Despite having a bye week after the program’s first 7-0 start since the 1968 season, the Ohio Bobcats (7-0, 3-0) were still a main target in the media spotlight. Running back Beau Blankenship was featured on the ESPNU late-night show “UNITE,” the ‘Cats moved up to the No. 23 spot in the AP Poll and cracked the Top 25 in the BCS Standings for the first time in school history, coming in at No. 24.
Even with all the accolades that Ohio has received so far this season, their focus once the team got back onto the practice field after a 34-28 victory over the Akron Zips was directed toward winning “The Battle of the Bricks” against the Miami RedHawks (3-4, 2-1).
“With all those concerns and the Miami game ahead of us, I don’t think they’ll look any farther than today’s practice,” head coach Frank Solich said of the week 9 rankings. “There are a lot of things that we need to do and get better at in order to finish off this season the way we want to, and that starts right now with Miami.”
One things that the ‘Cats have definitely looked at this week is RedHawks quarterback Zac Dysert, who completed 35 passes for 372 yards last season against an Ohio defense that, lately, has struggled under many diverse circumstances.
A wave of injuries hit the team early on in the season, but the bye week gave players like safety Gerald Moore the chance to fully recover in time for the second half of Ohio’s MAC East schedule. Having a high-caliber communicator and leader like Moore back on the field will put the young defensive backs at ease when going up against an NFL prospect such as Dysert.
“He’s throwing to some very good receivers and they protect him very well and the whole combination of that makes it hard to slow him down,” Solich said.
On average the RedHawks only run the ball 28 times per game, which means a heavy dose of drop backs for Dysert. Their lack of fully incorporating a running game into their offense contributes to the league-high 23 sacks that the Miami offensive line has allowed this season. The Ohio front seven will have to step up to prevent yet another big-play quarterback from picking on the banged up secondary by being a constant force in the RedHawk backfield. However, the Bobcats still can’t think one dimensionally when attacking the Miami offense, a lesson they should have learned against the Zips.
Another aspect of Saturday’s game against Miami that has been one of the main focuses for Ohio this week is attacking the Miami defense with a ground-and-pound mentality. Bobcat running backs Beau Blankenship and Ryan Boykin will be full go on Saturday, and as a unit they looked stronger than ever against Akron. Last season against rival Miami the ‘Cats carried the ball 43 times, which is five shy of the their average through seven games this season. With quarterback Tyler Tettleton looking more comfortable after each successive carry, we may see Ohio going right at the throats of the Miami defense from the very beginning.
“We just need to come out and set our own tempo and set the pace,” Blankenship said. “We just haven’t been able to put a full (game) together, and I think it’s time to do that.”
Without a convincing win in MAC play this season, the Bobcats will look to come out of the gates with a more aggressive game plan on both sides of the ball. The three MAC victories have been by a combined score of 16 points, so a demanding win over the RedHawks will instill a lot of confidence in an Ohio team determined to finish off the regular season undefeated.
About the Opponent
Location: Oxford, OH
Colors: Red and White
Players Currently in the NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Green Bay Packers tight end Tom Crabtree.
Notable Alumni: Jerry Angelo, General Manager of the Chicago Bears. Paul Brown, partial founder and head coach of Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals.
Keys to the Game
1. Tyler Tettleton as a double threat – Last year against Miami Tettleton played one of the most well balanced games of his collegiate career. As a redshirt sophomore the Ohio quarterback completed 18-of-26 pass attempts for 203 yards, with three aerial scores to go along with that. He also rushed the ball 12 times for 111 yards. Before the Akron game when Tettleton carried the ball 12 times, he had only averaged 5.7 rushes. If Tettleton can produce in both dimensions of his game, then Ohio will finally get their much-needed convincing MAC victory.
2. Take advantage of Miami’s weaknesses – The RedHawk defense is allowing opponents to run all over them this season, giving up 243.9 rushing yards per game and a total of 21 touchdowns on the ground. The ‘Cats, with their peaking two-prong rushing attack of Blankenship and Boykin, should be well over their average of 48 carries on Saturday. Also, Ohio has had struggles with their run defense this season. Miami only averages 89.3 rushing yards, so Ohio has a perfect opportunity to prove to opponents that their front seven can’t be pushed around every week.
3. Pressure Zac Dysert – Dysert is a gem among quarterbacks in the MAC East, but whenever the Miami quarterback gets pressured to throw the ball bad things will happen. Dysert has been sacked a league-high 19 times, and in games where the senior throws two or more interceptions, he has been sacked 11 times. Dominate in the trenches early, and good things will come the way of the Bobcats defense in the form of turnovers.
Bobcats to Watch
Offensively: Ryan Boykin – In his career as a Bobcat, Boykin has broken the century mark in rushing yards only once. In Ohio’s last game against Akron the redshirt junior was only four yards short of reaching 100 yards for the first time this season. That could change on Saturday against an unreliable Miami run defense that seems to get shredded week-in-and-week-out.
Defensively: Corey Hasting – Hasting has quietly been a key component of the success that Ohio has achieved this season, with both his on-field play and leadership skills. Look for Hasting to have a breakout defensive performance against an anemic Miami run game that has only produced a 100-yard rusher twice this season and an offensive line that gave up six sacks recently to Bowling Green.
Quote of the Week
“I’m sure everybody is going to give us their best shot and we’ve welcomed that. We just have to prepare every week for (each team’s) best shot.” ~ running back Beau Blankenship on the ‘Cats breaking into the BCS Standings