It took Ohio until the third quarter of their Homecoming matchup with the Akron Zips to gain control, but once they had it, they ran away with it. With 204 combined yards from running backs Beau Blankenship, Ohio came out on top 34-28 improving to 7-0 on the season.
“We got an early start which is something we haven’t done all season long which is pleasing,” Ohio head coach Frank Solich said. “We were in position to really take control of the football game and that slipped away.”
Ohio started off the game with a tad bit of flashiness. With everyone anticipating Tettleton’s first touchdown pass, offensive coordinator Tim Albin pulled out Coach Solich’s “oldest play in the book.” Tettleton pitched the ball to Blankenship. Who flipped it to receiver Landon Smith. Who then tossed it downfield back to Tettleton for a Bobcats touchdown.
“It seemed like the ball was in the air forever,” Tettleton said. “I just kept telling myself, ‘Don’t drop it. Don’t trip.’”
The Black 41 Flash Reverse Pass. The same play Solich ran to help Nebraska take down Oklahoma in 2001 and a play that helped win Eric Crouch the Heisman Trophy.
“We got tricked about three times last week. It was time for us to trick somebody,” Solich said. “It helped us gather momentum and that’s what we were looking for in the early part of the game. It helped us establish what we wanted to be about early in the game.”
Up 7-0, Ohio continued their dominance early in the game forcing an Akron punt on their first possession. With great field position, it only took Tettleton and the ‘Cats four plays and 1:48 to score.
Nothing could have been more typical. Donte Foster lined up in the slot with the ‘Cats merely seven yards away from the score, Tettleton floated up a beauty to the back corner of the end zone for six and sole possession of Ohio’s all-time touchdown passes record.
“He’s had a tremendous career here and he’s got the rest of the season and another season to play,” Solich said. “He’ll keep putting up huge numbers. I think there are some good things that can happen in our throwing game as we finish out his career.”
Ohio would add two field goals off the foot of Matt Weller before the first half came to a close. But Mid-American Conference play against a new-look Zips team translated to a 20-point lead not being enough.
Akron quarterback orchestrated a 28-second drive capped off by a 19-yard touchdown pass to L.T. Smith to make it 20-7.
Akron continued their momentum as the second half commenced when Williams moved the Zips 75 yards down the field to put the visitors within one score of the undefeated ‘Cats.
But that’s as close as they’d get.
Once Ohio regained possession, they attacked Akron with their monstrous ground attack. It turned out to be a great idea with the Zips coming into the contest giving up 209.7 rushing yards per game, good for 11thin the MAC.
On the first drive, it was Blankenship. The ‘Cats fed him the ball eight times on their 11-play drive racking up 78 yards. Tettleton capped off the 96-yard drive with a strike to Troy Hill to give the ‘Cats some separation.
On Akron’s very next play, Ohio corner Octavius Leftwich picked off Williams to get the Green and White the ball back. This time it was Ryan Boykin’s turn. The redshirt junior running back had seven carries and finished off Ohio’s 56-yard drive with a five-yard plunge to give Ohio a more comfortable 34-21 lead.
“Our pass game was struggling a little bit,” Boykin said. “Coach was calling the run plays and they were opening up.”
Blankenship, who finished the game with 108 yards on the day, said it’s nice being able to pound two different backs at an opposing defense.
“It’s good having someone who can come in and be fresh and get some great stuff done,” he said. “Our styles are different and they complement each other.”
Akron made it interesting late with another Williams touchdown pass to make it a six-point game with under two minutes left to play, but their onside kick attempt squirted out of bounds enabling the ‘Cats to lock up the victory.
The focus as Ohio moves on to their bye week will be finishing, especially as they prepare for a tough contest with Miami on Oct. 27.
“I know we have the potential to keep a big lead and we kind of let them come back in the end,” Boykin said.
Solich echoed his tailback’s sentiments.
“We know every game will be a challenge and that we’ll have to play well and find a way to finish things off a little better.”
Improving to 7-0 puts Ohio in a position to be nationally ranked, something that hasn’t happened since 1968.
“It’s in the back of our minds a little bit,” Boykin said. “Everyone wants to be ranked. On the field it’s strictly business.”
Even if the ranking doesn’t happen, being undefeated after a tough opening to the schedule has given the ‘Cats confidence to finish out the season strongly.
“We’ve been taking it one week at a time,” Tettleton said. “Going against a rivalry team in Miami, it’s good to have this confidence. We’re excited to be where we’re at.”