Ohio University football road trips usually mean Kurt Laseak and Dorian Brown are on short sleep, sore from getting banged around on the field and mentally drained because they are balancing athletics and academics.

Ohio University football road trips usually mean Kurt Laseak and Dorian Brown are on short sleep, sore from getting banged around on the field and mentally drained because they are balancing athletics and academics.

With Laseak having graduated and Brown on semester break, their luggage was appreciably lighter without textbooks, notepads, calculators and other study aids when the Bobcats left for the Dollar General Bowl in Mobile, Alabama.

Ohio (8-5) will play Troy (9-3) tonight in Ladd-Peebles Stadium.

"It actually feels like training camp in August with no school involved,'' Brown said. "It's a relief.''

Laseak seconded that thought.

"It's a relief, and I'm loving this,'' he said. "During the season you never get any time to relax.''

The Bobcats wouldn't have earned a share of the Mid-American Conference East Division championship without Laseak and Brown. Laseak, a senior defensive end from Mentor, has started 39 of 51 games in his career. Brown, a junior tailback from Pittsburgh, leads the team in rushing with 802 yards.

Neither is just a football player. They and 12 teammates made the MAC all-academic team for having 3.2 grade-point averages and playing in at least 50 percent of their team's games.

Laseak, who had a 3.75 GPA in mechanical engineering, was honored for the fourth straight year. Brown made it for the third straight year for having a 3.51 GPA in specialized studies.

"It takes motivation to balance school and football, especially in the fall,'' Brown said. "Sometimes you go to bed at 4 o'clock in the morning after a road game and then get up for class at 9 a.m. The professors know what I'm trying to do and are understanding. Sometimes you are just fighting to stay awake.''

It's standard for players to participate in seven-on-seven football without coaching supervision during the summer. Brown also took an online course through MIT.

"I want to be a software engineer and a computer programmer,'' he said. "This is important to me. I want to become the first from my family to participate in athletics and graduate from college.''

Ohio's nationally acclaimed engineering school helped lure Laseak to sign a national letter of intent for football.

"Mechanical engineering with a business minor is not easy,'' Laseak said. "It's all about time management. It doesn't end until I go to bed. Then you get up and do it all over again. Your body is hurting and you are tired. It can be miserable, but you have goals and you go after them. There are a couple hours free time in the hotel, so you do what you can do academically.''

The Bobcats are seeking their first bowl victory since 2012 over Louisiana-Lafayette in the Independence Bowl.

"That would mean everything to me,'' Laseak said. "I was a freshman and didn't play in the last bowl win.''

mznidar@dispatch.com

@markznidar