During the 2010 Ohio Bobcat football campaign, the Green and White rebounded after an early-season humiliation against the No. 2 Ohio State Buckeyes – one that came in the form of a 43-7 loss – to go 7-2. This resulted in Ohio’s fifth bowl trip and serves as motivation for veteran Bobcat players who have experienced a similar 49-7 beat down by the No. 9 Louisville Cardinals in the season opener.
Under head coach Frank Solich’s reign, Ohio has been known as a squad that rebounds well after complete breakdowns and plays well down the stretch of games. The ‘Cats may have both of those variables working for them on Saturday at 7 p.m. against the North Texas Mean Green at Peden Stadium for Ohio’s home opener.
The Mean Green will present another physical challenge for the Bobcats, and the similarities between Louisville and North Texas don’t end there. Opposing quarterback Derek Thompson – who passed for 349 yards and two touchdowns last week – will be standing up in the pocket as often as Teddy Bridgewater was. Brelan Chancellor, who was Thompson’s primary target in the Mean Green’s 40-6 win over Idaho, will see as many looks as Damian Copeland did this past Sunday.
“We didn’t play the way we’re capable of playing,” Solich said in a press conference this week. “That’s a little bit disturbing.”
Spirits around camp seemed pretty high this week despite it following one of the most embarrassing losses of the last decade. The only way this team can correct their mistakes in all three phases of the game is by getting back out on the field on Saturday and starting the day 0-0.
About the Opponent: North Texas Mean Green
Location: Denton, Texas
Colors: Green and White
Mascot: Scrappy the Eagle
Notable Alumni: “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, professional wrestler and Roy Orbison, singer-songwriter
Players in the NFL: Brian Waters, Dallas Cowboys
Previous Bobcat Game: 31-30 2OT loss at home – Sept. 12, 2009
Before finding themselves down 14-0 early in the first quarter against Louisville, the Ohio Bobcats had only logged three plays on the day. Quarterback Tyler Tettleton did not get a glimpse downfield before his team was down two scores against one of the most physical offenses in the nation. Bridgewater, who completed his first eight passes in a row, paced the offense similar to how Thompson of North Texas paraded his team to a 34-point victory.
After converting on his first seven attempts and finding a groove, Thompson only watched four of his 27 pass attempts hit the ground last Saturday.
He threw for a career-high 349 yards, but the ‘Cats also had the task of slowing down a scorching hot quarterback in Andrew Manley of New Mexico State in the second game last season. The team faces different circumstances in 2013, however, starting down 0-1.
“I think the most important thing is making him uncomfortable,” cornerback Travis Carrie said. “Taking away his key reads and his key options and then enforcing him to go to alternate routes.”
Carrie started off the season opener by shutting down his side of the field, but there were still too many open receivers roaming about all game long. There will have to be a team effort if the defense wants to overcome the loss of play caller and leader Keith Moore, who is questionable for Saturday’s game. Winning the turnover battle can do this; a statistical measure that often works hand in hand with victory.
Having only one turnover last week, safety Nathan Carpenter, who was in Columbus for the 2010 loss against Ohio State, preached this week at practice that performing one’s duties correctly is a big part of being in the right place at the right time. Turnovers come to those who wait, and it’s about time that Ohio get back on the right side of the turnover battle.
In order to achieve this goal, Ohio has fervently been in the film room scouting a new-look North Texas offense that has changed dramatically since the two teams last met in 2009. Carrie believes that shutting down Thompson’s key targets – which should be Carrie’s job as he plays the boundary side – the Mean Green offense will stutter. However, the returning captain still did his fair share of scouting to make sure his troops were prepared.
“I think that them changing their scheme has given them a more aggressive approach,” Carrie said.
Aggressiveness is a problem that Ohio ran into at Papa John’s Stadium with Louisville’s offense, but an efficient way of countering a high-octane powerhouse is by airing it out in the same fashion. We’ve seen Tettleton act in this type of manner over the last two seasons, but his final season as a Bobcat starter is when the team should really trust him as a big-play quarterback. In order for that to happen, the offense needs to gain momentum.
The upcoming schedule may play a big part in pushing the Bobcats into their stride
“Anytime you can come back and play in front of your home crowd for the next three weeks, that’s really exciting,” Tettleton said. “Obviously last week is not the way we wanted it to go, but hopefully we’re going to come out and show the fans that we are a different team.”
To show they are a different team, different approaches should be made. The move to sub in running back Ryan Boykin was made too late, and Beau Blankenship’s three-and-out drive on the ‘Cats’ second attempt was one of main daggers that gutted Ohio on Sunday. Even the utilization of a third back in Daz’mond Patterson would throw off any opposing defense like North Texas, who surrendered a pair of big plays early on against Idaho.
“Right now I’m the third back, and I’m behind two experienced seniors, so right now I just have to wait my turn and once I get my chance to get on the field I do what I got to do,” Patterson said.
Ohio may very well be in a situation on Saturday where they have to throw everything that they have offensively at North Texas if Tettleton and company sputter once again. The motivation is there, and it will be resounding through Peden Stadium on home opening day. This makes for an almost perfect setting to get back on track.
“This is where we spend all hours of the day all year, so we have to protect our house here and come out with a win,” Carpenter said.
Key to the Game
Create turnovers by rattling Thompson’s game plan – In week one, Thompson to Chancellor was a problem for Idaho all day long. The 85-yard hookup between the two marked the longest Mean Green play since 2007, so the Ohio Bobcat defenders will not have a lot of room to slip up the way they did on coverage against Louisville on Sunday. North Texas scored on three plays of more than 25 yards with a balanced running game and a receiver tandem of Chancellor and Darnell Smith. Like Carrie said, Ohio will have to shut down Thompson’s primary targets so that the Mean Green coaching staff will have to switch up their looks. In all the confusion, that could be what the Bobcats need to win the turnover battle.
Bobcats to Watch
Offensively: Daz’mond Patterson – After finding a little bit of light in the running lanes on Sunday, Patterson may have the chance to see significant playing time as an x-factor on Saturday if Blankenship and Boykin can’t get things moving fluidly for Tettleton so that the defense opens up. In Daz’s freshman campaign we saw his big-play capability fueled by his speed, so we know we have a perfectly able weapon sitting on the bench at all times.
Defensively: Ian Wells – No Bobcat defensive back had a particularly above average performance against the Cardinals. Wide outs were left to roam freely, as the rotating cast of cornerbacks couldn’t phase Bridgewater’s plan of attack. Another quarterback who likes to air it out awaits the Bobcats this week, and it’s final time for a group with so much potential that gets burned every week to rise up to the challenge. Wells has it in him to do that.
Bobcats 33, Mean Green 20 – Ohio gets off to another sluggish start, but the defense steps up by containing Thompson for most of the night, thus giving Tettleton enough time to get settled in.