Bobcat miscues on special teams snowball in loss to Kent State

The Ohio Bobcats had held the Kent State offense to a three-and-out with just over eight minutes remaining in the third quarter and down by a tally of 24-13, but the lack of concentration and motivation stifled the Green & White on fourth down. Two-hundred-sixty-five-pound nose tackle Nate Terhune, an unusually invisible behemoth to the Bobcats special teams unit, took a direct snap, barreled 61 yards down the field and took one giant step over punt returner Daz’mond Patterson

Grant Venham's punt attempt is nearly blocked by Kent State's Jordan Italiano. After a shanked punt, Venham would be replaced by kicker Matt Greene. (Carl Fonticella)

Grant Venham’s punt attempt is nearly blocked by Kent State’s Jordan Italiano. After a shanked punt, Venham would be replaced by kicker Matt Green. (Carl Fonticella)

Despite starting off on the right foot, Ohio couldn’t muster up any initiative in the final  40 minutes of the game following a flurry of special teams miscues, falling to the Golden Flashes by a final score of 44-13 at Peden Stadium Tuesday night.

“That was kind of the dagger there,” safety Nathan Carpenter said. “It spiraled downhill from there.”

Unable to produce positive yardage on third dow the past two weeks  the Bobcats started off using a combination of awareness and speed on offense to put the first points on the scoreboard. After quarterback Tyler Tettleton swiftly delivered on an impermeable slant route to wide out Matt Waters, the redshirt sophomore scampered for an extra 41 yards to the Kent nine-yard line. Three plays later, kicker Josiah Yazdani converted on a 20-yard field goal to give the Green & White the early 3-0 advantage.

“We were just making plays, we were rolling and we were moving fast,” Tettleton said. “The tempo was good.”

Following a Kent field goal and two stalled drives by the Bobcats and Golden Flashes, Ohio took the field on their third possession looking to establish their running game. Although the ‘Cats struggled in that department in their previous two losses, running back Beau Blankenship received a heavy yet unusual load of 21 carries in the first period.

The strategy slowly opened up the play-action game for the Green & White and powered the offense’s second score of the contest. After driving 67 yards from their two-yard line, Yazdani stayed perfect on the year with a successful 49-yard field goal conversion.

However, things started to gradually go downhill for the ‘Cats once the second quarter got underway. Kent State started the period with a 67-yard drive of its own, but ended it with four more points than the Bobcats’ previous possession. A breakdown in coverage by the Ohio secondary allowed a 26-yard completion from Kent quarterback Colin Reardon down to the Ohio 24-yard line, setting up Dri Archer’s first touchdown on the night that put Kent up 10-6.

“It seems like when something goes wrong for us, it seems to mushroom,” head coach Frank Solich said.

The overall discipline, effort and play on special teams by the Bobcats would dictate how much success Ohio would have in competing with the Golden Flashes for the remainder of the game. Looking as if they would go into the half at least tied at 13, Ohio punter Grant Venham could only manage a punt netting 17 yards. Kent State took over at the Bobcats 37-yard line, and Reardon hastily hooked up with smothered tight end Casey Pierce for the go-ahead score with under a minute remaining in the second quarter.

“We lost our mojo,” linebacker Ben Russell said of the team’s performance in the second half. “We didn’t have any energy left over for some reason.”

Kent went on to score 34 unanswered points to close out the Bobcats, including the nine-play, 80-yard touchdown drive that initiated Kent’s 27-0 second half shutout of Ohio. Despite dropping a long ball down the sideline from Reardon early on in the drive, Archer redeemed himself by delivering a five-yard score to begin the third quarter of play.

“Our defense came out pretty strong and played well, and then obviously things don’t always go your way,” Carpenter said. “We should’ve stepped up and stopped them and made it a complete different game again, but things don’t always go your way.”

The Golden Flashes, paced by Archer for the remaining 30 minutes, racked up 232 of their 312 total rushing yards over the final two quarters. Archer was held to 32 yards on the ground in the first act but more than tripled his output in the second half.

Quaterback Tyler Tettleton is wrapped by Kent State's Terrence Waugh. Tettleton would finish 11-24 for 132 yards with a touchdown and an interception. (Carl Fonticella)

Quaterback Tyler Tettleton is wrapped by Kent State’s Terrence Waugh. Tettleton would finish 11-24 for 132 yards with a touchdown and an interception. (Carl Fonticella)

The Ohio starters only took the field for two possessions in the second half, totaling 11 plays during those drives. At one point during the third quarter Tyler Tettleton nonchalantly took a seat on the field on a third-and-21 play, accepting a nine-yard sack from the overpowering Kent front seven like it was personally gift-wrapped for the Golden Flash defense.

“Without focus, regardless of talent, you’re not going to be very good,” Solich said. “For some reason, when things start to go bad, they continue to unfold that way and we’re not able to bring ourselves out of it.”

After playing on par with Kent for a majority of the first half, the Golden Flashes outgained the ‘Cats by 278 yards in the second half and held the Green & White to just 34 yards of total offense. One quarter of football was all that Ohio had focus for Tuesday night, a problem that has been evident over the Bobcats’ current three-game skid.

“Obviously there is something wrong here that we need to fix as players and a program here,” Carpenter said. “Our players need to start from scratch and finish off the season strong with a win.”

With one game left on the regular season schedule and a bowl birth still up in the air, Ohio will look to end the season with a victory over the UMass Minutemen (1-9, 1-5). The 2013 Peden Stadium finale will kick off at 2 p.m. on Sat., Nov. 29. The game will air on ESPN 3.

GAME NOTES:

  • After achieving success through the play-action game in the first quarter, Blankenship only saw two carries in the second quarter and zero touches in the second half after seeing 21 in the first period.
  • Archer carried the ball 15 times for 138 yards and three touchdowns and caught five passes for 53 yards.
  • After Venham’s second punt netted him less than 20 yards, the coaching staff decided to switch to kicker Matt Green for the rest of the game (he averaged 42.2 yards per punt compared to Venham’s average of 30.0 yards).
  • Ohio has lost its last three games by a combined score of 123-16 against Buffalo, Bowling Green and Kent State.
  • Ohio has been outgained 1,418-609 in total yards over the past three contests.
  • Ohio has converted on nine of their past 45 third-down attempts (20 percent) over the past three games.
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