Miami looks to slow Ohio offense ‘scoring points in bunches’

Ohio University football coach Tim Albin respects the ability of Miami’s defense to stop opponents’ running games.

“They are stopping the run, making teams one dimensional,” the second-year Bobcats coach said last Thursday. “The quarterback is back there in the pocket and their front seven are able to put pressure and cause some mistakes. Nothing against their offense, but they’re in every game based on what they’re getting done defensively. That’s a fact.”

The RedHawks lead the Mid-American Conference in rushing defense, allowing an average of 107.8 rushing yards per game, and scoring defense, allowing an average of 21.4 points per game. They are second in total defense, yielding an average of 348.0 yards per game, and third in the conference with 23 sacks and seven interceptions, but they rank only seventh in the 12-team conference in passing defense, allowing an average of 240.2 yards per game through the air.

That could play right in Ohio’s hands when the two teams meet on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. at Miami’s Yager Stadium in the annual “Battle of the Bricks” rivalry game.

Ohio is 6-3 overall and 4-1 in the MAC East Division. Since losing their MAC opener at Kent State, 31-24, the Bobcats have won four straight games, including a 45-24 win over Buffalo that put them in the driver’s seat for the division championship. The two teams are tied with Bowling Green for first place in the division, but Ohio owns the head-to-head tiebreaker against Buffalo and is scheduled to play Bowling Green in Athens in the regular-season finale on Nov. 22.

Quarterback Kurtis Rourke was named the MAC East Offensive Player of the Week after throwing for 317 yards and five touchdowns against the Bills. The 6-foot-5, 216-pound Rourke leads the conference with 2,725 passing yards and 21 touchdown throws. He is completing 68.5 percent of his passes.

The Bobcats lead the MAC in total offense with an average of 431.8 yards per game.

“They are really, really, really, really good offensively,” Miami coach Chuck Martin said, even before Ohio’s win over Buffalo. “They’re scoring points in bunches. They are insanely efficient throwing the ball. They have two very capable backs.

“Their quarterback is a lot of Akron’s quarterback. He’s a tall, straight-line runner.”

Miami’s offense faces a sturdy challenge in an Ohio defense led by 6-foot, 230-pound redshirt-senior linebacker Keye Thompson, who was named the MAC East Defensive Player of the Week after piling up 11 tackles, including three solo stops, and recovering a fumble against the Bills.

“Their defense after the Kent State game has shown significant improvement,” Martin said. “They bring pursuit and make you block movement.”

Ohio defensive coordinator Spence Nowinsky and safeties coach John Hauser worked under Martin at Miami. Nowinsky served as Miami’s co-defensive coordinator/linebackers coach with the RedHawks from 2018 through 2020 and Hauser was with the RedHawks from 2014 through 2020. He coached cornerbacks all eight years with the RedHawks and was the co-defensive coordinator his last six years with the RedHawks.

Miami is 4-5 overall and 2-3 in the conference after snapping a two-game losing streak with a 27-9 win at Akron on Oct. 29. The RedHawks can qualify for a bowl game with at least two wins in their last three games. After Ohio, they are scheduled to play at Northern Illinois on Nov. 16 before facing Ball State on Nov. 22 in Oxford.

Martin was hoping to use the nine days between games to kickstart a Miami offense that ranks last in the conference in total offense.

“The extra time will give us time to put some extra stuff in,” he said.

TODAY’S GAME

Ohio at Miami, 7:30 p.m., ESPN2, 980, 1450

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