Ohio is entering territory that not many in the locker room are used to being in. Following a 2-1 2020 campaign and a forgettable 3-9 record in 2021, there aren’t too many people in the locker room who were there the last time the Bobcats reached nine wins back in 2018.
It’s uncharted waters for most of the Bobcats who now sit in position to control their own destiny and have the ability to decide whatever postseason story they want. Up until the 21-point beatdown against Buffalo this past Tuesday, Ohio was still the under-the-radar, an underdog story that was just trying to nip at the heels of whoever was atop the Mid-American Conference East division.
Now though, the ‘Cats are becoming the top dog. Their win put them in first place in the division and put a spotlight on them. They performed well when nobody was paying attention, we now have to see if they can handle the pressure of the bright lights.
While it may have been a brilliant move to bring someone in from a program that knows a thing-or-two about winning from an on-the-field standpoint, poaching Sam Wiglusz from Ohio State may end up being more of a benefit in the locker room.
It’s hard to win college football games, no matter the level or the opponent. Every win should be celebrated and no win should be taken for granted but now we’re trying to push the message to the younger guys that everything we could’ve wanted is still in front of us,” Wiglusz said to the Messenger on Thursday. “We used to say ‘If you don’t think a game is big, go ahead and lose it and see how big it is,’ every game is big now and we’ve just got to keep rolling.”
The grad transfer undoubtedly brings a calming effect into the team and the locker room. Talk is powerful but it needs to be backed up by results. Wiglusz has had more than enough results to warrant being a locker room leader, leading the team in catches (55), yards (710) and touchdowns (9) in his first nine games as a Bobcat.
He’s worked with the best in the business, so what he’s saying probably makes sense.
He was a great receiver himself and a great communicator of young men and does a great job getting his message across,” Wiglusz said of Brian Hartline, the seven-year NFL receiver and now wide receivers coach at Ohio State. “I learned a lot about route-running and understanding defenses, understanding offenses and I think that helped me gain a better feel for getting open, receiver play and all things like that.”
It’s still a long journey before Ohio can check off the goals they desperately wish to accomplish. The “one week at a time” mantra that Tim Albin has consistently used this year has never ringed truer. They’ve earned the opportunity for that to become a reality. They’re at a spot where if they focus on winning one week at a time, they’ll ultimately end up in Detroit if everything goes well.
This one week may mean more than the others though. Miami (OH) is next up on the schedule and would love to play spoiler to whatever dreams those in Athens might have. It’s the first time he’s been a part of the rivalry directly, but Wiglusz knows the importance of next Tuesday.
“Being from Ohio, you understand that there’s MAC schools all over the state and you understand that it’s a historic rivalry so I’m coming into the first day of Miami prep and you can understand that it’s different than any other week,” Wiglusz admitted. “It’s also just another step so we have to lock in and focus because it is a huge game but so is every single one as you get into November.”
There’s still work to be done, but leaders like Wiglusz are here to set a calming influence as the Bobcats dream of postseason success.