By Pete Nakos
OhioBobcats.com Feature Writer
It's the job of football coaches to keep their teams focused.
Don't look back, don't think ahead for a second, just worry about the present.
That's what head coach Frank Solich has been saying all week to his team. On Saturday, he'll see if his team has listened when Ohio (3-1) takes on the UMass Minutemen (0-5) at 3:30 p.m. ET at Warren McGuirk Alumni Stadium in Amherst.
"Now, we'll be going to a new stadium and they have a lot of things to play for," Solich said. "Obviously, we'll be going into a similar situation as well, facing a football team with a lot of pride, and they know they're very close to winning some football games. It will be a tough game. We need to come out and play our best football."
The focus for the Bobcats defense this week will be UMass passing game, led by quarterback Andrew Ford, a lefty with 1,333 yards and seven touchdowns in 2017. His top target, tight end Adam Breneman, has connected with Ford 24 times for 369 yards. Andy Isabella and Sadiq Palmer have also been some of Ford's top targets. The receiving trio has accounted for more than 70 percent of the Minutemen's passing yardage.
Ohio feels that they will be able to withstand the test, especially in the secondary after a confidence boost last week against Eastern Michigan. Jalen Fox led the Bobcats in tackles with nine, while Bradd Ellis had a pick six, the only touchdown in regulation for Ohio. Ellis leads the Mid-American Conference with eight passes defended.
EMU was a pass heavy team, and the Minutemen will be as well, but first-year cornerback coach De'Angelo Smith has confidence in his starting duo.
"Each week they've (Bradd and Jalen) been getting better, they haven't regressed," Smith said. "That's one of the good things about them. They've been studying, even the other corners in the room they're challenging each other."
Flying around to the ball and making plays is what the Bobcats will hope to do Saturday. But as Solich has said, the Minutemen are much better than their record looks. UMass has been in every game and put points on the board; the largest margin of defeat has just been 10 points, a road loss in week two to Coastal Carolina.
For now, Fox and Ellis know they'll have to continue to improve and UMass will provide an opportunity. Win or lose, it will not affect the Bobcats chances at a MAC East Division title, but a win will say they are on the right path.
"We just have to do our part," Fox said. "Protect the deep balls, make sure that our guy gets passed us. We need to make sure we're executing the fundamentals and communicating the calls."