On target

Ohio senior kicker Louie Zervos (2), seen here on Aug. 31, 2019, was named the MAC East Division Special Teams Player of the Week on Monday, Sept. 23, 2019.

Note: This story appears in the Tuesday, Sept. 24 newspaper on Page A6.

Sometimes there’s a debate about if hitting a bye week is a good thing, or not, for a given football team.

Consider the Bobcats firmly in ‘We need this’ camp.

Ohio (1-3) will have a full bye week over the next seven days. The Bobcats will have a trio of mid-week practices on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, but other than that will have five days to rest and recover after a non-conference slate that has left the preseason MAC favorites wobbling.

“The off week is coming at a good time for us,” Ohio head coach Frank Solich said Monday, during the Mid-American Conference coaches weekly teleconference.

“We could’ve used it last week, but we’ll take it this week.”

OU isn’t worried about any breaks in momentum. The Bobcats haven’t yet put together a full game against FBS competition this season, and Saturday’s 45-25 loss to Louisiana inside Peden Stadium was another good illustration of that problem.

The Bobcats’ offense didn’t create pressure early on, found a groove in the third quarter, then fell under three straight turnovers in the fourth. The defense was stout in the first half, but caved under the Ragin’ Cajuns’ ground game in the second.

“We’ve shown we can put up a quarter or two of good offensive football, and a quarter or two of good defensive football, but they don’t seem to be matching up,” Solich explained.

“We’ve yet to play four quarters of good football.”

Ohio could also use the extra time to get healthy. The Bobcats played Saturday without their top two running backs, and the third running back — De’Montre Tuggle — didn’t get a single touch in the second half.

Also out was starting center Steve Hayes, and two flankers — Tyler Tupa and Camerom Odom — had just returned to the field after injury absences.

Defensively, OU had two defensive tackles — starter Brian Arp and backup Kai Casear — leave the game on Saturday with injury.

Solich said Monday the toll of playing Pitt (2-2), Marshall (2-1) and Louisiana (3-1) in consecutive weeks was steep. All three were what Solich referred to as “physical, aggressive and run-heavy” teams. And all three are expected to be bowl eligible, and/or contenders for their league titles this season.

For instance, Pitt took nationally ranked Penn State to the wire in week 3, and then won on the road at nationally ranked UCF last week. Marshall had a bye last week, but was the preseason pick to win its side of Conference USA. Louisiana, meanwhile, was the preseason pick to win its side of the Sun Belt.

At 1-3, Ohio is not where it wanted or expected to be after a month of the 2019 season. The good news is that OU’s hopes in the MAC race have yet to be damaged. In the East Division, only Kent State (2-2, 1-0) has a MAC win yet, and the Bobcats will get two full weeks to prep for an Oct. 5 game at Buffalo.

The trip to UB, for a 3:30 p.m. start, could be Ohio’s hardest road game in conference play.

“Obviously, this is not the start of the season they wanted in terms of going through non-conference play,” Solich said on Saturday. “We need to pick it up from here.”

Zervos lands MAC award

Ohio fifth-year senior placekicker Louie Zervos was named the MAC East Division Special Teams Player of the Week on Monday by the conference office.

It was Zervos’ first nod of the season from the MAC, and the third in four weeks for Ohio. Junior LB Jared Dorsa was named the Defensive PotW after week one, and senior QB Nathan Rourke was tabbed the Offensive PotW after week three.

Zervos scored seven points in Ohio’s 45-25 loss to visiting Louisiana on Saturday. Zervos matched his season-long with a 48-yard field goal in the second quarter, then broke that mark with a 49-yard field goal later in the quarter.

For his career, Zervos now stands at 63 made field goals (second most in program history) and 364 career points (second most in program history). Zervos has made 83 consecutive extra point attempts.

Around the MAC

The conference landed two notable non-conference wins over the weekend. Buffalo, a two-touchdown underdog, stunned visiting Temple, 38-22. And Toledo, a touchdown favorite, held on for a 41-35 win at Colorado State.

With just a couple of non-conference games remaining, it appears that 2019 will go down as one of the MAC’s weakest against other FBS competition. The league will finish a perfect 11-0 against FCS programs, after EMU escaped with a blocked punt for a last-play win against Central Connecticut State, this season. But, the MAC is now a combined 5-26 against FBS opponents in non-conference play.

The MAC had just eight FBS wins in 2018, and is on track for a sharp decline since notching 14 such wins in 2017.

The league is just 1-18 this season in matchups against teams from Power 5 conferences (Big Ten, SEC, Pac-12, Big XII and ACC), and improved to 4-8 against teams from the Group of 5 conference (C-USA, AAC, Mountain West, Sun Belt).

2019 MAC Football

East Division

TEAM MAC Overall

Kent St. 1-0 2-2

Buffalo 0-0 2-2

Miami 0-0 1-3

Ohio 0-0 1-3

Bowling Green 0-1 1-3

Akron 0-1 0-4

West Division

TEAM MAC Overall

Central Mich. 1-0 2-2

Eastern Mich. 0-0 3-1

Toledo 0-0 2-1

Western Mich. 0-0 2-2

Northern Ill. 0-0 1-2

Ball St. 0-0 1-3

Email at jarkley@athensmessenger.com; follow on Twitter @JasonAmessenger

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