Ohio Bobcat quarterback Tyler Tettleton has engineered a handful of high-pressure drives in his tenure as the team’s starting quarterback. With the game on the line and an unfavorable scoreboard staring him in the face, he has the confidence in his teammates and himself to scheme down the field and deliver a decisive score.
That poise was on display last Saturday in the 27-24 victory over the Marshall Thundering Herd, when Tettleton extended an 12-play, 80-yard drive multiple times to knot the game at 24 with 10:43 remaining in the game. The redshirt junior quarterback handled two third-and-10 situations with the same “been there, done that” attitude that was evident when he discussed the crucial fourth-quarter score at practice the following week.
“You’re just trying to make plays, you know, just do what the coaches ask from you and just try to move the chains,” Tettleton said. “Just another series, just another chance to put the ball in the end zone.”
At the helm of the offense, Tettleton and the Ohio offense took control of the ball with 14:13 remaining in the game and did just that. When facing his first third-down challenge, the pocket collapsed and he had to think on his feet. No pun intended, but he recognized the breakdown in protection, scrambled around and finally decided to look for a crease to run for the first down. 12 yards later, he had managed to reduce the intensity level in the Joan.
Two incomplete passes later the Bobcats were once again looking at another third-and-long play. Enter wide receiver Bakari Bussey. If you recall, Bussey was somewhat of a hero on Ohio’s 93-yard drive in the fourth quarter against Penn State. It was third-and-five, and the 6-2 wide out hauled in a seven-yard catch to keep things moving. Six plays later, Tettleton provided the dagger in arguably Ohio’s biggest win in program history.
It may not show it on the stat sheet, but Bussey’s eight receptions have carried a lot of weight taken the situations. There are no such things as small parts, just small actors. By no sense of the word is Bussey small; his tall, athletic frame helped him gain 15 yards on a slant route. Tettleton delivered once again.
After gaining 21 yards on the ground on two runs and moving the ball to the Marshall 32-yard line, Ohio running back Beau Blankenship took three straight handoffs from Tettleton. The ‘Cats only could manage to advance the ball five yards, so that meant that the Ohio offense would be facing a fourth down.
“I knew that first of all with (Frank) Solich being aggressive and tough-minded as he is, that we were going to have a chance to go for it,” Tettleton said.
Down by a touchdown in the fourth quarter with less than eleven minutes to go and Herd quarterback Rakeem Cato rewriting record books on the other side of the ball, it was almost a no-brainer in deciding to prolong the drive.
“You know, we did,” the first-year captain said.
Enter wide receiver Ryan Clark.
The two most important things to know about Clark before entering this next scene are that he is a defensive back converted to receiver and probably the fastest player on the roster. Without making the choice to take on offensive responsibilities his senior season, this game and drive may not even be a worthy topic of discussion.
“It was a smart decision on my part to, you know, be able to play and contribute more than I did before, so I’m happy about it,” Clark said.
So the stage was set. Clark was supposed to run a normal slant route and Tettleton was going to deliver the perfect pass to pick up the first down and move the chains for the fourth time on that drive. That was before Tettleton walked toward the line of scrimmage to take the most pivotal snap of the game.
“Anytime you have Ryan Clark out there, I’ll take him against anyone in the country,” Tettleton said. “He showed that with his athleticism and his explosiveness that he can get by anyone.”
Tettleton always stresses the confidence that he has in his offensive line and receivers and that none of his accomplishments would exist without them. It speaks volumes about the trust that the Ohio quarterback has when he feels assured in putting the course of the game in the hands of a wide out he just began a relationship with this past spring.
“Tyler tagged me and told me to run a ‘sluggo,’” Clark said.
For those that don’t know what a “sluggo” is, it’s a term coined by legendary Hall of Fame coach Bill Walsh meaning “slant-and-go.” The quarterback’s first read sprints off the line for a few steps, breaks inside and then makes his way down the field with lightning fast speed. Due to his speed and quick cutting abilities, Clark was the perfect choice for this particular audible.
“Well seeing as the coaches always preach and try to emphasize with us is to give our guys a chance, I knew that if I just threw it within his vicinity that he was going to have a chance to make a play,” Tettleton said.
That’s exactly what happened. The chemistry that Tettleton has made with Clark in the short time they have worked together allowed the two to make eye contact few seconds before the snap. From 27 yards out Clark ran the “sluggo” to perfection, while Tettleton essentially placed the ball into his hands with an unblemished throw.
“It was a double move and I sold it, the corner bit, I used my speed to get behind him and he threw a perfect ball,” Clark said. “He
knows what he’s doing and he knew where he wanted the ball, I just ran where I was supposed to be and he put it there.”
Tyler Tettleton didn’t play it safe by just going for the first down. He didn’t make a costly throw that would have changed the momentum of the game and put the ball back into the hands of the red-hot Cato. Instead he changed the play call at the line of scrimmage, something that he later said he shouldn’t have done, and, without any doubt in his mind, went deep to Clark for the equalizer.
“I guess it was a risk worth taking, but probably next time we’ll just keep the original play call,” Tettleton said. “Probably shouldn’t have called that, being it a fourth down.”
Faith in his teammates; however, overtook anything that Tettleton was feeling at that moment in time, and a split-second decision paid off in more ways than one. It put the Bobcats in position to take the lead on a Matt Weller field goal after a huge defensive play by defensive back Larenzo Fisher and safety Nate Carpenter took the air out of the Joan and kept the hopes of an undefeated season alive.
We won’t know the true eminence of this particular play until later on in the season when the ‘Cats finish up their regular season slate, but somewhere down the road we may look back to the instantaneous audible by Tettleton to call for Clark to run a “sluggo.”
“We just gotta win every other game to make that the truth,” Clark said.
It was the perfect showing of football IQ being implemented on the field, but as usual business is still unfinished.