The Ohio Bobcat (8-1, 4-1) football team will play its third game in 12 days when the Bowling Green Falcons (6-3, 4-1) visit Athens for the Peden Stadium finale. Emotions will be high for seniors who will play their last game as a Bobcat in Athens before heading on a two-game away trip to finish off the regular season. The fan-favorite Bobcat Blackout will only add to the thrilling atmosphere that will be rocking the Hocking home on Wednesday night at 8.
The ‘Cats got back to their winning ways with a substantial 45-14 win over the Eastern Michigan Eagles. Despite losing the turnover battle 1-2, the Bobcats will have to erase flukey mistakes such as a Beau Blankenship fumble or a Tyler Tettleton interception in order to come away with a victory against their MAC East rivals. The Falcons will make Ohio pay for their mistakes, and head coach Frank Solich stressed the importance of playing a near-perfect game on Wednesday.
“Their upfront people are very aggressive, they penetrate, they’ve got great quickness, they play with a lot of excitement, and their backers are very similar in terms of getting places,” Solich said. “They’re a very physical unit all the way around, they have a good turnover margin and they’re right at the top in the MAC for that category.”
One player that the Bobcats will have to key in on this week in order to slow down the defensive pressure that the Falcons bring almost every down is defensive tackle Chris Jones. Jones is the leading force behind the second-best pass rushing attack in the MAC, with a league-leading 11.5 sacks to his name. Even though Ohio opened the season with a challenging road win against Penn State, a team that was returning one of the best front sevens in the nation, this defensive matchup will be the Bobcats toughest challenge in the regular season.
The Ohio offensive line isn’t a unit to back down from any sort of obstacle that stands in its way. Left guard Vince Carlotta, center Skyler Allen and right guard Eric Herman will all be taking the field as Bobcats on Wednesday for the last time in their collegiate careers. Through the first seven games this senior-heavy line only allowed five sacks. It was only in the effort against Miami that they crumbled and allowed six sacks to bring the total to 11 sacks on the season. In most games they aren’t allowing any sacks, so the Falcon defense may not have the chance to get to Tettleton.
“As the front five we’ve all been with each other so long that communication is so good,” Carlotta said. “On the pass plays we just know where everyone is…it’s all about communicating.”
Ohio will have to establish the run and make sure that the Bowling Green defense doesn’t take the Bobcat offense to a one-dimension team.
The Bobcat defense will have to hold up on their end in order to keep the game from getting out of hand. The secondary is showing improvements as of late, and I won’t doubt their efforts against Bowling Green this Wednesday. Falcon quarterback Matt Schliz has thrown six interceptions this season to Tettleton’s two, one of which was a tipped ball. The hungry Ohio defensive unit is third in the MAC with nine interceptions. They are also fifth with 20.0 sacks on the season, something Ohio has been able to produce more of as of late. Schliz has also been sacked 10 times this season, so the defense will have to help the offensive line by outperforming theirs.
However, the Bobcat offense going up against the Bowling Green defense will be one of the most intriguing and important matchups that Ohio has had this season. There will be a lot of emotion left out on the field, and it seems like the defense will be riding high on feelings. Redshirt juniors Blankenship, Tettleton and running back Ryan Boykin will have to power the offense to help the seniors win their last game at Peden Stadium.
“There are a number of really talented seniors that are going to be leaving the program. It’s been a great group,” Solich said. “They’ve really recognized what we’ve wanted to accomplish with the program through their career.”
About the Opponent
Location: Bowling Green, Ohio
Colors: Orange and Brown
Players Currently in the NFL: Washington Redskins guard Kory Lichtensteiger. Pittsburgh Steelers kicker Shaun Suisham.
Notable Alumni: Nate Thurmond, former professional basketball player and NBA Hall of Fame member. Jay Crawford, ESPN sportscaster.
Keys to the Game
1. Win the turnover battle – Despite having one les turnover than the Eagles last week, the Bobcats were still able to dominate Eastern Michigan on offense. This week will be a different story for the ‘Cats with the Falcons boasting a turnover differential of +8 over the past three games. In those games, in which Bowling Green has extended their winning streak to five, they have outscored their opponents 55-15.
2. Be the better offensive line – There has been only one time this season when the Bobcat offensive line completely broke down on their assignments, and that was against a Miami defense that combined for six sacks. The Falcons are second in the MAC with 25.0 sacks on the season, while Ohio has only allowed 11.0 quarterback takedowns. Herman and company will have to anchor the offense by keeping a team that can rush three to four linemen every play and still find their way into the backfield in no time. They survived against Penn State’s front seven, but this will be the toughest matchup of the year for the Ohio veteran offensive front.
3. Go long against a stingy Bowling Green defense – Bowling Green may have the best defense in the MAC, especially as of late. They don’t allow opponents to run up the score and have only allowed offenses to score seven times through the air this season. Regarding the regular season this will be the toughest defense that Tettleton will go up against, making it the perfect time to open up the playbook. Big-play wide receiver Landon Smith is lost for the season, but there are many other agile receivers on the roster for Tettleton to work with on some trickery.
Bobcats to Watch
Offensively: Chase Cochran – The Bobcats have gone through a lot of shifting in their wide receiving lineup from the beginning of the season. Mario Dovell, Jordan Thompson and most recently Smith have all gone down with season-ending injuries, while Ryan Clark still remains questionable for Wednesday’s game. Although unfortunate, these injuries give guys like Cochran and Tyler Futrell more playing time and a better chance of figuring out their opposing defenders in order to burn them on a route. The rapid Cochran will just need to remember to bring his hands with him when Ohio looks to air the ball out against the Falcons.
Defensively: Alphonso Lewis – The rush from the defensive line will not be enough if the Bobcats want to slow the Falcon offense. Players like Lewis and Jelani Woseley will have to step up on senior night if they want to put their team in the best situation. We’ve seen the amoeba package a few times this season, but this Bowling Green offense should poise one of the toughest looks that the Ohio defense has seen so far this year. Another high-powered rushing attack awaits the Bobcats on Wednesday, and it’s up to the linebacking core to get the job done and keep play action out of the Falcons’ game plan. Lewis is the perfect player to supply the emotional edge on senior night to get the job done.
Quote of the Week
“We don’t really want it to happen yet. We’re kind of keeping it on the side, it’s in the back of our minds. When that time comes, we’ve still got more games to play afterwards, so we’re going to have to deal with it quickly and get focused. It’s going to be a challenge and I want to leave here with a W.” ~ offensive lineman Eric Herman on the final home game of his Bobcat career