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Wednesday, October 5,2011

Living is sweet for the 'Cats, except for fumbles, injuries

By Adam Flango
Photo Credits: Photo by Alex Goodlett
Photo Caption: Ohio quarterback Tyler Tettleton goes to throw a pass during Saturday's game against Rutgers in New Jersey. Tettleton threw a career-high of 339 yards and matched his career-high of three touchdown passes.

If YouTube somehow kept statistics of how many views videos from a certain college generate, Ohio would not have been on the radar two weeks ago. The Bobcats have not had a viral clip since the infamous battle royal between Brutus and Rufus in 2009. (Though in fairness, that clip has been viewed more than 1.5 million times.)

But within the past two weeks, Ohio has produced two videos with a combined view total of nearly five million. The football team's reaction upon finding out about the all-black jerseys worn in the their week-four win against Marshall made it to ESPN's SportsCenter. The Marching 110's performance of LMFAO's song "Party Rock Anthem" from last weekend's win over Kent State has been featured on multiple nationally recognized sports blogs.

This is yet another pleasant surprise in what could be turning into a special season for the Ohio.

It's possible that this is coach Frank Solich's best team since he took over in 2005. A glaring weakness has yet to be exposed, and an exciting offense has energized players and fans. For the Bobcat faithful and students, this season is long overdue.

Saturday's game at Buffalo marks the halfway point of the season, which seems like the appropriate time to assess the good, the bad and the ugly of the 2011 season.

The Good

Raise your hand if you thought that the offense would be anywhere close to this explosive. Now put your hand down.

No one expected the Bobcats, who lost their leading passer, rusher and receiver to graduation last season, to show the kind of offensive power that has been on display. Redshirt sophomore Tyler Tettleton has emerged as one of the top quarterbacks in the conference. Through five games, Tettleton has thrown for 12 touchdowns with only one interception, the best ratio in the MAC. After a tough season last year, running back Donte Harden has lived up to his talent. Harden has missed the past two games with a leg injury, but he was off to a tremendous start. While the senior may have averaged only 72 yards per game in the two and a half games he played, he has added a breakaway dimension at running back that the team has not had in years.

But the most critical component of the offense has been LaVon Brazill. The statistics are impressive; Brazill's five touchdown receptions are second in the MAC, and his 13.8 yards per catch average is fourth among MAC receivers with at least 20 receptions. What has been more vital, however, is the "it" factor he has shown, that unquantifiable aura of confidence and unstoppability (if that's a word; my spell-check has its doubts). Defenses consistently key on the senior but he has shown the ability to make incredible catches all season long. Check out this video.

The conference's third-highest scoring offense has been a joy to watch this season.

The Bad

There has not been a whole lot to complain about for Ohio. That is, except for Sept. 24, 2011.

The table was set for Ohio to score perhaps its biggest regular season win with Solich. But Ohio dropped the ball. Literally. The team was already short-handed with the loss of Harden in the previous week's game, and Ryan Boykin and Tyler Tettleton struggled to carry the ground game, fumbling three times. The team also lost top cornerback Travis Carrie on the second defensive possession of the game, which helped Rutgers wide receiver Mohamed Sanu to have a record-setting day.

It had a chance to be so much more than a regular season win, but as I wrote after the game, it wasn't a season-crushing loss. If that's the worst that the Bobcats see this season, it will be a good season in Athens.

The Ugly

The one element that threatens to derail the season is injuries. Defensive lineman Neil Hunyh (pronounced Win) will miss significant time after suffering an injury early against Kent State. Hunyh was Ohio's third-leading tackler and arguably the team's defensive MVP in the first half, generating tremendous pressure against opposing lines. The aforementioned Harden has missed the last two games, and while he has been practicing with the team, Solich said after the game on Saturday that Harden had yet to regain the acceleration needed to get back on the field. The latest injury is to Tettleton, the team's most indispensable player. Tettleton went down with a foot injury against Kent State, though he indicated Wednesday that he'll play on Saturday, and that he expects Harden to play, too.


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