The Bobcats’ second scrimmage of fall camp, held Saturday inside Peden Stadium, wasn’t as sunny and well-oiled as the first.
There were seemingly a few more missed assignments, lack of focus penalties and the type of mistakes — most on the offensive side — that drive coaches a little nuts.
I gave an outline of the scrimmage for print, and that touches all the major points of the two-hour practice.
With just two weeks left until the season opener, however, Frank Solich and his staff are faced with a decision. Do they find a way to field another scrimmage-heavy practice to iron out some kinks and develop the young part of the roster? Do they try to dial back the on-field work to ensure fresh legs for the opener? Do they split the difference and try to accomplish both?
For what it’s worth, I didn’t think the showing from the offense was as terrible as Solich felt it was immediately afterward. Sure, the opening 18 plays were pretty dismal, but Nathan Rourke never got a chance to find his rhythm and the offense was running specific concepts and not concerned with ‘winning’ necessarily.
There were some positive signs too, which I list below. And most encouraging was the showing from the defense, which didn’t give up a ton — just one touchdown on 75 plays — despite not using the bulk of its starting 11.
Here’s a breakdown of what happened in the scrimmage, in five separate parts. Keep in mind all stats are unofficial. Two additional plays were wiped out by penalty. Big piles made finding tackles on a handful of plays impossible.
1) The stats
Passing — 23-32-1 interception, 297 yards, 1 touchdown
Rushing — 40-60 yards (net)
Nathan Rourke — 5 of 9, 1 interception, 87 yards; 2 rushes, negative-6 yards
Kurtis Rourke — 8-8-0, 1 TD, 82 yards; 7-(-36) rushing
Joe Mischler — 10-15-0, 128 yards; 2-(-2) rushing
Ja’Vahri Portis — 8 rushes, 38 yards
Jonathan Barna — 11-33; 3 catches, 17 yards
De’Montre Tuggle — 5-25
Julian Ross — 2-7, 1-56
O’Shaan Allison — 1-1, 1-6
Wide Receivers/Tight ends
D.J. Knock — 2 receptions, 50 yards, 1 TD (2 targets)
K.J. Minter — 2-47 (3)
Anthony Whitney — 2-22 (2)
Ty Walton — 2-21 (4)
Alec Burton — 2-15 (2)
Tanner Alton — 2-12 (2)
Jerome Buckner — 1-11 (4)
Chase Coakley — 1-11 (2)
Tyler Tupa — 1-9 (1)
Ryan Luehrman — 1-7 (1)
Casey Clanton — 1-6 (1)
Cam Odom — 1-4 (1)
Cannon Blauser — 5
Keye Thompson — 4
Michael Ballentine, Chukwudi Chukwu, Isaac Gill, Jeremiah Wood, Ben Johnson, Justin Birchette and Dezman Cooper — 3 apiece
Tackles for Loss (excluding sacks)
DE Sam McKnight, DT Marcus Coleman, DE Vonnie Watkins — 1 each
LB Jack McCrory, LB Keye Thompson, DE Amos Ogun-Semore — 1 each
DT Brian Arp and DE Dezman Cooper — 0.5 each
CB Tariq Drake — 1
LB Austin Clack (forced), DE Sam McKnight (deflected pitch)
2) The out list
Injuries during the scrimmage included what looked to be relative minor lower leg tweaks for WR K.J. Minter and DE Bryce Dugan, and a potentially more serious leg injury for LB Griffin Hites.
As for those held out, those lists are below.
WRs Shane Hooks and Bingo Long; RB Jake Neatherton; TE Luke Ewald; OLs Kurt Danneker and Samson Jackson
DE Amir Miller; LBs Jared Dorsa, Eric Popp and Dylan Conner; CBs Marlin Brooks, Ilyaas and Xavier Motley; S Javon Hagan and Jarren Hampton.
3) Special Teams
There were some live speed kick-offs and punts, but no live tackling on returns. All of those special teams plays came during scripted sequences between blocks of scrimmage plays.
