There were many instances in the Ohio Bobcat football team’s first loss of the season to the Miami RedHawks that inexcusable penalties set them back in critical situations. In midst of a drive in the third quarter that started on Ohio’s own one-yard line, the ‘Cats caught a break of their own from the Eastern Michigan defense that extended the drive and allowed them to put the game out of reach.Two plays after a pass interference penalty on EMU defensive back Darius Scott, Ohio quarterback Tyler Tettleton hooked up with go-to target wide receiver Donte Foster for the Bobcats’ longest play of the year. A 79-yard catch and run, highlighted by some elusive block following by Foster, put Ohio up 17 points with 2:13 remaining in the third frame. The Bobcats were able to shut out the Eagles the rest of the second half, coasting to a 45-14 victory.
“Finally a game where we were able to separate ourselves in the second half as the game went on and have a cushion at the end,” head coach Frank Solich. “I think it was a combination of making big plays in the passing game and having a rushing game that was very strong throughout the entire game, and being as balanced as we were.”
It wasn’t all that simple, however, for the ‘Cats from the onset. The Eagles were able to drive the ball, chiefly through their run offense headed by sophomore Bronson Hill, against a Bobcat defense that has been picked apart as of late. Despite moving the ball to the Ohio 22-yard line, EMU came up empty handed when the left post denied a Dylan Mulder field-goal attempt.
After the missed scoring attempt, the Bobcat offense quickly got to work when Tettleton found tight end Derek Roback for a 32-yard gain, putting them in Eagle territory. Five plays later running back Beau Blankenship was able to find the end zone from two yards out. The Bobcats had been looking for that quick score in recent games, and the bruising Ohio back was able to deliver.
Blankenship wasn’t perfect on the ground the whole night, though, coughing up a rare fumble at their own 28-yard line that led Solich and offensive coordinator Tim Albin to go with running back Ryan Boykin for most of the night. The fumble ended up costing the ‘Cats four plays later when Eastern Michigan quarterback Tyler Benz found running back Ryan Brumfield for the 17-yard score to knot things up at 7. Still, it was the hard-nosed rushing attack that pushed the pace of the EMU offense in the first quarter.
The Bobcats needed to buckle down if they wanted to prevent a shootout with the Eagles, and the start of the second quarter provided the perfect relief for an ailing defense.
“Obviously, you’d like to shut them down right from the start, but coming in, we knew they had a ground game,” Solich said. “We lost some key players, but we are getting better. Our young defense backs, I think are getting better, and you can just see us up in the upper part of the line, the interior part of the line, doing a better job, and getting more guys playing time that are more players, and so that’s given us more depth.”
EMU’s first two drives of the second frame ended both in three-and-outs, something that the Ohio defense hasn’t been able to muster up as of late. After two punishing hits from safety Gerald Moore and defensive lineman Corey Hasting, linebacker Keith Moore snuck in to break up a Benz pass attempt. The momentum carried on when the offense took over, when the Bobcats were faced with a third-and-long of their own.
On 3rd-and-13 Boykin was able to bust out a 57-yard run, carrying the ball all the way to the EMU seven-yard line. One play laterTettleton found wide receiver Chase Cochran for the seven-yard score, putting Ohio up 17-7.
“It seemed like everything was clicking,” Boykin said. “Every hole was open and I can’t give enough credit to the linemen, but yeah, it seemed like we couldn’t miss.”
Converting on third down was a big reason why the Bobcats came away with a resounding win over a MAC opponent. Against Miami last week they were only able to move the chains on third down 27 percent of the time, but on Thursday night the Ohio offense approached each down with a restored confidence and finished the game 8-of-12 on third-down attempts.
“We just stepped it up,” Tettleton said. “It was a big emphasis this week to convert on third downs, have a better percentage and we did that this week.”
Despite this success, the Bobcats let the Eagles hang around and run their way back into the game late in the second quarter. EMU’s last drive of the half, one that covered 52 yards in six plays, ended in a three-yard touchdown run from Brumfield and put the game within one score going into the third quarter. Ohio then worked under pressure with less than a minute remaining on the clock, finishing the half with a seven-play, 65-yard drive that ended with a 19-yard Foster touchdown catch. Any questions that surfaced last weekend of the Bobcats not being able to come up with a crucial score were finally put on the backburner.
When Eastern Michigan got the ball back in the second half after an Ohio drive stalled, the defense saw their toughest obstacle on the night. Starting from their own 18-yard line, the Eagles compiled a 15-play drive that ate up over eight minutes on the clock. Bend and don’t break has been a key feature of the Bobcat defense this season, and kept EMU from scoring. Defensive lineman Neal Huynh was able to come up with the team’s second sack of the night, forcing Eastern Michigan to punt.
Overall that killed any offensive momentum that the Eagles had built for the remainder of the game, forcing them to punt the ball away to the Ohio one-yard line.
That’s when Foster was able to come up with his sixth receiving touchdown of the season and his second on the night.
“(Tyler) Futrell made a good block for me and it was just out in the open field, open run,” Foster said. “I was just looking for open space. I saw that I needed to get up field at some point and I just cut right off of Futrell’s block and it was off to the races.”
The Bobcats kept the offensive machine running throughout the fourth quarter, scoring two more times on touchdown runs of 13 and 29 yards from Boykin and true freshman Daz’mond Patterson respectively. Ohio was finally able to put the punctuation mark on their first convincing MAC win of the season.
“I am the type to move on and look ahead, and take it one game, one week a time,” Tettleton said. “Another week, new game that’s what it was this week, that’s the only way you can approach it.”
Ohio will have a short preparation week once again for the Peden Stadium finale on Wednesday, November 7 at 8 p.m. when the Bowling Green Falcons (6-3, 4-1) come to Athens.