Bobcats ramp up their passing game

Brian Hofmann The Columbus Dispatch
Among Isiah Cox's three receptions for Ohio last week against Northern Illinois were a 56-yarder for a touchdown and a 70-yarder. [Abigail Dean/Ohio Athletics]

Bowling Green at Ohio

2 P.M., ATHENS

Favorite: Ohio by 16

Records: Bowling Green 1-6, 0-3 MAC East; Ohio 3-3, 1-1 MAC East

Series: Falcons lead 40-27-2

Last meeting: Ohio won 48-30 last season in Bowling Green.

Ohio keeps adding weapons to a passing game that is already the most efficient in the Mid-American Conference.

The Bobcats are directed offensively by junior quarterback Nathan Rourke, a two-time MAC player of the week who has 1,300 yards and nine touchdowns passing this season. And they feature three receivers who have caught at least 15 passes: senior Papi White (33 catches, 90.0 yards per game), sophomore Cameron Odom (20 catches, 54.3 yards) and senior Andrew Meyer (16 catches, 33.8 yards).

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“We’ve got the best receivers that we’ve had in our program as a group since I’ve been here,” said coach Frank Solich, in his 14th season.

Now a new name is emerging in that receivers group: freshman Isiah Cox, who, despite having caught just five passes all season, has two touchdowns. Last week in a loss to Northern Illinois, he led the Bobcats with 147 yards on three receptions, including a 56-yard touchdown catch and a 70-yard catch.

“We’ve been continuing to bring him along as we’ve gone through the season,” Solich said of Cox. “He has got the ability to play as a true wideout, but he also has the ability to play in the slot. We can use him a lot of different ways.”

Although Ohio leads the MAC in pass efficiency with a rating of 157.0, Solich wants to see more out of his running game, starting Saturday against Bowling Green. The Bobcats average 177.5 yards rushing, compared with 255.5 passing.

Ohio will get to test out any changes on offense against a team in turmoil. Last Sunday, a day after a loss to Western Michigan dropped Bowling Green to 1-6, coach Mike Jinks was fired in the middle of his third season and replaced on an interim basis by defensive coordinator Carl Pelini.

Pelini is a familiar face on the state football scene as a Youngstown native who, before joining Bowling Green this season, was an assistant for his younger brother, Bo, at Youngstown State. He is a former head coach, going 3-10 in parts of two seasons at Florida Atlantic, and he even was a part of Solich’s first staff at Ohio, serving there from 2005 to ’07.

Pelini said he will pull from his entire coaching experience in attempting to right the Falcons’ ship.

“(I am) going to lean on my experience as a coach in 20-plus years in the college game,” he said. “I’ve worked with some great guys, Frank Solich being one of them. It’s interesting that that’s the first game we have.”

After this week, Ohio gets heavily involved in the MAC’s schedule of midweek television games — Bowling Green is its final Saturday game — including a stretch of three games in 13 days.

Buffalo at Toledo

NOON, TOLEDO

Buffalo (6-1, 3-0 MAC East) is rolling through the MAC, but a visit to Toledo (3-3, 1-1 MAC West) is a rare challenge for the Bulls. The last time it happened was in 2013, when Toledo won 51-41.

Cincinnati at Temple

NOON, PHILADELPHIA

The Bearcats (6-0, 2-0 American Athletic Conference East) are solidly in the national rankings at No. 20, but there are three undefeated teams in their division alone — and that doesn't even include the Owls (4-3, 3-0), who have yet to be knocked off in conference play.

Ohio Wesleyan at Denison

1 P.M., GRANVILLE

Stopping the Big Red (4-2, 4-1 North Coast Athletic Conference) on offense may not help the Battling Bishops (2-4, 2-3) much. Denison punter Calvin Montgomery was so good last week in a win over DePauw, with a 45.2-yard average on five attempts, that he was named to the D3Football.com team of the week.

bhofmann@dispatch.com

@BrianHofmann

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