By Pete Nakos
OhioBobcats.com Feature Writer
ATHENS, Ohio -- Frank Solich hasn't hesitated to say any game this year isn't a big game, but Tuesday's game may be the biggest one yet.
It's Halloween night. It's the annual blackout of Peden Stadium. There's a mid-week game in Athens.
In case that's not enough, Ohio and Miami will rekindle its rivalry in the 94th meeting of the "Battle of the Bricks." The Bobcats (6-2, 3-1) will try to stay perfect in the Mid-American Conference East Division.
The rivalry has taken on new meaning for Ohio in the 12 years of Solich's time at Ohio: "It's important to our fans, our student body, and the community, as it is to Miami," he said. "When I got here, it was made clear that was our main rival, so I jumped on board. It made sense to do that.
"You guys know me, that I work at approaching every game the same way. It only takes one game where you're supposed to win, where you should win, and you don't win to understand that. We're serious about every single game that's on the schedule. The Miami games seem to be really important to a lot of people."
In the 12 years he's coached in the rivalry, the Bobcats are 10-2. It's a noticeable turnaround —prior to Solich's arrival they'd only won 29 times in 81 games. Like most coaches, when he came to Ohio he made the rivalry a priority and he's delivered on the promise.
He's not only established a winning way against the RedHawks (3-5, 2-2), but this year's game may be the biggest rivalry game in Solich's time. A win would give Ohio a share of first place in the MAC East, a win and it will be looking at must-win games the rest of the way.
Solich has changed the culture around the program, too. The best example may be that there was no celebrating when the team became bowl eligible for the ninth consecutive season last week.
The next step is to win the MAC Championship, the one that always finds away to get away from Solich. But as the 2017 season continues to progress, it seems more and more likely that the Bobcats will be back in Detroit for the second-straight year.
For once, there seems to be no quarterback controversy as Nathan Rourke has won the job outright—he's fourth in the nation in rushing touchdowns and 11th in points responsible for. The offense is seventh in the nation in red zone production, while the defense is 14th in third down conversion percentage.
"Every time we snap the ball, we want to score," running game coordinator Dave Johnson said. "It's not like we've put an extra emphasis on the red zone, we've done some different things since spring ball. I think the guys have gotten the message, anytime the ball is snapped we're trying to score.
After every victory in the "Battle of the Bricks," every Bobcat receives a mug for defeating their rival on the west side of the state. So, as this team seems geared up for a run at a MAC Championship trophy, they'll have to win their first trophy of the season on Tuesday night.
"I was used to big rivalries in my previous job, so I know how meaningful a rivalry is to the coaches, players and fans," Solich said. "Rivalries are so important to so many people so we continue to utilize that as part of what our game is all about."