Ohio Bobcats wide out Chase Cochran dropped a flawlessly placed throw that quarterback Tyler Tettleton delivered down the middle of the field on Ohio’s first offensive play of the game, a pass that would have without a doubt resulted in a 68-yard touchdown. Needless to say, the numbers that embodied their home opener against the New Mexico State Aggies were massive enough to make a huge drop like that almost seem insignificant.
An official record-breaking crowd of 25,893 fans at Peden Stadium on Saturday night watched as the ‘Cats improved to 2-0 with a 51-24 victory over the Aggies. The supportive Bobcat Nation even flooded onto the inclined hill in the south end zone, welcoming home a team coming off one of their biggest wins in the program’s history.
“Our student body was tremendous,” Ohio head coach Frank Solich said. “It’s a huge advantage to play at home when you have that kind of a crowd.”
Those on hand witnessed an offensive explosion led by Norman North teammates Tyler Tettleton and running back Beau Blankenship, who together accounted for five of the six Ohio touchdowns. Tettleton stayed perfect through the air in the turnover department, completing 15-of-23 pass attempts and getting things started by scoring the team’s first touchdown on a six-yard scamper.
Tettleton’s run on the ‘Cats’ first offensive possession of the game finished off a seven-play, 68-yard drive that only ate up 2:23 on the clock. In fact, every one of Ohio’s five offensive touchdown drives took up less than three minutes.
“We have one of the best lines in the nation and it’s great playing behind those guys,” Tettleton said. “They give me enough time to give our playmakers the ball.”
The linemen and tight ends won the battle in the trenches all night long allowing only one sack. They gave Tettleton enough time to find wide out Donte Harden for a 28-yard score to start off the second quarter and a 40-yard hookup with Landon Smith as the third quarter came to a close.
Blankenship also benefited from the dominance of the offensive line, rushing for a career-high 168 yards. The redshirt junior tailback also found the endzone twice on the night.
“We’re really working him and he’s responded really well to it,” Solich said. “He shows his physicalness every time he runs, and I think that gives our players energy and our offense energy when you see guys play as physical as he plays.”
Blankenship has had to carry quite the workload these past two weeks rushing the ball a total of 58 times, partly due to the absence of Ryan Boykin. He’s become a staple for this Bobcat offense, proving that with patience big plays will come. They came almost habitually for the Bobcat bruiser, as his 27 touches resulted in a 7.5 yards per carry average.
“I was mentally and physically prepared to handle it,” Blankenship said. “I just do whatever I can do to help the team, and if that’s 30 carries, it’s 30 carries and I’m willing to take them.”
Blankenship showed that readiness on Ohio’s fifth drive of the game when he carried the ball on four of the five plays and compiled 71 yards by himself, capping it off with a 33-yard touchdown dash. That score with 4:54 to go in the second quarter gave the Bobcats a 21-14 lead going into the second half.
The big-play offense that was missing last Saturday in Happy Valley was evident this week, as Ohio converted three touchdowns on plays longer than 25 yards.
Totaling 584 yards on offense may have seemed like an incredible feat by it’s lonesome, but the most striking fact was that the ‘Cats ran eight less plays as a unit than they did the week prior. The defense also held up on their end as well, holding the Aggies to 23 less plays than what Penn State ran on them.
That was with New Mexico State coming into the game with national statistical leaders in quarterback Andrew Manley and wide receiver Austin Franklin.
The Bobcat defenders held Manley to 132 yards through the air and only allowed one outburst from Franklin when he split the secondary for a 42-yard gain. Ohio gambled whenever they sent added pressure to get to the Aggies in the backfield, but the risk was very rewarding for the ‘Cats. Manley couldn’t avoid Ohio’s rush the whole night, however, as the unit totaled six sacks in the victory.
“Our defense was making stops for the offense and the offense was getting down there and wearing down their defense,” safety Nate Carpenter said.
Carpenter played a lead role in shutting down the Aggies, as he finally got the momentum-changing turnover that he had been trying to come up with all game in the third quarter. Immediately following a Blankenship’s second touchdown run, he intercepted a well-read Manley pass and took it 22 yards to the house. That pretty much sealed the deal for the Green and White, as the pick-six put Ohio up 38-17 with 6:30 remaining in the third.
The seven Bobcat touchdowns were accompanied by three Matt Weller field goals, points that gave them breathing space early on and set an Ohio all-time record in points scored by an individual player. His 37-yard field goal on Ohio’s second drive of the third quarter put him atop the record books.
“It’s an honor to be able to be on this team for the fourth year now and be on such a great team,” Weller said of the achievement. “It’s humbling.”
Things didn’t click from the onset, but a 161-yard third quarter provided some much-needed separation from the Aggies. Ohio will have to be running on all cylinders when they head to Marshall next Saturday to take on a Thundering Herd squad they beat 44-7 last season.
“We hope that we’re a mentally and physically tough team every year because if you’re not you’re going to struggle,” Solich said. “You can’t not have mental toughness and not have physical toughness and expect to win football games.”