Football: Despite valiant comeback efforts, Bobcats fall to Pirates in St. Pete, 37-20

Ohio Bobcats (7-6, 4-4) kicker Josiah Yazdani had been perfect on every field goal and extra point attempt all season long entering the 2013 Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl at Tropicana Field. In the matchup against the East Carolina Pirates (10-3, 6-2 C-USA), Yazdani continued his perfection in an almost incomprehensible turn of events for the Green & White.

After taking a 20-17 lead with 13:33 to go in the contest, Yazdani put a Bobcats’ onside kick in the perfect location—with flawless height—in the hands of defensive back Devin Bass. With a chance to extend on their first lead of the game, Yazdani missed an ensuing 45-yard attempt. Events quickly took a turn after that point, as the Bobcats had their bowl-game winning streak halted after a 37-20 defeat at the hands of the Pirates.

Ohio knew going into the bowl game matchup with ECU—a top-10 offense in the nation statistically—that any small mistake on offense would put the ball into the hands of gunslinger Shane Carden, who completed 29 of 45 passes for 273 yards and one score.

On the Bobcats’ first possession of the game, things got off to a rocky start, and it looked as if the Green & White were going to be in for a long game. Not seeing defensive back Michael Dobson closing in, Ohio quarterback Tyler Tettleton had his third attempt of the day picked off.

The Pirates made quick work with the turnover, shredding the ill-prepared Ohio defense with 1,000-yard rusher Vintavious Cooper, who finished with 198 yards on 25 carries and two scores. After the Bobcat safeties misread a misdirection call, Cooper took the ball up the middle for a 34-yard gain down to the Ohio five. Carden then hooked up with wide receiver Cam Worthy for the score.

One trend that haunted Ohio for much of the Bobcats’ 2013 season was their third-down failings. Fittingly, the ‘Cats started off the game with dead-end play calling, resulting in short-lived drives. Ohio’s first three possessions of the game—all in the first quarter of play—only reaped 56 yards over 15 plays.

This allowed East Carolina to jump out to a 14-0 advantage after an even-paced 11-play, 76-yard drive that ended in a two-yard score by running back Breon Allen. The Pirates had racked up over 200 yards of total offense in the first quarter, and it looked like Ohio would, indeed, be in for a long game.

Then the ‘Cats got creative with their offensive scheme.

On the third play of Ohio’s fourth possession, Tettleton took the snap, handed the ball off in the backfield to a reversing wide receiver and eventually ended up with the pigskin in his hand with time and room to pass. This trickery—something that had been missing from the Bobcats’ playbook in 2013—produced a wide-open Daz’mond Patterson, who hauled the eventual pass for a 26-yard gain to the ECU 17. The duo attacked again on the following play, as Tettleton hooked up with Patterson for Ohio’s first score of the game.

More surprises by the Bobcat offense came in the second quarter. Backup quarterback Derrius Vick started Ohio’s proceeding drive, and it didn’t take long for him to get in a rhythm. Because of a well-disguised misdirection fake, ECU’s secondary bit, and wide receiver Donte Foster was all by himself down the field for the 80-yard score.

What started off as an ECU blowout rapidly turned into a tie game at 14 with just over 10 minutes remaining in the half.

But it was now time for Ohio’s defense to make a statement on the field. After allowing the Pirates and Carden, who was starting to find his stride in the passing game, to march 63 yards down the field, the Bobcat D prevented ECU’s second fourth-down attempt within the confines of the red zone of the half.

The play of the defensive front for Ohio was huge all game, tallying two sacks on the day and pressuring Carden into short-play situations. The stop allowed the Bobcats to head into the half only down by three points after kicker Warren Harvey converted on a 41-yard attempt on ECU’s following possession.

Ohio rode the momentum into the third quarter, taking a 20-17 lead behind two Yazdani field goals—the most recent of makes coming in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter. After missing his first attempt all season from 45 yards out, the Pirates conjured up the confidence that was protruding from the team in the first frame, reaching the end zone on their following two possessions.

Thanks to an explosive rushing attack (68 yards on five rushes), ECU had turned a three-point deficit into an 11-point advantage in the matter of three-plus minutes. The second of three fourth quarter touchdowns by the Pirates seemingly put the game out of reach for the Bobcats—down 31-20 with just over seven minutes remaining—but two Tettleton interceptions on the Bobcats’ final two stabs at overcoming two unlikely deficits in one game officially ended Ohio’s valiant comeback efforts.

Although Ohio’s season ended in a loss for the first time since 2010, the ‘Cats overcame adversity more times in one contest compared to the whole 2013 campaign. There is no faulting of the energy Ohio exerted over four quarters against one of the NCAA’s most accurate and potent offense. This team has a lot to be proud of for their efforts on Dec. 23.


In the spirit of the holidays, I decided to do something a little different for the Game Notes for the Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl. Because the team played on Festivus—a fictional holiday created by the popular television show Seinfeld­—I decided to air my grievances I had with the 2013 Bobcats (related to plans from today’s game):

  • Tettleton ran the ball four times on Monday, which seemed like four more times than he had taken the ball into his own hands past the line of scrimmage during the course of entire season.
  • Trick plays galore—including a double reverse, Vick touchdown pass to Foster and a converted Yazdani onside attempt—produced two scoring drives (14 points); where was this during the regular season!
  • Although Foster finished with six catches for 160 yards (80 from the wide-open score from Vick), I thought speedster and downfield threat Chase Cochran should have had more plays designed for him in the deep passing game (finished with five catches for 33 yards).
  • When Ohio was struggling during the regular season should we have seen more Vick out on the field at quarterback? He did have a pretty easy throw to make to Foster, but playing him more would have definitely caught teams more off guard and forced them to game plan for two different signal callers.
  • Despite injuries, Ohio coaches had plenty of chances to involve the sneaky Daz’ Patterson with the passing attack. The Bobcats could have been clinging onto the success of Beau Blankenship from the prior season too long before they realized this, however. Patterson caught a team-high six passes (for 77 yards).
  • Going up against such an effective offense, Ohio needed to win the turnover battle if they wanted to give their offense the best chance at putting points on the board. With no turnovers—although Ohio dropped two sure interceptions during the course of the game—and Tettleton throwing three picks (21 of 44 for 228 yards and one touchdown), the game was lost because of Bobcat misfortunes.

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