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Sunday, October 14,2012

Ohio beats Akron Zips, but stops short of making big statement

By Wes Mayberry
Photo Credits: Joel Bissell
Photo Caption: OU players celebrate after beating Akron.

Entering Saturday's football game against the Akron Zips, many people, myself included, believed that a Bobcat victory would be enough to propel them into the Associated Press Top 25. Hear me out on the logic.

(Editor's note: Sunday afternoon after this piece had been posted, the AP released its rankings for this week, putting Ohio at No. 25.)

First, the 'Cats, one of only 15 remaining undefeated teams entering the weekend, were the first team outside the vaunted list of 25 in the sportswriters' poll. Being just three voting points shy of the No. 25 Michigan Wolverines, it seemed that the Bobcats were all but assured to make the list as long as a Homecoming game victory was coupled with a loss suffered by a team ranked in the late teens or 20s. This is where my second piece of logic enters the picture.

Saturday's slate of games also featured a matchup between No. 22 Texas A&M and No. 23 Louisiana Tech. The loser in this matchup would surely drop out of the Top 25, which would make room for the 'Cats' 2012 rankings debut. However, first and foremost, the Bobcats would need to take care of business against Akron.

This contest was complemented by the storyline of Bobcat quarterback Tyler Tettleton needing one touchdown toss to achieve the program's record for career touchdown passes. With this record as the backdrop for anticipation during the early part of the game, a touchdown pass did get the 'Cats on the scoreboard first. However, this pass did not come from Tettleton. Instead, the Bobcat coaching staff dialed up a reverse that put the ball in the hands of receiver Landon Smith while Tettleton ran wide open down the sideline. Smith threw a catchable ball for Tettleton to haul in and run to the end zone for the 39-yard score.

"It just seemed like the ball was in the air forever. I was just telling myself 'don't drop it, don't trip,'" Tettleton said. "We've been repping that play quite a bit all week, and I'm glad it was called. Landon threw a great ball, and it was a great call."

Head coach Frank Solich said the call derived from what Buffalo did to his team last week.

"We got tricked about three times last week, so it was time for us to trick somebody," Solich said. "It helped us gather momentum, and that's what we were looking for in the early part of the game."

Later in the quarter, Tettleton threw a 13-yard touchdown pass to receiver Donte Foster. This was the signal-caller's 39th career touchdown pass, which put his name in the record books. Late in the third quarter, Tettleton threw his second touchdown of the day, this time from two yards out to tight end Troy Hill. Though Tettleton doesn't give much weight to his personal statistics, Solich knows his quarterback is more than capable of record-breaking performances.

"He's had a tremendous career here. He's got the rest of this season and another season to play so he'll keep putting up huge numbers," Solich said of his quarterback. "I like the receivers that are in our program, so I think there's some good things that can happen for us in the throwing game as we finish out Tyler's career."

The touchdown throws proved to be the main highlights of the offense in regards to the passing game. As a result, Solich relied heavily on his two running backs, Beau Blankenship and Ryan Boykin, in the second half.

"Our passing game was struggling a little bit, but Coach (Solich) was just calling the run plays and they were opening up," Boykin said. "We were just moving it, and I don't think the defense could keep up."

Although Blankenship (108 yards) and Boykin (96 yards, 1 TD) were major cogs in two long drives, the running game eventually stalled.

"In the second half, we had two long drives basically using the running game but then couldn't finish it off with the running game in terms of putting more points on the board," Solich said. "We were in position to really take charge of the football game, and we let that slip away from us. That was very disappointing."

Boykin agreed.

"I feel a little disappointed we didn't keep the 20-point lead because I know we have the potential to keep a big lead, and we kind of let them come back at the end," Boykin said.

Though the 'Cats were able to dispatch the Zips by a 34-28 score, the six-point margin of victory is unimpressive. The Bobcats, who were up 20-0 in the second quarter and 34-14 in the third quarter, were poised to come away with an impressive, double-digit win. However, the lead slimmed to single digits by the end of the game, which doesn't look good coming against a now 1-6 team. Yes, being undefeated is nice, but three conference wins by a combined 16 points against teams with a combined 2-17 record are not characteristic of a Top 25 team, especially one coming from a Mid Major conference like the MAC.

Boykin knows that his team's lack of blowouts against mediocre competition could be partly to blame for not making the Top 25 in spite of the unblemished record. Even though he and his teammates would love to be ranked, he knows the team's on-field mentality is not affected by that possibility.

"I think it's in the back of our mind a little bit," Boykin said of possibly being ranked. "I mean everybody wants to be ranked, but I don't think we let it affect what we do on the field. When we're on the field, it's strictly business, but it wouldn't hurt being ranked."

On the other end of the spectrum, No. 38 Texas Tech clobbered No. 5 West Virginia, 49-14, which is sure to get the AP voters' attention to move Tech up in the standings. This may come at the expense of a number being placed next to the Bobcats' name, but Solich likes where his team stands whether they are ranked or not.

"We're very pleased to be 7-0," Solich said. "I congratulate our guys and our coaching staff for that. That's not an easy thing to do."

Extra Points:

• The 'Cats were featured in a five-page story in the Oct. 15 issue of Sports Illustrated. See related story in this issue.

• The second-largest crowd in Peden Stadium history attended Saturday's game. The official count was 25,542.

• After getting gashed for 160 rushing yards by Buffalo running back Devin Campbell in their previous game, the Bobcat defense surrendered 177 rushing yards this week to Akron running back Jawon Chisholm.

• Tettleton finished the game completing 13 of 27 attempts for 150 yards and two touchdowns. He rushed the ball 12 times for 65 yards and had the 39-yard reception.

• Hill had career highs of five receptions and 52 yards while catching his third touchdown of the year on Saturday.

• Bobcat linebacker Jelani Woseley made a team- and career-high 14 tackles. He also recorded a sack, 2.5 tackles for loss and a pass breakup.


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