Photo Caption: Ohio running back Ryan Boykin, center, gets wrapped up by Miami defensive lineman Wesley Scott, left, while attempting to pick up a few yards during Saturday’s loss at Miami.
Coming off their first loss of the season, the Ohio Bobcat football team prepares for a tough upcoming pair of games against Eastern Michigan and Bowling Green that, including last Saturday's loss against Miami, totals three games in a span of just 12 days.
Although this is a difficult task due to the physicality of the sport, head coach Frank Solich said he's relying on past experience to best utilize the limited practice time.
"We've been here a couple times before when we've had to play three games in 12 days. That is not easy on your football team," Solich acknowledged. "Physically, that's challenging to do, so we've got to be somewhat smart about how we practice, but yet, we've got to go into the game with a mental attitude of really having to play physical football if you're going to get it done."
With almost everything going right for the Bobcats prior to their game in Oxford, the loss was tough to take. However, Solich said that his players have mostly put the loss behind them in focusing their efforts on their next opponent.
Redshirt junior running back Beau Blankenship succinctly echoed his coach's sentiments. "Every loss hurts, but that one really hurt," Blankenship said. "It's heartbreaking, but we've just got to move on and put it behind us and get better."
While redshirt junior quarterback Tyler Tettleton could be forgiven for being especially hard on himself after his end-of-the-game mistake in Saturday's defeat (taking a sack, which ran out the clock when a field goal try would have been available otherwise), he also knows that there's no point in dwelling on the past. He's ready to move forward.
"We didn't have any timeouts, and we were short on time. I just didn't get a chance to get the ball off," Tettleton said of the last play against Miami. "It's hard to have our undefeated streak come to an end, but it's just one game, and we have the rest of the season to look forward to. There's nothing you can do about it now. You've just got to move on, and that's what we're going to do."
Unfortunately for the 'Cats and their fan base, the team will be moving on without the level of national media attention they were previously receiving. The team experienced a huge drop in the Associated Press poll going from 181 voting points to just four, which dropped them from No. 23 to No. 35. Additionally, they will almost certainly never see the BCS Top 25 for the remainder of the season. While this national exposure was great for the Bobcat football program, redshirt senior offensive lineman Eric Herman knows that his team is still having an excellent season and that the loss can benefit them in some way.
"It stinks that we got that loss and got knocked off (the ranking), but if you had told me before the season that we'd be 7-1, I'd take that," Herman said. "You've just got to take that loss to motivate you to win the next game."
THAT NEXT GAME IS TONIGHT against the visiting Eastern Michigan Eagles, a team the Bobcats have defeated in seven of the last eight meetings. Although the Eagles rank near the bottom of the Mid-American Conference in the major offensive statistical categories, Ohio cannot take this game lightly.
The visitors boast a pair of talented skill players in running back Bronson Hill and tight end Garrett Hoskins. Hill, who rushed for 283 yards and four touchdowns against Toledo and an additional 185 yards and a score versus Army, averages 8.2 yards per carry. This amounts to nearly a first down every time he gets the ball. He has 605 yards and six touchdowns on the season. Meanwhile, the six-foot-two Hoskins, who has eclipsed the 100-yard mark in three games this season, is the Eagles' leading receiver with 477 yards on the year.
Solich said he has been impressed with what he has seen of Hoskins on film.
"He's really good. They utilize him as a wide-out in terms of how much they throw to him and his ability to catch the ball," Solich said. "He's a great receiver as well as a thick kid who can stand in there and block, so they've got the complete player there."
It will be up to the much-maligned Bobcat defense to limit the impact of these two players.
On the flip side of the ball, Ohio's offense will look to have a field day against an Eagle defense that is giving up 37.5 points per game. Though EMU ranks second in the conference in passing defense, they rank dead last in stopping the run, allowing 302.4 yards per game. With the weather expected to be windy and rainy due to the residual effects of Hurricane Sandy, Solich said the running game will be the key for both teams.
"I'm big on statistics, but I know what those statistics mean when the ball is kicked off. Generally, absolutely nothing," Solich said. "The weather is going to be a factor in the game, and I don't know what the conditions are going to be like in terms of throwing the ball, so both teams are going to need to be able to produce a running game in this game. Both teams understand that, and that is what's going to happen."
With each remaining game being of the utmost importance due to the tightening conference race, the Bobcats know they must bounce back quickly from the tough loss in order to remain in contention for a MAC Championship game berth.
"The loss itself is always meaningful and always tough and it does hit you, but this is a game where you're going to get hit, and you've got to be able to respond and bounce back off of it. That is really the key," Solich said.
• Kickoff for tonight's game is set for 6 p.m. It can be seen on ESPNU.
• In 2011, the 'Cats were 4-0 in mid-week games.
• The game will mark the teams' 29th meeting. The 'Cats won the last meeting, in 2010, by a score of 30-17.
• The Eagles (1-7) come into this game after dropping a 24-3 decision at Bowling Green this past weekend. Their lone victory of the year was a 48-38 win over Army.
• The 'Cats surrendered six sacks to the Miami defense, which is a rare occurrence for an offensive line with a combined 136 career starts. They went into that game having only given up five on the season.
• This week, four MAC teams received votes in the AP poll. Sitting outside the Top 25 are No. 26 Toledo, No. 30 Kent State, No. 32 Northern Illinois and No. 35 Ohio.
• Coach Solich on the MAC: "If you look back, you can see the progress the MAC has made, in terms of an overall conference, as far as quality football teams. I think there are a bunch of teams in the MAC right now that can line up against almost anybody and win a football game. This conference hasn't seen that with any kind of regularity but it's shown it already this year."