Game 2 Preview: Put up Your Dukes

Ohio TE Ryan Luehrman (left) and OL Jay Amburgey (53) square up for a block in the Bobcats’s season opener on Sept. 4, 2021. Photo by Jason Arkley

Tim Albin said the right things, and it’s not like it hasn’t happened before in Athens, but don’t expect a shocking upset on Saturday when the Bobcats (0-1) host FCS opponent Duquesne (0-1) at Peden Stadium in a 2 p.m. start. 

The Dukes, who will be playing just their fifth game against a FBS foe since the program elevated to FCS in 1993, were throttled in their opener — a 45-3 loss at TCU. Duquesne had half a dozen players leave the game in the first half with injuries, had the second-half shortened because of a 35-0 halftime score, and managed just 137 total yards. 

No, there won’t be a repeat of 2002 when Ohio last lost to an FCS opponent in a shocking 31-0 setback to Northeastern. But there’s no chance Albin, who will pick up his first win as an FBS head coach, was going to be anything but cautious.

“One at a time. We’re approaching it just like it’s an ACC team,” he said Monday. “We’ll see what happens. 

“Our mindset is to play our best this week. We will be challenged and we’ll have to play our best game.”

Pretty boilerplate, right? And that was after a weekend in which six FCS programs collected upsets over FBS opponents in ‘buy’ games around the country.

The Dukes’ best chance to pull the upset likely left the field in the first half in the opener. QB Joe Mischler, the Ohio backup in 2019, was injured in the first quarter against the Horned Frogs after going 0-for-3 pasing with an interception. Backup Darius Perrantes, a Rhode Island transfer slated to make his first start with the Dukes at Ohio, was 3-for-9 for 76 yards against TCU.

Mischler was one of the best quarterbacks in the country during Duquesne’s abbreviated five-game schedule in the spring; he finished fifth in FCS with a 159.3 passing efficiency rating. And while his experience and insight with the Ohio program can still pay dividends on Saturday — and Ohio will change things up just in case — the Dukes will miss his on-the-field talents more. 

It should be a get-well week for the Bobcats, who were game but didn’t finish drives in a 29-9 loss in the opener against Syracuse. Ohio also gave up an unsightly 283 rushing yards; Duquesne had 61 at TCU.

Shoring up that front seven, revving up the ground game, and gaining more game reps for quarterback Kurtis Rourke (21/28, 142 yards, INT) will be a primary focus for Ohio. Stretching out the depth will also likely take place as OU has breezed by FCS games since the Frank Solich era began in 2005.

Since 2005, Ohio is 14-0 against FCS teams. Only one (38-32 over Howard, 2018) has been decided by less than 15 points. 

RBs De’Montre Tuggle (16 carries, 66 yards) and O’Shaan Allison (9-43) were solid in the opener, but lacked any explosive gains on the ground. WR Jerome Buckner (7-102) had a career day, but Ohio was held out of the end zone for just the 10th time in the last 17 seasons. 

Albin will be looking for sharpness, effort, and an easy time on the scoreboard. With a tough stretch coming up — at Louisiana next Thursday, at Northwestern, and at Akron in the MAC opener — it figures to be the only breather in a while. 

“It’s a week where we can get better,” Albin said. “You’re supposed to make your biggest improvement between Week 1 and Week 2. Well, we’re here. Let’s do it.”

Bobcat bits

  • Duquesne head coach Jerry Schmitt is in his 17th season with the Dukes and has 130 career wins
  • The Dukes have won five Northeast Conference titles in the last decade
  • WR Cam Odom needs just 14 receiving yards to hit 1,000 for his career. He logged his first career pass completion in the opener
  • RB O’Shaan Allison is at 993 rushing yards and should be a lock to break the 1,000-yard mark on Saturday
  • Safeties Alvin Floyd and Jarren Hampton led Ohio with 10 tackles apiece in the opener
  • Ohio’s last FCS game came in 2019 with a 41-20 win over Rhode Island

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