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Ohio wide receiver Riley Dunlop snatches a catch for a touchdown against Rutgers Saturday, Sept. 24, at High Point Solution Stadium. Ohio lost to Rutgers, 38-26. (Alex Goodlett | OHIO ATHLETICS)

Football: Failed game plan leads to Bobcat loss against Rutgers


Ohio came to New Jersey with a game plan: protect the football and keep track of Rutgers wide receiver Mohamed Sanu.


The Bobcats (3-1) turned the ball over four times and could not corral the Scarlet Knights’ top receiver in a 38-26 loss.

"We wanted to play hard and with speed, but I’m not so sure that speed was there,” Ohio coach Frank Solich said. “We didn’t play with the same zip. You can look at a lot of things. Rutgers played well and we didn’t.”

The game looked much like Ohio’s victory the previous week against Marshall. The visiting team’s defense struggled because it spent so much time on the field, and the home squad used short-yardage completions and turnovers to lead most of the game.

Most of those completions went to Sanu, who set a team and Big East record with 16 receptions. He gained 176 yards for Rutgers and found the end zone twice.

 “It’s very hard for a stationary or even a moving linebacker or defensive back to keep up with him,” Rutgers coach Greg Schiano said.

Sanu often lined up as a slot receiver and cut across the middle of the field in front of Ohio’s secondary. Seven of his 16 catches came on third down, and six of those plays resulted in a first down or touchdown. 

“If you put the ball up in the air, we’ve got to go get it,” Sanu said. “I’m just trying to do what I’m expected to do: to get open on a give play.”

Several of the teams’ statistics mirrored each other’s. Despite Sanu’s efforts, Ohio outgained Rutgers in the passing game. The Scarlet Knights had 410 yards of total offense while Ohio had 404. 

But Rutgers controlled the rushing game and dictated the tempo. Jawan Jamison carried the ball 29 times and gained 97 yards to pace the Scarlet Knight ground attack. They controlled the ball for just less than 40 minutes.

Part of the time of position disparity resulted from Rutgers’ third-down efficiency. The Scarlet Knights were 11-for-18 on third downs, a conversion rate much higher than the 18 percent Ohio allowed through its first three games.

The Bobcats entered the game with the 20th-best defense in the country but gave up 162 more yards than its season average.

Ohio running back Donte Harden did not play because of an injury he aggravated last week against Marshall.

“When you can’t run the ball, you usually don’t get any time of possession,” Schiano said. “(Ohio) is a no-huddle team that went three and out several times in the first half, so that’s what happened. It wasn’t like that in the second half.”

And the Bobcats’ four lost fumbles did not help, either. The Scarlet Knights scored 17 points off Ohio mistakes, including a fumble return for a touchdown after LaVon Brazill lost control of the ball on a punt return.

Rutgers held Ohio to a last-second field goal in the second quarter, which had been the Bobcats’ strongest all season.

 “Awful lot of mistakes,” Solich said. “You can’t beat a good team when you play that way.”


A little Jersey sun

The bright spot of Ohio’s day was the passing game. Tyler Tettleton amassed a career-high 339 yards and once again threw for three touchdowns. Donte Foster, Brazill and Riley Dunlop made circus catches in the end zone to account for all of Ohio’s touchdowns.

Tettleton finished 23-for-36 and completed passes to 10 different receivers.

Matt Weller became Ohio’s all-time field goal leader when he connected from 42 yards out at the end of the first half. He tacked on three more points with a 34-yard kick to bring his career total to 40.

Xavier Hughes picked off his third pass of the season during the first quarter. Ohio’s nine interceptions are good for second-best in the nation.

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