Ohio appeared to check every box vs the Rhode Island Rams in a 41-20 win. It moved Frank Solich to 14-0 vs FCS opponents, and Solich is now 10-5 in season openers. The Bobcats were in control from start to finish, and it's hard to find things to be upset about. Of course Ohio made some silly mistakes on special teams, but that's something that Solich and the Ohio staff have corrected time and time again.
It's interesting, and important, to take a deeper look at the Bobcats performance as they move into their toughest 3-game stretch of the season. Starting with a visit to Heinz Field to battle ACC representative Pittsburgh and coach Pat Narduzzi.
The folks who take that deeper look? Pro Football Focus. Here's how they saw Ohio's performance on Saturday.
Top 5 graded Bobcats
First, PFF looked at which Bobcats performed best on Saturday. The grades are on a scale of 0-100.
1. QB - Nathan Rourke - 92.4
Rourke making his way to the top of this list should be no surprise. Rourke had his first fully healthy offseason, and it shows. The ball is zipping out of his hands like never before and he appears faster than he's ever been. Rourke was a brilliant 16/22 188 yards 2TD while adding 75 yards on the ground on just 10 carries. This is good news for Rourke, who has his eyes on a MAC Championship, and the NFL.
2. WR - Tyler Tupa - 78.0
Tyler Tupa was the first name mentioned by veteran DL Knock as a potential breakout candidate at receiver. He is one of the more respected guys in the Bobcats receiver room. His father is former NFL punter Tom Tupa, and Tyler has showcased an incredible amount of resiliency in his career at Ohio, battling injury after injury. He is a frontrunner to fill the Andrew Meyer role in this offense, a reliable third-down target and security blanket for Rourke.
3. DT - Cole Baker - 76.1
Cole Baker might be the most important player on the defensive front for Ohio. If he can have an impact season he'll solidify the Bobcats run defense and help unlock the potential of the secondary. Baker recorded 1.5 sacks and 1.5 tackles for loss, and was the best defensive lineman for Ohio, according to Pro Football Focus.
4. WR - Isiah Cox - 75.6
Although his box score wasn't impressive, just 3 catches for 26 yards, Isiah Cox had a solid day in his time at wideout. Just a sophomore, Cox is battling for playing time in a crowded receiver room, and performances like Saturday will only help his case.
5. CB - Marlin Brooks - 75.3
Often cited as the most energetic guy on the team, Marlin Brooks turned that energy into production against Rhode Island. Brooks had the lone takeaway for Ohio's defense when he snagged an interception guarding deadly receiver Aaron Parker late in the game Saturday. Parker was targeted on a fade, and Brooks read it the whole way. Brooks leads a cornerback room that is highly athletic and has tons of potential. Ensuring the potential is realized will be reliant on the energetic Brooks' performance this season.
Next, PFF looked at the specific position groups for Ohio and how they performed.
Skill Positions (QB, WR, RB, TE) - 76.7
The performance of Rourke and his array of receiving and running weapons led the skill positions to the highest grade of any position group. This is a major positive considering the amount Ohio lost at these positions from a year ago.
Offensive Line - 65.9
The Bobcats lost three all-conference players to graduation, including the PFF MAC player of the Year Joe Lowery. So a slow start for the offensive line is to be expected. The lowest grade for that unit came last year against Cincinnati, a 53.9. Although they were serviceable, this offensive line has some things to clean up, especially with the difficulty the upcoming schedule presents. A grade of 70+ is the standard Ohio should set for the big boys up front. The unit last year reached that mark 61.5% of the time in 2018.
Defensive Line-Linebackers - 64.5
The defensive line rotated a lot of youth versus Rhode Island, so it's hard to make any wide-ranging conclusions on this grade. Both units looked serviceable, especially once they settled into the game. A mid-60's grade is serviceable, but I think these two units have the best chance for progression during the season. There is a lot of youth, and youth seems to make leaps and bounds during seasons under Solich. Hopefully the past repeats itself.
Defensive Backs - 70.6
Javon Hagan, Marlin Brooks, and company lead an athletic unit that has tons of potential. Although Rams star receiver Aaron Parker had a great day (9rec 144yds 1TD), the Bobcats secondary didn't let anyone else for Rhode Island breathe. They smothered the Rams in coverage at times, and if it weren't for a few early season mental mistakes the Bobcats secondary might have ended up the highest graded of these position groups.
The Bobcats performed well, and took care of business against Rhode Island. Now, it's time to test the Bobcats out against the big boys. Pittsburgh will deliver a real test to Ohio this Saturday.