Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
The Post

Ohio safety Josh Kristoff forces Temple quarterback Chris Coyer out of bounds during Ohio’s Blackout Night at Peden Stadium, on Nov. 2, 2011. Ohio defeated Temple 35-31. (Jason Chow | For The Post)

Football: Bobcats end record-breaking season with Bowl game win

As 2010 came to a close, coach Frank Solich and his staff had not met several of their team’s preseason goals. Even with a senior quarterback and a seasoned defensive unit, the Bobcats could not wrap up a Mid-American Conference East Division title or a bowl win.

What a difference a year makes.

This year’s team broke a multitude of school records, posted Ohio’s first 10-win season in 43 years and the first bowl win in school history. Along the way, the Bobcats picked up their second MAC East title in three years, appeared on national television six times and capped a winning season with a victory for the first time since 2000.

Along the way, the Bobcats encountered some speed bumps, most notably injuries to key defenders and mid-season losses in games where Ohio was heavily favored. But the team rebounded from each setback and finished the season with a win that set fans’ social media accounts abuzz.

Perhaps the most promising part of the season was the play of quarterback Tyler Tettleton, who put up some of the best numbers in school history — as a redshirt sophomore. He and the team’s seven captains provided the leadership necessary to make 2011 a year to remember.

“The season was interesting in that we really got off to a good start, and I think that was important having an inexperienced quarterback,” Solich said. “You’re never sure as to how it’s going to play out.

“I felt pretty good about our senior leadership and what this team had done in the offseason.”

Ohio got off to a blistering start, winning its first three games by a combined 84 points. The most electrifying of those wins was the 44-7 home victory against Marshall, where the Bobcats debuted new black jerseys and honored Marcellis Williamson, the former nose guard who died of a blood clot last April.

But a road loss against Rutgers ended Ohio’s hopes of climbing into the top 25 in national polls. The team’s secondary took a beating, succumbing to injuries and the electrifying play of receiver Mohamed Sanu, who caught a Big East single game record 16 passes in the contest.

The injuries continued to pile up as MAC play began. Only a few snaps into the conference opener against Kent State, nose guard and leading tackler Neal Huynh injured his leg and would miss the next five games. Starting cornerback Isaac Hughes missed the second half of the season, linebacker Eric Benjamin battled persistent knee problems and injuries sidelined a host of other players.

Missing key contributors contributed to a loss against lowly Buffalo, and then another to Ball State on Homecoming. But the Bobcats gained momentum and health down the stretch. Every opening day starter except Hughes suited up in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.

“I thought at the beginning of the year we were pretty healthy, and at the end of the year we were pretty healthy,” Solich said. “It’s clear to me that you’ve got to have enough depth in your program to be able to sustain injuries as you go through the season.”

The win that got Ohio back on track from its mid-season slump was a Tuesday night contest against Temple broadcast nationally on ESPN. The win was the first of three come-from-behind victories for Ohio and proved the team could handle the pressure of primetime.

With each game, Tettleton gained confidence and showed poise under the lights with cameras rolling.

“I think I’ve matured, training the whole year, trying to get better,” Tettleton said. “That’s what I wanted to do, progress each week and get better.”

But after five straight wins to close out the regular season, Ohio endured one more chapter of heartbreak, dropping the MAC Championship game to Northern Illinois after leading 20-0 at halftime.

Despite all the goals his team accomplished, Solich still regrets the missed opportunity in Detroit.

“All we had to do is score in some fashion or another in the second half to wrap that game up, and we did not get that done,” he said, adding that no Bobcat unit played to its potential after halftime.

“If one of them would have played well, we probably would have won the game.”

Fast forward two weeks, and the Bobcats were victorious on the blue turf in Boise, Idaho, thanks to some final-minute magic from Tettleton and senior receiver LaVon Brazill. With a bowl title finally in hand, all of the bumps, bruises and shortfalls took a backseat to a sense of accomplishment and relief.

“I think that game was one of the most important,” senior captain and middle linebacker Noah Keller said. “It was definitely a fun game to play.”

As the calendar turns to January, the focus is now on the 2012 season. But Ohio’s success in 2011 will be fresh in all of the returning players’ minds as they suit up for spring training camp in three months.

Powered by SNworks Solutions by The State News
All Content © 2016-2023 The Post, Athens OH