Special teams debacle downs Ohio in final home game

By Taylor Greik

On a night where Ohio honored 19 seniors before the game, over 19,000 fans showed up for the annual “Blackout” game as Ohio faced a must win situation against Bowling Green on Wednesday night.

One might think that Ohio was prime for another solid game after an impressive 45-14 win over Eastern Michigan, especially since the game was broadcast on ESPN2 and a large crowd was in attendance. Well, Ohio was far from impressive in their final home game of the season.

Bowling Green went on to hand Ohio its second loss of the season by a final tally of 26-14. Ohio received the opening kickoff and started the game with an 11 play 72 yard touchdown drive that took 5:38 off of the clock. Beau Blankenship had seven carries for 29 yards on the drive. Quarterback Tyler Tettleton was solid as well going 2/2 for 29 yards passing and carrying the ball for nine yards, including a five yard touchdown run to cap off the drive. Many thought that Ohio was set to have a huge night, against a good Falcon defense, after the touchdown drive.

The Bobcats offensive production after the touchdown was mediocre at best. Tyler Tettleton was only able to manage 25 yards passing for the rest of the half, while Blankenship and Ryan Boykin were only able to muster 17 yards on the ground during that time.

“It all comes down to their defense,” Tettleton said about the MAC’s top defense. “It was one of the best defenses I’ve faced since I’ve been here.”

The blame for the Bobcats loss could be placed on the stagnant play of the offense, but there was one aspect of the game that doomed Ohio: special teams.

“Obviously the special teams miscues were a large part of this football game and that’s a tough way to accept a loss,” said Head Coach Frank Solich.

The play of the Ohio special teams unit was as awful as anyone could ever imagine. This was mainly on the punt team as Ohio had three of their punts blocked in the first half, resulting in 12 Bowling Green points. The last punt of the half was especially interesting for Ohio, as placekicker Matt Weller replaced Grant Venham to punt the ball away. It did not do much good, as a low snap resulted Weller to be dumped in his own end-zone for a Bowling Green safety. The Bobcats trailed 19-7 at the half, mainly because of their special teams.

“It’s definitely frustrating, but as a captain I gotta keep my guys up and keep us battling as a team and we gotta keep doing what we can control,” said Safety Gerald Moore.

Ohio came out with a great start to the second half. Their defense stuffed the Falcons, forcing a three and out, and the Ohio faithful was getting back into the game. On the ensuing Ohio drive, the Bobcats marched 95 yards down field, after a muffed punt, to pull within five. Beau Blankenship had another strong series, as he carried the ball eight times for 44 yards on the touchdown drive. The touchdown was caught by Chase Cochran on a three yard pass from Tyler Tettleton. All aspects of the Bobcat offense were beginning to click, as momentum began to shift towards the home team.

“We we’re just clicking. We we’re running the ball and the line was doing a great job and we we’re kinda clicking in those two series,” said Blankenship on Ohio’s two opening drives.

Ohio’s offense vanished after an opening drive, and failed to score for the rest of the game. Bowling Green capitalized on another blocked Ohio punt with a touchdown to take a 26-14 lead early in the fourth quarter. Ohio was not able to rebound from their special teams mishaps, as Bowling Green’s stout defense was able to seal the deal.

This was not only an odd game for Ohio, but an uncharacteristic showing for the Bobcats. Ohio’s offense was average, only gaining 244 total yards of offense, while the defense only gave up 7 points that were not preceded by turnovers. Despite giving up 181 rushing yards to Bowling Green’s Anthon Samuel, Ohio’s defense was somewhat respectable on this night. Special teams was the obvious problem for the Bobcats, which is not what we normally see from a Frank Solich coached football team.

Ohio has now dropped two of their last three games since being ranked #24 in the BCS polls for the first time in school history. The Bobcats no longer control their own destiny in the Mid-American Conference. Kent State now has a game and a half lead in the east over Ohio, where the Bobcats now find themselves third behind Bowling Green, who just beat them on Wednesday.

“We just gotta keep playing. Its football, its life, you gotta move on and learn from your mistakes,” said Gerald Moore on Ohio losing two of their last three games.

“We had a very good season going and now all of a sudden we’re 8-2” said coach Solich. “There’s only two ways to go: either you don’t practice and play well and go into a tailspin in the end, or you battle yourself out and I’d like to believe that we’ve got the kind of players that will battle themselves out.”

At the beginning of this season, Ohio had set such high expectations for themselves: an undefeated season, a MAC title, and maybe even a BCS bowl bid. Now Ohio finds themselves a long shot to even reach the conference championship in Detroit. The best Ohio can do now is win their remaining two games.

Now the Bobcats have fallen back into the shadows of the Mid-American Conference having to re-assess their entire team. Many people are starting to clamor that Ohio’s season is now a bust, but lets be reasonable here; The Bobcats are still a bowl eligible team, they can still win a conference title, and they can still achieve a second straight ten win season. It’s not like Ohio has a sub .500 record and is fighting just to play in a bowl game.

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