In case you were wondering what Ohio’s beleaguered defense might look like against a ‘good’ offense, the unsightly answer came Thursday night.
The University of Louisiana crushed the Bobcats in the second half, and hammered Ohio 49-14 in a primetime matchup at Cajun Field in Lafayette. The Ragin’ Cajuns (2-1) finished with 562 yards and pillaged the ‘Cats’ front seven for 312 rushing yards.
“We’ve won a lot of games over the years stopping teams from running the ball, running the ball well ourselves, and not beating ourselves,” said Ohio head coach Tim Albin in a postgame radio interview. “We’re not doing any of it right now.”
Freshman RB Montrell Johnson rushed for 84 yards, and pounded out four touchdown runs for the Cajuns. Another freshman RB, Emani Bailey, added 89 rushing yards. QB Levi Lewis finished 21 of 29 for 212 yards with a TD and an interception.
That interception was one of the few highlights for Ohio (0-3), which is winless after three games for the first time since 2008. The turnover was the first created by the Bobcats this year, and went to safety Alvin Floyd in the third quarter.
But it was a spark that never ignited any kind of fire. Ohio trailed 28-14 late in the third quarter — and then totaled just 16 yards on its final 11 offensive snaps. Louisiana finished off the blowout with three easy-looking touchdown drives in the fourth.
“In the fourth quarter we were wore out,” Albin said.
Ohio finished with just 250 total yards, and only nine on the ground in the second half. QB Kurtis Rourke hit 12 of 22 passes for 122 yards and two touchdowns, and QB Armani Rogers saw his reps increase as OU used plenty of two quarterback alignments. Rogers notched a team-high 58 rushing yards.
WR Ty Walton had five grabs for 50 yards and a touchdown, while RB O’Shaan Allison added 48 rushing yards with a touchdown reception.
“We just have to find a way to come together as a team and capitalize,” Walton said
The Bobcats trailed 21-7 at the half, and entered the break on a down note. The Cajuns scored on the final play of the half as Johnson took a pitch right, pinwheeled off a defender and stuck the ball across the goal line for a 1-yard score.
“Huge momentum killer,” Albin said.
The Cajuns had time to drive it 64 yards on the possession after Ohio threw quick incompletions after taking control of the ball with 1:35 left. Louisiana had it back with 1:14 left.
The Cajuns looked like they’d throttle the Bobcats early and sliced through the defense for touchdown drives of 91 and 80 yards on their first two possessions. Louisiana only needed two third down conversions, combined, on its way to staking a 14-0 lead. Johnson scored his first TD, with 14:19 left in the half, on a 6-yard run by dragging tacklers in his wake.
Ohio busted out more from its two-quarterback offense — with Rourke and Rogers on the field at the same time — to get back into it. Rogers ripped off a series of strong runs, then started a double-pass gimmick play — with Rourke throwing a 25-yard touchdown to Allison to cut it to 14-78 with 5:08 left in the second quarter.
Lewis lofted a 2-yard touchdown on a fade to cap the Cajun’s first drive. Ohio appeared ready to match, but stalled inside the UL 10-yard line. Ohio went for it on fourth and short, but was called for a false start. Albin then settled for a 31-yard field goal, but Stephen Johnson was wide right for his fourth missed kick in three games.
Louisiana opened the second half with a 68-yard scoring march, driven by gaping holes and easy yardage on the ground. Johnson found pay dirt on fourth-and-one for a 28-7 lead with 10:07 left in the third quarter.
Ohio tried to answer on the next series, but Rourke’s option pitch went off the hands of De’Montre Tuggle deep in Cajun territory. It was the Bobcats’ second trip inside the five-yard line that failed to result in any points.
“If you get 14 (points) right there, it’s a different ballgame,” Albin said.
Ohio turned Floyd’s interception into Rourke’s 21-yard touchdown strike to Walton late in the third, but didn’t manage a first down the rest of the way. Johnson added another fourth-and-goal touchdown from the one, Chris Johnson scored on a nine-yard run, and the Cajuns tacked on another score via a pass with just 48 seconds remaining.
All the usual culprits were evident for Ohio throughout. There were the golden scoring opportunities that came up short. More missed kicks. A defense that seems incapable of even slowing down an opponent’s running game.
It was more of the same for OU in this most dismal of season starts. And with a trip to Northwestern on tap for next week, it’s hard to envision relief in the immediate future.
Ohio played without four starters on the offensive side as OGs Kurt Danneker (injury) and Hagen Meservy (off the field issue) and wide receivers Isiah Cox (off the field issue) and Jerome Buckner (injury) did not play. During the game, OG Brody Rogers — starting with Dannker and Meservy out — left and did not return after suffering a knee injury.
Ohio also played without starting safety Jarren Hampton. There was no reason offered for his absence.
It all adds up to a most odious stew for Albin, who was thrust into the head coaches’ role just six weeks before the season. He said he saw some strides made from Ohio on Thursday night, despite the 35-point differential.
“We had chances to crank it up and make it a game and didn’t get it done,” he said. “When we were playing our game and able to mix it up…we were able to do some things.”