By Fred Skott @Fskott
October 13th, 2012. This particular Saturday afternoon at Peden Stadium was the moment most Bobcat followers and alumni had been dreaming of for quite sometime. A 7-0 start and 3-0 in the MAC, an unfamiliar position for this Southeastern Ohio football program.
Allowing itself a stranglehold lead in the Mid American Conference with only five games to play. Considering the obstacles set before them at the outset of this campaign with regards to injuries, one would have to believe this was a team destined and on its way to winning its first title in 44 years.
Losing both starting corner backs before the first game was in the books could stand to cripple most teams that have championship aspirations. Coach Frank Solich and his staff had the “next man up” mantra working in Athens to the tune of seven consecutive victories to open their schedule.
The signature win coming at Happy Valley in Penn State to start the year. Pushing forward they would find the right ingredients to seal the next six weeks with victories. At this juncture of the season the Bobcats were heading into the bye, a trip to Miami of Ohio in Oxford was looming out of the break.
What transpired for OU at Yager Stadium was turnover free ball for a full 60 minutes , a recipe for success on the road in most cases but somehow with 1:24 on the clock and deadlocked at 20-20, the Redhawks of Miami trotted out true Freshman kicker Kaleb Patterson. After splitting the uprights and taking the lead 23-20 it was on the shoulders of Junior quarterback Tyler Tettleton to get OU in a position to at least force a tie and send it to overtime.
Unfortunately for coach Solich’s crew, the Redhawks, who to this point in the year had only managed six sacks, dominated up front, and on this afternoon, Miami would proceed to double that total, and after defensive end Wes Williams delivered the final takedown the clock hit triple zeros. The contest ended, and with it, the Bobcats seven game winning streak.
From that moment forward the season spiraled down to a 1-4 finish that saw their win streak turn to a 8-4 finish. While it wasn’t the ending everyone in Athens had in mind, the Bobcats still rebounded in a big way to “right the ship” as they pounded the Warhawks from Louisiana Monroe 45-14 in the AdvoCare V100 Independance Bowl in Shreveport. It was running back Beau Blankeships four rushing touchdowns and wide receiver Chase Cochrans’ 162 yards receiving that propelled the Bobcats to finish the season the way it began.
Now it’s two most prominent Senior leaders, quarterback Tyler Tettleton and running back Beau Blankenship are back and ready to correct last seasons finish, also returning on defense are Senior corner backs Travis Carrie and Jamil Shaw from the injured reserve. It’s this Bobcat team that has Athens buzzing about finishing the job in 2013 and making its way to the MAC Championship at Ford Field in Detroit,Michigan on December 6th.
To get there Ohio University will need to answer serious questions in the trenches on both sides of the ball. They return only one defensive lineman who has six games experience to be the anchor up front, and with regards to the offensive line, the interior will see new faces to help protect Tettleton and open holes for Blankenship. The metal of the Bobcats will be tested early. They will face growing pains along the way, but the experience by November should prove tremendous value.
Like 2012, there are no “lay-ups” to start 2013, instead, a date with Heisman Trophy candidate Teddy Bridgewater and nationally ranked Louisville at Papa John’s Stadium. That said, something tells me the Bobcats will be focused on the task at hand and well prepared come September 1st when they visit the Cardinals, bank on them looking to take home more than a few slices of Papa’s pizza as a souvenir.