Ohio won a critical game against Kent State Saturday but lost a critical Huynh in the process.
The Bobcats snapped their two-game slide against the Golden Flashes with a 17-10 victory in wet and windy conditions. But Neal Huynh, who entered the game as Ohio’s leading tackler, sustained a potentially season-ending leg injury to create a larger-than-life gap at nose guard.
Starting cornerback Omar Leftwich injured his arm in the game and also will miss “considerable time.”
“It had a little effect on us,” coach Frank Solich said. “Those guys are really exceptional players. I don’t think you just replace those guys easily. It put us in a tough situation depth-wise up front on the defensive side.”
Tyler Tettleton, Corey Hasting and Xavier Hughes also missed time because of injuries.
Cornerback Travis Carrie returned from a head injury against Rutgers to anchor the young squad and neutralize Kent State’s aerial assault. Spencer Keith completed only 15 of 35 passes for 117 yards and two interceptions.
The Bobcats also picked off a pass from running back Jacquise Terry on a trick play.
The defense responded despite the injuries to anchor the Bobcats during a game in which neither team had many chances in the red zone. Meanwhile, Ohio’s offense managed its lowest yardage and point totals of the season, and the typically sharp special teams unit allowed two blocked kicks and a fumble on a punt return. Matt Weller also came up short on a 41-yard field goal into the wind.
“Special teams cost us,” Solich said. “I don’t think we kicked the ball as well. Matt didn’t have one of his better days.”
Ohio used the bubble screen as its go-to play just as it did against Marshall two weeks ago. Tettleton threw his 11th and 12th touchdowns of the season on 28-of-42 passing. He was hindered by a “deep contusion” to his right leg and left the game with about five minutes remaining.
“He could not push off the leg,” Solich said. “It bothered him for a share of the second half. He played considerable time with it in the second half, and it got to a point where he just couldn’t move.”
Phil Bates took seven snaps as quarterback and called all rushing plays to run down the clock.
LaVon Brazill caught eight passes for 102 yards and a touchdown, his fifth of the season. He is tied for 10th all-time in single-season touchdown catches and fourth all-time in career receiving touchdowns.
Ryan Boykin provided the bulk of the ground game as Donte Harden remained sidelined with a hip and groin injury. He gained 72 yards on 22 carries and also caught eight passes for 47 yards and a touchdown.
“It sucks to see one of your teammates go down, but I just knew that I had to step into his spot,” Boykin said. “Nobody on Kent’s team cares that our team goes down.”
Three of Ohio’s top five tacklers in last week’s loss to Rutgers were defensive backs, but all of this week’s leading tacklers were linebackers or defensive linemen.
A combination of good coverage in the secondary and dropped passes forced Kent State to seek yardage through the rushing game, leading to the changed distribution in stops.
“They had a big back, so they thought they could pound it on us,” said freshman safety Nathan Carpenter, who intercepted his second pass of the season. “All of the linemen and linebackers made their tackles. Everyone did their jobs and their assignments.”
With the win, Ohio improved to 4-1 for the first time since 1997. It also marks the first 3-0 home start in six seasons.