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Ohio's Travis Carrie evades two New Mexico State defenders during his 65-yard punt return for a touchdown. Ohio won the game 44-24 Saturday.

Football: Bobcats show mental, physical toughness in season opener

Veteran linemen on both sides of the ball anchored an otherwise inexperienced Bobcat squad in their season opening win Saturday.

A diverse ground attack and special teams play paced Ohio’s offense in its 44-24 victory against New Mexico State.

Quarterback Tyler Tettleton supplied four touchdowns in his debut as a starter behind strong protection from his offensive line. The Bobcats’ defensive front four squelched the Aggies’ rushing game and pressured quarterback Andrew Manley into passing to gain any yardage.

“I thought overall mentally, we played a very good game in terms of where we were supposed to be,” coach Frank Solich said. “Physically, we played really well.”

Ohio played energetically from the outset. On the first play from scrimmage, Alphonso Lewis correctly identified a reverse and tackled Taveon Rogers in the backfield. Two plays later, Noah Keller forced a fourth down with a hard-hitting tackle before the first down marker.

Tettleton’s first drive was his most problematic. He completed two of his first three passing attempts but threw an interception in the red zone when he forced a pass into double coverage on third down.

Tettleton let the running backs take charge on the next drive. Beau Blankenship capped the series with a 1-yard run for six points.

Ohio’s defense then showed its youth in the secondary as Manley found Rogers wide open for a 42-yard touchdown pass. The Bobcats allowed five passing plays of more than 30 yards and another play of 18 yards in the contest.

“There’s a combination of reasons why a team will have six explosive passes on you,” Solich said. “It doesn’t all revert to the secondary, but we need to do some things better across the board with safeties and corners.”

Tettleton led two scoring drives in the second quarter. He connected with receiver LaVon Brazill for 44 yards and carried the ball across the goal line three plays later. Tettleton threw his first career touchdown pass to Riley Dunlop to extend the lead to 23-7.

In the third quarter, Phil Bates threw a 58-yard completion to Mario Dovell. Tettleton then found Donte Foster for the score. Tettleton’s final touchdown came on another 1-yard rush.

He finished the game 16-for-28 for 153 yards.

“I’m really pleased with how he played,” Solich said. “As you go through and break down the film, there are three or four times his decision making on where to go with the ball wasn’t exactly where you want, but that was only three or four times. He stayed in the pocket and rolled out and did things with a lot of composure.”

Late in the third quarter, Travis Carrie returned a punt 65 yards for a touchdown to give Ohio a 44-10 lead. Rogers returned the ensuing kickoff 97 yards for an Aggies touchdown.

New Mexico State scored quickly to begin the fourth quarter but never got closer than 20 points.

The defensive line kept New Mexico State from running the ball. The Aggies managed only six yards on the ground. Alabama was the only Football Bowl Subdivision team to allow fewer rushing yards than Ohio.

Ohio’s Donte Harden led all rushers with 81 yards on 15 carries.

“I think we did our job,” Tettleton said. “There’s always room to improve each week, and I think we’ll do that.”

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