Senior PK Louie Zervos successfully kicked one field goal during the scrimmage portions — a 25-yarder — and both Zervos and freshman walk-on Tristian Vandenberg had a series of kicks at the end of the scrimmage. Zervos made attempts of 20, 37, 40, 44 and 50 yards, with a lone miss coming from 44 yards out. Vandenberg connected from 20 and 37 yards, missed his 44 yarder, but then converted from both 44 and 50 yards.
Ohio should be again be more than a viable threat to score on field goals inside a 50-yard range.
4) Offensive standouts
— Some days you just don’t have it, and that appeared to be the case with the offense on Saturday. The energy level was a touch lower than ideal, and the mental focus wasn’t there. Nathan Rourke had a bad series of plays in his first set of 10 plays, and his interception was simply a throw that sailed on him. The offensive penalties (five), the trio of bad snaps and the inability to account for a couple of pressures were the things that had Solich grumbling afterward.
— QB Kurtis Rourke was sharp when throwing the ball, but there were times when he looked like a freshman as well. His late option pitch nearly resulted in a turnover. He missed an oncoming blitz early on. When kept clean, and in rhythm, he delivered the ball on time and on target, however.
— QB Joe Mischler had a strong ay as well and helped give the offense a bit of a spark after an awful first 18 plays. He had a good deep ball to D.L. Knock, and was the best of the three QBs in hitting the check-down or ‘safe’ option quickly.
— Ohio didn’t go deep into the run game on Saturday. Julian Ross got some reps, and Tim Albin elected portion out only two touches for O’Shaan Allison — so far the No. 1 back in camp. Ross showed off his still present jets for a 56-yard gain on a short catch and run.
— De’Montre Tuggle and Ja’Varhi Portis did decent work on limited chances between the tackles. It was walk-on Jonathan Barna, just cleared for full contact, that had the most work out of the group. Jake Neatherton remains barred from contact because of an unspecified injury.
— WR Jerome Buckner got his first live reps of camp, and was targeted four times — all by Nathan Rourke. Ty Walton, very much is the some mold as Buckner in terms of size, speed and quickness, also got four targets.
— WR K.J. Minter, in my opinion, has had a good camp and only helped his cause with a pair of short catches that he turned into moderate to big plays.
— Starting center Steven Hayes, who missed most of the week with an ankle injury, returned for some first team reps on Saturday. Backup center Nick Sink struggled with a couple snaps in the scrimmage, the first real issue there he’s had this month. With Samson Jackson out on Saturday, it was Gary Hoover who filled in as the second team left tackle.
— Schematically, Ohio targeted running backs and tight ends nine times on Saturday…and recorded nine receptions. The emphasis on taking sure, short, catches remains in effect.
5) Defensive standouts
— Once again, Ohio didn’t play its starting safeties or starting linebackers during the live-tackling portion of the practice. In addition, three of the top four cornerbacks were held out as well. And the fourth — Jamal Hudson — had limited work.
— LB Keye Thompson — who plays the weak side — had a good day with four tackles and a sack. Like Bryce Houston, who shined last week, Thompson has the makings of being another difference-maker at the position. You can expect both to play some in 2019.
— Freshman LB Cannon Blauser, who enrolled in January and plays the middle, had a team-high five tackles. He’s starting to play ‘faster’ and his natural instincts are starting to show. LB is a deep position for Ohio, so playing time may be tough to find, but the early signs are good for him.
— DE Sam McKnight was a tough handle for the second unit (and on down) for the offensive line. He had a tackle for loss, another QB pressure, and tipped the option pitch from Kurtis Rourke for a near turnover.
— DE Dezman Cooper, another freshman, wasn’t part of the announced signing class for 2019 but was added later. Not sure if he’s on scholarship but he’s looked the part in camp.
— Isaac Gill and Michael Ballentine, walk-on safeties, bot found themselves involved in lots of plays. Both had three stops each, and Gill had a clean pass break-up.
— I didn’t think the defensive tackles were as effective on Saturday as a week ago. Brian Arp played, and was effective, but the trio of Kaieem Casear, Marcus Coleman and Zach Burks were relatively quiet.