Sports editor Grace Remington caught up with Luke O'Roark, the sports editor for Ohio University's student newspaper, the Post, to discuss the 92nd meeting of the RedHawks and Bobcats in the Battle of the Bricks.
Miami University (1-4, 0-1 Mid-American Conference) leads Ohio (4-1, 1-0 MAC) in the all-time series, 52-37-2.
Grace Remington: Quarterback Derrius Vick faces some persistent injuries - an ankle injury from Minnesota's game and a left wrist injury from last week versus Akron. How do you expect him to look Saturday?
Luke O'Roark: The quarterback situation is interesting. Coach Frank Solich had a two-quarterback system with Derrius Vick and JD Sprague, but Sprague is currently out with an injury. He suffered a concussion against Marshall on an upper-body hit, and he's been out ever since. So now they're down to a third-string quarterback, Greg Windham, who's taking a few snaps. But when I talked to Vick at practice [Thursday], he said he felt tremendous. He's had a lingering foot issue that's kind of affected his mobility, but he said come Saturday, he shouldn't have any problems. Just in general, he's always had lingering issues throughout his career, but he does this. He'll be somewhat hurt and things are looking dicey and he's questionable, but then he dresses and he does fine.
GR: It looks like OU has a fairly even target distribution to five receivers. Who is the biggest threat down the field?
LO: I would say the No. 1 receiver is Sebastian Smith. He's pretty long, he's got good athleticism … he's really Vick's go-to. I know against Minnesota, [Vick] used Sebastian on third downs a lot. He's a good receiver. Other than Sebastian, I'd look out for Jordan Reid and Brandon Cope. They're kinda like the one-two punch that they use in the slot. And finally, tight end Keith Heitzman is probably the final target Miami should zone in on.
GR: Daz Patterson and Papi White stand out as playmakers, especially White, who received attention after hurdling an Akron defender last week. What are they like athletically and how do they fit into this offense?
LO: They're interesting - they're part of a three-headed monster in the backfield. You have Papi White, who is one of the receiving ends, then Patterson is more shifting and back cuts. Then you have A.J. Ouellette, who is kinda the north-south runner and a bulldozing back. They utilize all three, along with quarterback Derrius Vick. So it's interesting. I would say with Papi White, you have to be careful with him coming out of the backfield and into the slot position. Every week, you really don't know who they're going to use more. I would say they split carries pretty evenly between all three. But if I had to pick one to look out for, it's Papi White.
GR: OU outscores their opponents 49-6 in the first quarter. If that stat doesn't jump out at you on its own, it seems problematic for the RedHawks because they're the opposite - lately, they haven't woken up until the fourth quarter. Do you expect the Bobcats to come out guns blazing to this extent against Miami?
LO: I would say they lean very heavily on their defense actually. Ohio kind of has an identity problem in terms of its offense. There's been games where they've come out and they look sharp. For instance, Idaho and Marshall. And then there are other games where they've had trouble. So they really lean of their defense hard. This defense is quick. They have a bunch of lingering issues, some of their linebackers have been hurt. But in terms of their coming out and throwing the football or running the football, I can't see that really happening … their strong suit is their defense.
GR: So is that stat more a measure of Ohio's opponents?
LO: I would think so. I mean, they've played Minnesota, which is, you know, a Big 10 team. But then they've played Southeastern Louisiana, Idaho, who's been struggling for the last few years, and Marshall, who's a contender, but they've been mediocre this year. So I think it is more a measurement of their opponent, really. It's hard for me as a reporter to expect what the Bobcats are going to come out doing on the offensive end.
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GR: A guy who stands out in the Bobcat defense is Quentin Poling. He leads the team with 39 tackles and had an interception, two tackles for loss and important sack at the end of last week's game. He's facing a Miami offense that has a solid offensive line, but the quarterbacks, running backs, receivers and tight ends are mostly sophomores or freshmen. How do you expect Poling to be a threat to that young offense?
LO: First of all, Quentin Poling is a very charismatic, very energetic football player. Every time in interviews, he's very energetic. And I think that kind of symbolizes who he is on the field. It doesn't matter what play it is - a pass play, run play, whatever - somehow No. 32 shows up on that end of the field around the ball. He's just that type of player.
GR: Which other defensive players should Miami watch out for?
LO: Tarell Basham was injured last game against Akron, but he is a defensive end that gets after the quarterback. He's been highly recognized during his career at Ohio. Ian Wells, a corner, has been very solid. So those three guys, if you're a Miami quarterback or any quarterback, you really have to zone in on them.
GR: After talking to players this week, do you think the rivalry with Miami gives them extra motivation to notch the win?
LO: Yeah, when I talked to Vick, he said this is the last time he'll play Miami. They don't change up their practice, they don't change up their game just because they're playing Miami, but there is that edge. There is that idea like 'okay, we're playing our rival.' They definitely do recognize when Miami is here in Athens or when they go to Oxford.
Kickoff is 2 p.m. Saturday in Athens, Ohio.