Know Wyoming’s foe: Ohio Bobcats
TUCSON, Ariz., -- MAC East Division title. Check.
Conference Player of the Year. Check.
Freshman of the Year. Check.
Coach of the Year. Check.
The good times are rolling in Athens, Ohio.
After winning just five total games over the previous two seasons, Tim Albin's Bobcats pulled off one of the biggest program turnarounds in the nation this fall, stacking up nine victories and a berth in the league championship game.
How did they do it?
Refer to the list above.
Kurtis Rourke was the most prolific passer in the MAC, completing better than 69% of his throws while racking up 3,256 yards and 25 touchdowns. The 6-foot-3, 216-pound junior from suburban Toronto was picked off just four times.
When Rourke wasn't making life miserable for opposing defenses, Sieh Bangura was.
The rookie running back from Maryland scampered for 940 yards on just 197 attempts. He also found the end zone 12 times. Bangura eclipsed the 100-yard mark three times, including a career-best 148-yard rushing performance in a 32-18 win over Ball State. He also caught 23 passes for 208 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
But wait, there's more.
Ohio is one of just three teams in the FBS this season to have four receivers with at least 30 receptions and 500 yards. The best of the bunch is Ohio State transfer Sam Wiglusz.
The 5-foot-11, 185-pound senior hauled in 69 passes for 850 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2022. In a win over Akron, Wiglusz snagged seven balls for a season-best 144 yards and two scores.
After a 2-3 start to the season that included blowout losses at Penn State and Iowa State, the Bobcats rattled off seven straight victories. Ohio averaged nearly 38 points per game during that stretch. Rourke threw 14 touchdowns and was intercepted just twice. He also scored twice on the ground.
Then Nov. 15 happened.
That's the day Rourke suffered a torn ACL, costing him the rest of the season and all but ending the 'Cats hopes of winning its first outright MAC championship since 1968. Replacing Rourke, CJ Harris stepped under center. The sophomore completed 10-of-21 throws for 196 yards and a touchdown in a 38-14 win over visiting Bowling Green in the regular-season finale. He also rushed for 65 yards and three scores.
Then came the title tilt against Toledo.
Harris connected on 17-of-31 passes for 163 yards and an interception. Ohio mustered just one touchdown and amassed 262 yards of total offense inside Detroit's Ford Field.
Which Harris will show up in Friday's Arizona Bowl? We'll all find out together.
"He's very talented and he's going out and having fun," Rourke said of Harris Wednesday afternoon in Tucson. "... He's a really confident player and confident in his abilities. It's a big role to step into, especially being the top quarterback in the room, but I think he stepped into it really well.
"... He's a great leader, honestly. He stepped into that role really well and I'm proud of him."
Here are some other things you need to know about the Bobcats:
* Head coach: Tim Albin (2nd year) 12-13 overall record
* Offensive coordinator: Scott Isphording (10th year); Defensive coordinator: Spence Nowinsky (1st year)
* Record in 2021: 9-4 overall, 7-1 in MAC play
* Offense in 2022: Average 31.9 ppg, 424.2 ypg (138.9 rush, 285.3 pass)
* Defense in 2022: Allow 28.4 ppg, 437.4 ypg (143.7 rush, 293.7 pass)
* Key Returners - Offense: CJ Harris (QB - 32-64, 393 yds, TD, INT, 27 rush, 116 yds, 3 TD), Sieh Bangura (RB - 197 rush, 940 yds, 12 TD; 23 catch, 208 yds, 2 TD), Nolan McCormick (RB - 81 rush, 283 yds, TD), Sam Wiglusz (WR - 69 catch, 850 yds, 11 TD), Jacoby Jones (WR - 42 catch, 732 yds, 5 TD), James Bostic (WR - 32 catch, 592 yds, TD), Miles Cross (WR - 43 catch, 521 yds, 3 TD), Will Kacmarek (TE - 19 catch, 259 yds)
* Key Returners - Defense: Keye Thompson (LB - 96 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 3 PBU, INT, FF, 2 FR), Bryce Houston (LB - 72 tackles, 5.5 sack, 2 PBU, FF, 2 FR), Alvin Floyd (S - 70 tackles, 2 sacks, 5 PBU, INT, FF), Zack Sanders (CB - 61 tackles, sack, 5 PBU, 3 INT), Jack McCrory (DE - 56 tackles, 4 sacks, 3 PBU, 2 FF, 2 FR, TD), Vonnie Watkins (DE - 43 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 2 PBU, 2 FF), Kai Caesar (DT - 25 tackles, 4.5 sacks, PBU, FF)
* Overview: The biggest question mark surrounding this Ohio squad is unquestionably at the quarterback position. Harris played sparingly in 2022, attempting just 64 passes in just five appearances. He completed 50% of those throws, connecting on just one touchdown pass. Harris has proven to be a serviceable runner, accounting for 116 yards and three touchdowns on just 27 attempts. Are there other concerns? Sure. The Bobcats' pass defense has been a major weakness, allowing nearly 300 yards through the air per game. That ranks them 130th out of 131 FBS teams. Opponents have thrown for 3,818 yards and 28 touchdowns. The rushing defense is better, allowing just over 143 yards per outing, but Ohio still features statistically the worst defense in the MAC, giving up 6.3 yards per play and 437.4 yards per outing. There is a silver lining though. Ohio has forced 24 turnovers (13 fumbles, 11 interceptions), which is tied for the 11th most in the country. That also equates to the fifth-best turnover margin in the FBS at plus-12.
* Thoughts on Ohio: "We're also excited about playing the University of Ohio. They enjoy a long history of excellent football. Tim Albin is a dear friend of mine. Tim and I worked together at North Dakota State, he served as our offensive coordinator. And then we also worked at the University of Nebraska. And so, you know, a great deal of respect for Tim and the job he's doing. They won their division and played in the championship game, and they have an excellent football team. We have an excellent football team, as well. But I do want to make a couple of comments about some of the information that I've gleaned, in short order. First of all, CJ Harris hasn't started a lot but started the last couple games. He's a very capable quarterback. The running back, Sieh Bangura, is their leading rusher and really explosive rusher and they have a capable group of receivers. Wiglusz is their starting receiver but they have several other receivers that are able to be very effective. They play excellent defense. They have a tandem at linebacker, Thompson and Houston are both excellent backers and Floyd's doing a great job as a strong safety, as well. So, a really competitive football team, it's going to have the makings of a great game in Tucson. We are certainly excited about the invitation and excited about playing the Bobcats." - Wyoming head coach Craig Bohl
University of Wyoming’s Top 50 Football Players
- University of Wyoming’s Top 50 Football Players