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Wednesday, October 3,2012

Ohio running back’s stats near top of the heap nationwide

Bobcats face MAC foe Buffalo at Peden Saturday

By Wes Mayberry

Photo Caption: Beau Blankenship catches a pass during the Penn State victory.

Although quarterback Tyler Tettleton generally gets much of the attention for the Bobcat football team's current success, redshirt junior running back Beau Blankenship is quietly having a stellar season of his own.

The Bobcats play Buffalo (1-3) at home this Saturday.

After missing the previous week's game against Norfolk State, Tettleton was ready to return to the field last weekend for his team's contest against the University of Massachusetts, in which he threw for 229 yards and two touchdowns en route to the 37-34 Bobcat victory.

"It felt really good. I was excited to get back out there with everybody," Tettleton said. "It was a great game and I'm glad we could come away with the win."

However, since he still was not 100 percent healthy, the coaching staff advised Tettleton to try to avoid contact as much as possible, which resulted in the signal-caller's relatively small number of rushing attempts.

"We think we got him through last game without re-aggravating the injury. That was huge for us," head coach Frank Solich said. "We were ready to take him out at the first sign of it bothering him."

Tettleton's reduced workload paved the way for Blankenship to set career highs in rushing attempts and rushing yards while scoring two touchdowns. His 43 rushing attempts tied an OU record, while his 269 rushing yards were the third highest single-game total in school history. Even though he had an unusually high number of carries, Blankenship said that he never wore down as the game progressed.

"I love getting the carries. Any chance I can have to touch the ball and try to make a play, I want to," Blankenship said. "I feel fine, and the offensive line is doing a great job."

Solich said that a workload of Blankenship's caliber isn't unique but his durability is what makes Blankenship special.

"It's not rare to find players like that. It's rare for them to be able to hold up and do it," Solich said. "I have not known a running back who doesn't want 100 carries in a game, but they can't hold up health-wise game after game in most cases. He seems to be a guy who's able to do that."

Blankenship's performance gives him five straight games in which he has rushed for more than 100 yards, and his 757 total rushing yards rank second nationally in the top division in college football (FBS). Only Nevada's Stefphon Jefferson has more with 877. This is a notable accomplishment, but Blankenship gives the offensive line much of the credit.

"I'm fortunate to be in that position, but I'm not really focused on stats or anything. I'm just plugging away," Blankenship said. "The offensive line is doing a great job, and I'm just getting the yards I can."

Solich also credits many players on the offensive side of the ball for Blankenship's success, but he commends his running back for his performance thus far.

"He's had a great season. A lot goes into that, but no one can argue with his productivity, his toughness and ability to get the tough yards and make remarkable runs," Solich said. "You can't get any more out of a back than what he's given us."

Although they have played well thus far, the 'Cats' offensive line will have to be extremely prepared for their game against the visiting Buffalo Bulls, and reigning Defensive Player of the Year Khalil Mack, on Saturday. Mack had an impressive 20.5 tackles for loss last season and is off to a fast start to his 2012 campaign, having accumulated 11 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks through Buffalo's first four games. Since Ohio is facing such a talented player, Tettleton said that the team can only do so much as an offense to make Mack less of a factor.

"He's a great player," Tettleton said. "When you're going up against a guy like that, the only thing you can really do is try and slow him down."

Though the Bobcats were dealt a stinging 38-37 loss at the hands of Buffalo last year, Solich said that his squad is not looking to avenge that defeat.

"That (loss to Buffalo last year) has come and gone," he said. "We don't try to work on getting revenge from last year or any type of revenge motive. We just look at trying to get football games won week after week."

A win this week may be a little easier for the 'Cats this time around, as Buffalo running back Branden Oliver, who had 179 yards and three touchdowns during the Ohio matchup last year, may not play due to a leg injury he suffered during the Bulls' game against Kent State.

Nonetheless, Tettleton echoed Solich's sentiments when he said that some tough games lie ahead.

"Every week in the MAC is a battle, and we know that. We're going into this game knowing it's going to be another battle," Tettleton said. "We just have to come to play and I think we'll be ready to do that."

Extra Points:

• The Bobcats enter their game against Buffalo as the only undefeated team in the MAC and one of only 22 undefeated teams at the FBS level.

• Even though Bobcat quarterback Tyler Tettleton was a little sore early in the week, he says that he's 100 percent healthy going into the Buffalo game. Head coach Frank Solich also believes redshirt junior running back Ryan Boykin will be able to return at 100 percent from a hamstring injury, which would help lighten running back Beau Blankenship's workload.

• Tettleton needs just two touchdown passes to become OU's all-time leader in career touchdown passes.

• Against UMass, Tettleton upped his streak to 156 consecutive pass attempts without an interception.

• Blankenship will look to become the first Bobcat running back to rush for 100 yards or more in six straight games since Kalvin McRae in 2007.

• After their narrow victory against UMass, the 'Cats fell from #29 to #34 in the AP poll.

• Buffalo is coming off a 24-17 loss to Connecticut. Their only victory this season came against Morgan State of the FCS.

• Before his injury on Sept. 19, Buffalo running back Branden Oliver led his team with 426 rushing yards and averaged six yards per carry.


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