On eight attempts, the Ohio Bobcats were able to execute four successful punts in their 26-14 loss to Bowling Green, Wednesday night. That’s right, punts.
A punt is so much more than how far the punter can kick the ball, it takes the other ten guys working together to prevent the receiving team from blocking the kick, and then to go tackle the returner. Ohio couldn’t seem to do the former on senior night, in their black jerseys, in front of a raucous “black-out” Ohio home crowd.
“We obviously weren’t getting things blocked up well enough at front, because there were just way too many guys coming to that back wedge,” head coach Frank Solich said.Ohio got off to a fast start behind the Oklahoma trifecta. Tyler Tettleton started the drive off with a completion to Donte Foster for 15 yards. After that, Tettleton and Beau Blankenship combined for 33 yards on the ground and a 14-yard completion, before Tettleton scampered right for a 5-yard touchdown run to give Ohio a 7-0 lead.
There was 9:12 seconds remaining in the first half, Ohio would only gain seven yards the rest of the half against the MAC’s leading defense.
“It all comes down to their defense, I think all the credit goes to them,” Tettleton said. “It was one of the best defenses I’ve faced since I’ve been here.”
After Bowling Green stalled in their first two drives, Brian Sutton recovered the first of Bowling Green’s three blocked punts on the evening. Running back Anthon Samuel took advantage of the short field position and literally carried Ohio’s entire defense 15 yards into the end zone to tie the game up at 7 early in the 2nd quarter.
After an Ohio stalled drive, and a successful punt. Quarterback Matt Schilz faked a bubble screen, then faked the Statue of Liberty play to the running back, and found a wide-open Chris Gallon for a 55-yard touchdown. Ohio’s offense failed to muster anything once again, and once again trotted out to punt.
This time, freshman punter Grant Venham could not get the punt off and took off to run. He showed remarkable vision and quickness, but came up six yards short of the first down and once again Bowling Green started their drive inside Ohio territory.
“It’s always rough, it’s hard when your back is against the wall, but that’s the thing that great defenses pride themselves on,” senior safety Gerald Moore said.
Ohio held Bowling Green to a Tyler Tate to a 35-yard field goal, and led 17-7 with 3:45 to go in the first half.
Once again Ohio came out looking to get their high-powered offense going, but could not. After Tettleton was sacked on first down, Ohio looked to go into the locker room trailing 17-7. Bowling Green called a timeout. After Venham’s struggles, Solich went to senior kicker Matt Weller to punt this time around.
“Matt has practiced punting his whole time here,” Solich said. “Whenever you’ve been having the kind of problems we’ve been having, it made sense to give Matt a try there. A veteran player who has been in pressure situations before.”
Once again the punt was blocked, and Weller fell on the ball in the end zone for a safety. Bowling Green went into the half leading 19-7.
Ohio came out strong to start the second half, forcing a three-and-out. Tettleton then engineered a 14-play, 95-yard drive that culminated in a Chase Cochran touchdown.
With momentum on the Bobcats side, they forced yet another three-and-out. This time the Bowling Green defense came up big, forcing Ohio to attempt to execute a punt once again. Once again, the punt was blocked and Bowling Green took over in scoring position.
Ohio leading rusher Beau Blankenship (18 rushes, 98 yards) said the punt blocks were too much to overcome.
“It’s something we can’t control, because we’re not on it (punt block team),” Blankenship said. “You try to overcome it, but when you have, I think it was four mess-ups, I don’t think that you can really recover from that.”
Anthon Samuel was the story for the Bowling Green attack, rushing for a career high 181 yards and he added second touchdown, from four yards out, to ice it for the Falcons with 14:50 remaining in the fourth quarter.
It was a tough one to swallow for the Bobcat seniors, whose most winningest senior class, a total of 19 players, lost on senior night and have put their fate at earning a spot in the MAC Championship in the hands of other teams in the MAC.
“It’s rough, it’s my last home game at Peden it’s something I’ll never get back but it’s been a great time here, I’ve won many games,” a visibly sad Moore said. “I just need to keep my head low, we still got two more games to go and we need to do what we can to win out.”
Ohio travels to Muncie, Ind. to take on the Ball State Cardinals (7-3, 4-2) next Wednesday. The game is scheduled for an 8 p.m. kickoff.
Come back tomorrow for a slideshow from the game.