Football: New-look Bobcats start season off with MAC challenge

For athletes, having a short-term memory is a must. The Ohio Bobcats know this as well, especially going into their season opener against the Kent State Golden Flashes at Dix Stadium this Saturday at 6 p.m.

Nearing the end of last season when Kent visited Peden Stadium, Ohio’s 2013 season continued to down spiral. Coming off two losses in which the ‘Cats were outscored 79-3, Ohio returned home in hopes of salvaging what was left of their season. During the first half of the Bobcats previous matchup with the Golden Flashes, Ohio looked like a football team with a short-term memory. However, the team imploded in the second half, and Kent State cruised to a 44-13 victory.

The Bobcats looked like a team that was still bent out of shape by the beatings they took in the contests leading up to last year’s Kent-Ohio matchup. But with a new season comes a different mindset, and that game with the Golden Flashes a year ago is not even on Ohio’s radar anymore.

“We have a new team, different outlook on things, so we’re excited to play Kent,” redshirt junior quarterback Derrius Vick said. “They’ve had our number for the past four out of five years, so that’s got to change.”

Part of the reason why Vick and the rest of the Bobcats are no longer dwelling on last season’s failings stem from the overhaul that the team has gone through this past offseason. The offense is returning three of 11 starters from 2013. One of the most prolific Ohio University athletes, quarterback Tyler Tettleton, has since graduated, which created a battle for the starting quarterback position during the summer.

Vick, who had a handful of snaps for the ‘Cats last season and even saw minutes in last season’s bowl game, edged out redshirt sophomore JD Sprague for the starting job. Competition is healthy, and it kept Vick and Sprague playing at their absolute best throughout the spring and summer sessions. This puts the Ohio offense in a  fortunate situation: having two quarterbacks at their disposal for the 2014 season.

“Both will play. Both will have opportunities,” Ohio coach Frank Solich said. “Both need to play at a very high level for us to be successful, and I believe they both will.”

Solich also mentioned in the week leading up to the Kent State game that the two will share time under center, with Vick seeing about 80 percent of the offensive snaps.

Although the status of how the offense will mesh in the season opener against Kent is uncertain, the Bobcat defense will be returning eight of its 11 starters. This returning unit includes four experienced defensive linemen that saw the bulk of snaps last season. And that group includes sophomore Tarell Basham, who recorded a team-high 7.5 sacks.

“It goes a lot further than just the starting four,” Basham said. “We have at least 10 (defensive linemen) who I know that can possibly start a game this year.”

The defensive depth will go a long way for the ‘Cats in 2014, something that was not as prevalent in years past. With Kent State shuffling offensive linemen and senior running back Trayion Durham likely out for Saturday’s game, the Ohio defense has a great chance to start the season off with a mature performance.

What has not appeared for Ohio over the past two seasons against Kent, however, is a free-flowing offense. With a fresh set of Bobcats coming into the mix, those who watched what happened to Ohio against the Golden Flashes in the past from the sideline know that things need to change. And it starts with discipline.

“In the past couple years Kent has pretty much shut our offense down. That whole defense is something we need to focus on,” redshirt junior running back Daz’mond Patterson said. “We need to focus on executing one play at a time, doing our jobs, and I feel like if we do our jobs we have the athletes to beat them.”

About the Opponent: Kent State Golden Flashes

Location: Kent, OH

Established: 1910

Colors: Kent State Blue and Kent State Gold

Mascot: Flash the Golden Eagle

Notable Alumni: Talk show host Arsenio Hall and head football coach at the University of Alabama Nick Saban

Players in the NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers running back Dri Archer and San Diego Chargers tight end Antonio Gates

Previous Bobcat Game: 44-13 Bobcats loss at Peden Stadium – Nov. 19, 2013

Bobcats to Watch

Offense: RB Daz’mond Patterson – Solich mentioned Monday when he met with the press that this group of Ohio running backs are “better than (the Bobcats have) ever had before.” And Daz’ Patterson will be leading this group, but he won’t be alone this upcoming season. Senior captain Tim Edmond and redshirt freshman Dorian Brown both will be lightening Patterson’s load, and that bodes well for Patterson, who is a quick-footed, big-play back from Plant City, Florida. Patterson sat behind two seasoned backs, Beau Blankenship and Ryan Boykin, who have since graduated. But in his first campaign as a Bobcat Patterson averaged 5.6 yards per carry. With Ohio unsure of the arm that will be under center this season, look for Patterson to carry a lot of the load in the season opener.

Defense: DB Devin Bass – When Bass was on the field for Ohio last season, he was electric. Along with being the team’s No. 1 kickoff returner, Devin recorded 15 pass breakups for the Bobcats, by far the most out of any Ohio defender. With defensive back captains Josh Kristoff and Nate Carpenter acting as role models for Bass, his discipline on defense will only get better. Travis Carrie took Bass under his wing last season, and with that experience he is now ready to take the next step in becoming a part of the elite, and experienced, defense that the Bobcats will be putting on the field in 2014. Although Kent State thrives on their running game, Durham will likely be out for the season opener. This means that Reardon may have to air it out to get the offense moving, and that gives Bass a chance to start off the season with a statement game.

Golden Flashes to Watch

Offense: QB Colin Reardon – As mentioned above, Reardon will have a lot on his plate this game if the backup running back core for the Golden Flashes is not able to get anything going on the ground. Although Kent doesn’t pose much of a long-yardage threat, sophomore wide receivers James Brooks and Ernest Calhoun are speedy, big-play options for Reardon to look to. He also can rely on the hands of the reliable Chris Humphrey, who hauled in 51 catches last season for Kent. Reardon will be the focal point of the offense, at least for Saturday, and that means the Ohio secondary will have to stay honest to prevent any gaping holes in its coverage.

Defense: DL Nate Terhune – With four-time All-MAC First Team defensive lineman Roosevelt Nix graduated, Terhune will have to anchor the Kent State front four this  season. Although Terhune did not show up on the stat sheet a whole lot last year, he did make the highlight reel with this amazing run against Ohio back in November. The Golden Flash nose tackle was also named the No. 1 toughest player in college football this season by NFL.com. This season, however, Terhune should show up on the stat sheet more frequently. His presence on the defensive line last season freed up Nix to have the season that he did at Kent State last year. Now he will rely on the other defensive linemen to do the same for him.

Prediction

Bobcats 20, Golden Flashes 17 – Both offenses are going into this matchup pretty shaky, so I think this one will come down to two things: First, who can run the ball effectively. Second, which defensive unit can prevent the run. With Durham out and Ohio’s front seven looking the most fierce they have in years, I’m ready to chalk this one up to the Bobcats to start the season. Ohio’s running game and defensive front will be the team’s two keys to success this season, and I think they start the 2014 campaign off on the right foot.

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