Bobcats aim to steady defense against Falcons

When the Bowling Green Falcons (6-3, 4-1) came to Athens last season for an ESPN 2 night game, the special teams sacrificed 16 points; mainly because of a bad punting day by Grant Venham. The 26-14 loss was a determining factor in the Ohio Bobcats (6-3, 3-2) failure to return to Detroit to play for the MAC Championship title.

Ohio had a tough time bringing down Buffalo's Branden Oliver. They might have a tougher time with Bowling Green's Travis Greene (Kevin Hoffman/USA Today Sports)

Ohio had a tough time bringing down Buffalo’s Branden Oliver. They might have a tougher time with Bowling Green’s Travis Greene (Kevin Hoffman/USA Today Sports)

Ohio’s 30-3 loss to Buffalo last week all but erased the Green & White’s chances of crossing off “MAC Championship” on their “Unfinished Business” checklist. Now, with three games remaining on the regular season schedule, Ohio will embark on their final road trip of the season Tuesday to Perry Stadium to face the Falcons. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. and the game will be aired on ESPN 3.

The Bobcats went on the road to Buffalo last week to face one of the best defenses in the MAC. Ohio failed to reach the red zone and didn’t score at all in the second half this past Tuesday, and this week BG fields a top-10 defense in the nation.

“They’re a well-coached defensive unit, so they don’t allow a lot of points on the board,” head coach Frank Solich said.

The Falcons rank seventh in the nation in scoring defense, giving up 16.8 points per contest despite a 42-10 setback in week three against Indiana. Solich also noted that a combination of a young, but inexperienced, offensive line and injuries to the starting unit will be a problem Ohio will have to overcome on Tuesday night.

“We’re a football team that is young up front on both offense and defense, and sometimes you have growing pains when that’s the case,” Solich stated.

Veteran linebacker Keith Moore noticed that the youth up front led to defenders playing out of their zone in the second half against Buffalo in an attempt to make a big play. That led to a big second half by Buffalo running back Branden Oliver, who dragged many Bobcat defenders with him on Tuesday.

Moore will make sure his unit is disciplined this week because of the multi-talented offensive threats BG has added to its starting lineup this season.

“They [run] a bunch of misdirection, so the front seven is going to have to be aware of all the pullers to know what’s going on,” Moore said.

Two players on Moore’s list include quarterback Matt Johnson and running back Travis Greene. Johnson won the starting job over three-year starter Matt Schilz this past offseason, while Greene is a converted wide receiver. The speed from both of these players will have Ohio on its toes for four quarters.

Leaders like Travis Carrie, who gambled for big plays in the second half last week and paid the price for it, will have to apply what they learned last week in Buffalo against the Falcons this week if they want any opportunity of ending this season on a three-game winning streak.

About the Opponent: Bowling Green Falcons

Location: Bowling Green, Ohio

Founded: 1910

Colors: Orange & Brown

Mascots: Freddie and Frieda Falcon

Enrollment: 14,807

Notable Alumni: 1966 Emmy Award-winning Cleveland newscaster, Leon Bibb, and former NBA player and member of the Basketball Hall of Fame, Nate Thurmond

Players in the NFL: New England Patriots defensive tackle, Chris Jones, and Pittsburgh Steelers placekicker, Shaun Suisham

Previous Bobcat Game: Bowling Green: 26 Ohio: 14  at Peden Stadium – Nov. 7, 2012

Key to the Game

Maintaining zones on defense – With a more mobile Johnson under center for the Falcons and a wide receiver turned running back behind him, Bowling Green will be moving the ball outside the tackles. With many weapons utilized in the misdirection game, the Ohio D needs to stand its ground to avoid biting on fakes. The Bobcats have struggled with the ground game since entering MAC play, so in order to limit damage by Greene, the Green & White will need to stick to their assignments instead of taking the risk of “being a hero.”

Bobcats to Watch

Offense: QB Tyler Tettleton – Through nine games last season, Tettleton had only thrown two interceptions. Through nine games this season, Tettleton has tallied six interceptions. Despite a string of three games where he threw for 300+ yards, the Buffalo defense frazzled the Ohio quarterback into completing a career-low 45.2 percent of his passes and passing for a career-low 126 yards. The son of major leaguer Mickey Tettleton has a short memory and is the definition of professional, so a bounce-back game is almost guaranteed.

Defense: S Josh Kristoff – After the Bobcats’ poor tackling effort Tuesday, Kristoff, the leading tackler amongst the secondary unit, will have to make sure to assist the linebackers and plug up holes in the ground game. He’s not very involved in the coverage game because of his role in the defense, but he excels at his given assignments. He has racked up 57 tackles and a team-high two forced fumbles so far this season. He’ll be very involved this upcoming Tuesday.

Falcons to Watch

Offense: RB Travis Greene – Until Ohio can stop a MAC back from dragging players five to 10 yards past the line of scrimmage, the guys lined up behind the quarterback are going to be on the watch list until the season comes to an end. Before conference play started, the Bobcats were only surrendering 143.5 yards per game on the ground. Through five MAC games, Ohio has added almost 40 yards to that average. Averaging 6.1 yards per carry, Greene may make it a long day for the Green & White D.

Defense: DB BooBoo Gates – The four-year starter may not be atop the MAC in interceptions, but that’s only because opponents know by now not to throw in his direction. However, Gates has still proven to be an impact player for this top-ranking Falcons D. He has forced two fumbles and has recovered three more, so there’s no avoiding this multi-threat corner. With wide out Donte Foster questionable for Tuesday’s game, Tettleton may have to get creative with Chase Cochran and Matt Waters.

Prediction

Falcons 34, Bobcats 21 – On the Green & White Review  this week, I said that the Bobcats would fall by a score of 34-14. I’m going to add another touchdown to Ohio’s tally, because my prediction came the day immediately following the Buffalo-Ohio matchup. The scary thing is that BG’s defense is even stingier than Buffalo’s.

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