The Bobcats have been here before. Twice, actually.
As Troy players repeatedly entered the end zone untouched in Ohio's 48-21 loss to the Trojans in the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl Dec. 18, the trend of late-season Ohio collapses continued.
After a 1-3 start to the season, the Bobcats won eight consecutive games and looked unbeatable at times. Their offense fluid and defense strong, the Bobcats looked like a lock for the Mid-American Conference East Division championship after a 31-23 win at Temple Nov. 16.
But the Bobcats played their ugliest game of the year in a 28-6 loss to Kent State a day after Thanksgiving, and outdid themselves on the national stage against the faster Trojans, led by quarterback Corey Robinson and his New Orleans Bowl record 387 passing yards.
In 2006, the Bobcats started 9-3 and won the MAC East. But a loss to Central Michigan in the title game followed by a 28-7 defeat to Southern Mississippi in the GMAC Bowl capped the season.
Last year, Ohio had the same 9-3 record and MAC East championship before dropping the title game again to the Chippewas and then the Little Caesar's Pizza Bowl to Marshall in another slop fest.
"For some reason, and I don't know what it is, but the last two games don't show the season we had," quarterback Boo Jackson said. "I don't know if we get exposed, or if we just don't play our best football at the end of the season, but it's something that's haunted us for the past two years and it's not a good thing at all."
Jackson seemed perplexed when trying to think of a reason behind the late-season follies.
"Being a California boy, I don't like the snow. I don't like the cold. That might be it," Jackson joked before becoming serious. "Toward the end of the season, maybe schemes get different. Teams that aren't going on have a lot less to play for so they're going to come at you with different things."
Coach Frank Solich downplayed the effect two consecutive losses had on his team's season, as he stressed the importance of building a program.
"We are proud of what the seniors and underclassmen have done," Solich said. "This is two bowl games in a row. It's obvious that we have to take our program another step."
With no more games to play, no reasons for the collapse and 22 graduating seniors, the Bobcats will have a long time to think about the season's end. But it appears Solich sees no problem with losing important games at the end of the year, just as long as his team is playing in important games to end the year.