The past four seasons for the Ohio Bobcats (6-6, 4-4) football team—a time period that has included three bowl births, two postseason victories and the possibility for a 13th game this season—superiority in the Mid-American Conference has almost been a given for the Green & White. But, dating back to Oct. 27, 2012, (the day that Ohio fell to rival Miami in the waning seconds of a crucial game) the Bobcats just simply haven’t looked like the fluid bunch that moved down the field with graceful ease earlier in the year.
Following three unsettling defeats over the past few weeks, the ‘Cats took the field on Senior Day looking to prove that the team did indeed have some fight left. When the Massachusetts Minutemen (1-11, 1-7) traveled to Peden Stadium for the regular season finale, flashes of Bobcat brilliance were reborn through the play of senior captains running back Beau Blankenship, cornerback Travis Carrie and quarterback Tyler Tettleton, who together accounted for five of the team’s six touchdowns in a 51-23 route of UMass.
Ohio’s struggles against top-tier MAC East opponents began with ineffective offensive play-calling to lead drives early on in games and morbid tackling techniques on elusive backs. To start things off against the Minutemen, the Bobcats made quick work with their first two drives. The two possessions that set the tone for the rest of the game covered 119 yards in seven plays, ending in a 50-yard Blankenship scamper and two-yard hookup between wide receiver Chase Cochran and Tettleton.
After the Green & White went up 14-0 on the Minutemen, UMass came right back and responded with a 42-yard field goal by Brandon Levengood for Massachusetts’ initial score.
Tettleton did appear to be in succinct precision with the rest of his teammates, but a clean strip by UMass defensive lineman Kevin Byrne ripped the ball out of Tettleton’s hands. Following the Bobcat miscue, UMass freshman running back Shadrach Abrokwah was trusted with the ball five times, reaching the end zone from three yards to lessen the gap between what was about to look like an Ohio blowout.
After the Minutemen’s early second quarter score, the Green & White started to pick up momentum once again; this time on defense. Carrie intercepted his first of two pick-sixes on the day by gracefully jumping in front of UMass quarterback A.J. Doyle’s mid-field pass. The result was a sudden burst of energy that carried Carrie 66 yards for the score.
Following the Ohio touchdown, UMass defensive back Trey Dudley-Giles muffed the kickoff, leading to a Bobcat recovery at the UMass 18. Senior running back Ryan Boykin found paydirt two plays later on a six-yard scamper. A 30-yard field goal by Josiah Yazdani near the end of the half put Ohio ahead 31-10 going into the final 30 minutes of play.
However, Ohio’s first-half efforts weren’t enough to completely put Massachusetts away. Tettleton’s only interception came with just over 13 minutes remaining in the third quarter, but it was a costly one that almost led to the same down spiral that Ohio fans have been witnesses to lately. Doyle found favorite target wide receiver Tajae Sharpe for the 38-yard score on the very next play to make it a two-touchdown game.
Ohio’s fortunes would continue to diminish because of another costly turnover by the Bobcats. A Nathan Carpenter fumble on the ensuing kickoff led to a UMass recovery at the Bobcat 23. Luckily for Ohio, the defense only held the Minutemen to three points, but 10 points had already been erased from the ‘Cats’ halftime lead of 21.
Later in the third quarter, the Green & White hit their stride once again, making good use of short field position because of a subpar UMass punt. Three plays later Tettleton hooked up with wide receiver Landon Smith from four yards out to comfortably put Ohio ahead the rest of the game.
The icing on the cake for the Ohio seniors came in the form of another Carrie pick-six. This time quarterback Mike Wegzyn’s tipped ball found its way into Carrie’s hands, returning it for 30 yards for the final score of the game.
Despite a disheartening losing stretch, the Bobcats were able to collectively send off their seniors with a victory that has the potential of earning them a fifth-consecutive bowl game appearance. With championship week approaching, Ohio will have to play the waiting game. For Green & White fans, they’re just hoping that the late season slump wasn’t enough to rid one of the most successful senior classes in Bobcat football history of one last bowl sendoff.
- Carrie finished with nine career interceptions as a Bobcat, four on the season and tied his game-high with two interceptions (Carrie, however, had never returned a pick for a score until Friday)
- Tettleton and Blankenship both made their way further up in the record book on Saturday, as Tettleton passed Akron quarterback Charlie Frye for 16th on the MAC all-time career touchdown list and Blankenship overcame former Bobcat Chad Brinker for fifth all-time on the Ohio career rushing list
- Wide receiver Donte Foster cracked the Ohio Bobcats Top 5 for receiving yards in a season with his six-catch, 89-yard performance
- Kicker Josiah Yazdani didn’t miss an extra point or field goal this season and finished with the highest field goal percentage by an Ohio kicker (Yazdani finished 12-of-12 on field goals and 28-of-28 on extra points)
- In their final games as Bobcats, Blankenship finished with 13 carries for 124 yards and one touchdown and Tettleton completed 18-of-27 for 243 yards and two touchdowns
- Abrokwah carried the ball 31 times for 110 yards and one touchdown