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Players to watch: Ohio

JJ+Kohl+made+his+collegiate+debut+against+UNI+at+Jack+Trice+Stadium+on+Sep.+2%2C+2023.
Tyler Coe
JJ Kohl made his collegiate debut against UNI at Jack Trice Stadium on Sep. 2, 2023.

Iowa State:

JJ Kohl – Quarterback
If the Cyclones find themselves with a big lead or in a huge deficit in this affair, expect the true freshman Kohl to see some time behind center. In his limited snaps against UNI in the season opener, Kohl completed four of his five passes for three yards and looked uncertain about his reads, which is expected.

Heading into the season, head coach Matt Campbell consistently noted how close the battle was between Kohl and Rocco Becht for the starting role. With Becht showing some growing pains in the matchup against Iowa, don’t be surprised if the true freshman is put into the game to see more of what he’s capable of doing against an Ohio defense that has allowed nearly 350 yards per game.

T.J. Tampa – Cornerback
Tampa has played a quiet role so far for the Cyclone defense, compiling just one pass breakup in the first two games. He hasn’t been challenged much so far, but this could be his breakout game to prove his Jim Thorpe Award Preseason Watch List selection.

While nothing particularly has stuck out on the stat sheet from Tampa, he’s no doubt played a key role in holding opposing quarterbacks to an average of under 150 passing yards. With fellow corner Jeremiah Cooper making his presence felt with his three picks, don’t be surprised if Tampa snags his first of the season if Ohio chooses to look his way.

Jayden Higgins – Wide receiver
Against Iowa, Higgins made his case for being a top target for the Iowa State offense. His eight grabs for 95 yards, including a 16-yard touchdown snag in the fourth quarter, helped breathe some life into a struggling offense.

Higgins has the potential to be a one-two punch with Jaylin Noel, with both offering a veteran presence for Iowa State’s young and inexperienced quarterback room. His quarterback-favorable frame—-6 feet, 4 inches and 210 pounds—-could also allow him to take over as the Cyclones’ outside presence while Noel is moved to a slot position, where he spent a chunk of his time last year.

Becht said that it’s been part of the game plan to get Higgins the ball through the first two games. Based off of his production in the Iowa game, expect the game plan to stay the same and Higgins to continue his emergence in the offense.

Ohio:

Sieh Bangura – Runningback
With his limited amount of carries in the Bobcat’s first three games, Bangura stands out as an elusive back who is capable of breaking tackles with ease. He’s rushed for 217 yards on 51 carries, including 107 yards in Ohio’s win against Long Island.

Bangura is coming off a lackluster game against FAU where he averaged just 2.7 yards on 17 carries. Last season against Iowa State he wasn’t given much of an opportunity as the Bobcats trailed early, but he showed a lot of potential and finished with 41 total yards on 10 touches.

Bangura’s ability to take advantage of his limited carries is nothing new, as he finished last season with over 1,000 rushing yards on just 18.5 carries a game. The redshirt sophomore poses a threat to Iowa State’s defense, which gave up a momentum-swinging big run in the first quarter against Iowa, last weekend.

Kurtis Rourke – Quarterback

The Cyclones will face another veteran quarterback in Rourke, who has completed 67% of his passes during his career. Despite throwing a pair of interceptions in the first half against FAU last weekend, he led the Bobcats to a pair of scoring drives in the second half, including a nine-play, 80-yard touchdown drive.

If Bangura and the rest of the running back room aren’t able to get going, Rourke has shown that he’s capable of putting the offense on his shoulders. In his 11 games last season, Rourke had over 30 passing attempts in seven games, including a career-high 50 attempts with 41 completions in a 59-52 win over Fordham.

Although veteran quarterbacks CJ Harris and Parker Navarro have also commanded the offense for a handful of drives, Rourke is the signal caller with the most experience in the system and likely their best shot at a successful season.

Expect Rourke to be taking the majority of snaps for Ohio, and don’t be surprised if he’s able to get a couple of nice plays off of Iowa State’s defense.

Sam Wiglusz – Wide receiver
Rounding out the group of experienced playmakers on offense for the Bobcats is a former Ohio State walk-on who had a hot start to his season in their opener against San Diego State. He compiled 10 catches for 104 yards, continuing his role from last season as the Bobcat’s safety net.

Last season during his first year with Ohio, Wiglusz led the team with 73 catches for 877 yards. In his 14 games last season, he recorded a pair of touchdowns in four of those games and finished the year with 11.

Wiglusz, much like Bangura, is also coming off of an unproductive game against FAU and will surely see his fair share of targets against the Cyclones. The Ohio native, however, will have to deal with a strong Iowa State secondary that has locked up the skies to start the season.

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