Ohio Bobcats head to Happy Valley for season opener

By Zak Kolesar (@ZakKolesarOU)

After the Ohio Bobcats football team dispersed in different directions, after they met with coaches in the middle of Peden Stadium, the Marching 110 broke out in harmony with the sounds of “Stand Up and Cheer.” As the players’ ears started to perk up, they were drawn to the north end zone and helped out the band by providing voice to the boisterous anthem.

5′ 9″ Nate Carpenter was huge for the Bobcats as a (RS) freshman last season, expect much more of the same this year. Photo by Seth Austin

It was the perfect sendoff for a Bobcat squad that looks to begin their quest to top last season’s record-breaking 2011-12 campaign on  the road this Saturday, vs. the Penn State Nittany Lions. With the turmoil going on in State College, the Bobcats game will be shown on ESPN (12 p.m. kickoff), the perfect spotlight for Ohio to show the Top 25 voters that they are not to be taken lightly.

Many, including SI.com writer Holly Anderson, have chosen the Bobcats to finish this season with a perfect record, which would be their first in school history. Pennsylvania native Neal Huynh is just trying to take it one game at a time.

“We’re just going to go out and try to execute our game, and play the best football we can play,” senior defensive lineman Neal Huynh said. “We need to come out and really play physical football for all four quarters and we can’t let up.”

Not only are Penn State operating under a new system under first-year head coach Bill O’Brien, star running back Silas Redd left the team for #1 ranked USC earlier this month. Ohio is looking down the PSU roster and seeing a deep unit rather than individual stars.

“Well although (Redd) left, the player that’s starting for them, Bill Belton, is a guy that averaged 5.0 yards per carry, Silas averaged 5.1 yards per carry, so there’s really not much difference in terms of productivity,” Ohio head coach Frank Solich said.

O’Brien described his approach with the Penn State offense as trying to build a multiple personnel system, the Bobcat defense will have to be ready to play right out of the gates come Saturday.

“It’s just a game plan where we want these guys to go out and be able to play fast, play at a good tempo and try to find some balance,” O’Brien said.

Huynh knows how important it is for the Bobcats “to keep playing hard and fast the whole game” because they must be prepared at all times for what the Nittany Lions might throw at them. There is a lot of mystery surrounding the new Penn State coaching staff, so shutting them down from the start is a main priority for Ohio.

“Their head coach is out of the pros, a new special teams coach, so you’re just looking at a lot of different film form a lot of different schools hoping they don’t change too much and that you’re not surprised too much,” Solich said.

One thing that the ‘Cats can count on is for the senior-heavy PSU defense to put a lot of pressure on All-MAC third team, junior quarterback Tyler Tettleton, who is coming off a record-breaking season (accounted for 38 touchdowns and became the first Bobcat signal caller to pass for over 3,000 yards). They held opponents to just 16.8 points per game, which was good for fifth best in the nation last season and boast the best front seven in the Big Ten.

“We got a lot of returning a lot of starters on the offensive line with a lot of game experience,” senior offensive linemanEric Herman said in response to how Ohio matches up against the PSU defensive unit. “We just got to stick with our technique and just play hard and we’ll see how it matches up on Saturday.”

About the Opponent

Location: University Park, Pennsylvania

Enrollment: 95,833

Founded: 1855

Nickname: Nittany Lions

Colors: Dark Royal Blue and White

Players Currently in the NFL: DE/LB Tamba Hali, Kansas City Chiefs. OT Levi Brown, Arizona Cardinals.

Notable Alumni: Writer and director of Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy and Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, Adam McKay. Senior writer for Sports Illustrated, Tom Verducci.

Keys to the Game

  1. Not letting the emotions run too high – Eric Herman described it best: “There’s going to be a lot of people in Happy Valley and it’s going to be very electric.” Football should be the only thing on the Bobcat players’ minds once they step on the field. It’s going to be loud, but Ohio has prepared all offseason for the noise.
  2. Creating early turnovers – Keeping the newly tuned Nittany Lion offense on their side of the 50 in the first quarter is going to be a tough task, especially without senior team captain Travis Carrie. Putting Tettleton in good field position from the get-go will put a lot less pressure on the defense in an environment like Happy Valley.
  3. Good route running – The Bobcat receiving core looked great all offseason when it came to running clean, sideline routes. Losing LaVon Brazill (72 receptions) and Riley Dunlop (43) really hurts, but Mario Dovell and Tyler Futrell can be great deep threats while Donte Foster is capable of making athletic catches underneath.

Bobcats to Watch

On offense: Tyler Tettleton – Although I don’t like to talk about individual achievements, Tettleton is only 157 yards away from cracking into the school’s all-time career top five in yardage. With the offensive explosion that the quarterback from Norman, Oklahoma had last season, a lot of eyes will be on him all season long.

On defense: Larenzo Fisher and Jamil Shaw – With Carrie likely out for the season, Fisher and Shaw will have big shoes to fill especially since Carrie was the best tackling defensive back on the squad. Penn State is extremely young at the wide-out position, as their starters sophomore Allen Robinson (only caught three passes last year) and freshmen Eugene Lewis and Matt Zanellato are very inexperienced.

Quote of the Week

“When I was really young I admired the program, I knew what they were about. Everyone from my area knows Joe Pa. With everything that’s gone down, it’s really a tragedy. It’s affected a lot of people in that area, and this whole situation, it’s really a shame everything had to go the way it did.” ~ Neal Huynh, who is from Altoona, Pennsylvania.

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