobcats advanced to the Mid-American Conference championship before losing to Toledo 17-7. Then, like many G5 teams that take the bowls seriously, Ohio beat Wyoming 30-27 in overtime in a classic Arizona Bowl. This was a game that Wyoming obviously took seriously as well.
Let’s just look at the major contributors to the bowl win.
The MVP was redshirt freshman running back Sieth Bangura, who rushed for 138 yards and one touchdown. For the season, he rushed for 1,078 yards (4.9 avg.) and 13 touchdowns. That was the most rushing yards by a freshman in the program’s history.
Redshirt sophomore CJ Harris completed 20 of 33 for 184 yards, two touchdowns, and no interceptions. Remember, Harris was replacing redshirt junior Kurtis Rourke, who suffered a season-ending knee injury against Ball State on Nov. 15. Rourke threw for 3,256 yards and 25 touchdowns. For the season, Harris completed 53.3% of his passes for 577 yards, three touchdowns, and one interception in 97 pass attempts. He also rushed for 168 yards (4.5 avg.) and three touchdowns.
Junior Jacoby Jones had three receptions for 44 yards and a touchdown. He was the Bobcats’ second-leading receiver this season with 45 receptions for 776 yards and six touchdowns.
Another top player in the bowl game was redshirt cornerback Torrie Cox Jr., who had two tackles and the game’s lone interception. He finished the season with 52 tackles, three interceptions, and six pass breakups.
The winning touchdown in overtime came on a 10-yard pass from Harris to 6-5, 247-pound redshirt junior tight end Tyler Foster, his lone reception of the game. This season, Foster made the most of his catches. He had 13 receptions for 185 yards and four touchdowns.
On defense, redshirt junior linebacker Cannon Blauser had a team-high seven tackles, including five solo stops. For the season, he appeared in all 14 games and had 33 tackles.
These are just some of the key players with eligibility returning.
No doubt the expectations will be high next season and the goal will be nothing short of a MAC championship.
The MAC has held a championship game since 1997. Ohio has appeared in the final five times (all since 2016). The other four appearances came under Frank Solich, who went 115-82 in 16 years at Ohio after going 58-19 in six years at Nebraska.
Solich set a high standard at Ohio and now Albin, after that difficult first season, has the program in the right direction. Actually, the Bobcats were fairly competitive in 2021, losing three games by three points or fewer and another by a touchdown.
While the team took its lumps in Albin’s first year, the Bobcats made great progress this season and now the expectations will be justifiably high for the 2023 campaign.