Updated Mon, Dec 19, 2011 2:03 pm
On fourth down and six, with less than a minute remaining in the fourth quarter and with Ohio trailing by six points, LaVon Brazill knew he'd be open.
The Bobcat wide receiver saw that Utah State was going to blitz and knew he'd be one-on-one with his defender. So, the senior motioned to quarterback Tyler Tettleton to throw him the ball.
A split second later, Tettleton got rushed heavily by the Aggies and threw a lob into the middle of the field where Brazill was waiting. The hobbled wide receiver, playing with a torn meniscus, made the catch for a first down.
Two plays later, Tettleton's one-yard scamper completed a 13-point comeback and won the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl for Ohio University.
In thrilling fashion, the Bobcats beat the Aggies 24-23 (Ohio kicker Matt Weller did have to add an extra point to make it official) to complete an historic campaign with the school's first-ever bowl victory.
"I saw the safety looking like he was going to blitz," Brazill said of the fourth down play. "I took the quickest angle I could to make a play on the ball."
"For some reason, he's just made play after play," Tettleton said, of Brazill. "He's so special. It was just amazing to see what he did there at the end."
"When he threw it, I thought it was a bit of a soft throw, but it finally got to where it needed to get," Ohio head coach Frank Solich said with a laugh. "That's obviously a special play in the history of our school."
Ohio trailed for 52 minutes and 49 seconds of the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, but as it had done many times in the later weeks of the 2011 season, it found courage late and won its 10th game of the season - the first time an Ohio team has won 10 since 1968.
The Bobcats (10-4) trailed by 13 points late in the third quarter, but Brazill caught a long touchdown pass - the 11th of his season and 18th of his career - to help Ohio climb within six.
Six points was the deficit with 2:02 left in the fourth quarter when Tettleton and offense got the ball back one last time.
Tettleton to Riley Dunlop for 18 yards.
Running back Donte' Harden for seven.
Tettleton scrambling for 16 - helped by a great block from wideout Mario Dovell.
And Brazill's incredible fourth-down catch led to Tettleton's eventual-game-winning touchdown run.
The sophomore quarterback finished 19-of-26 for 220 yards and two passing touchdowns, but on a play that was supposed to be a pass, Tettleton found the right corner and scored one of the biggest touchdowns in school history.
"It was supposed to be a fake sneak pass," Tettleton said. "I got pressure up the middle, went to my right and just saw that opening…it's one of the best feelings ever. It's just an amazing feeling to do it for our university and for our seniors."
"We all looked at it as, 'We need to keep taking steps, We need to keep moving this program forward,'" Solich added. "The way to do that was to get a 10th win and a bowl win."
Brazill, one of those 18 seniors, finished as Ohio's Most Valuable Player for his day - eight catches, 108 yards and a touchdown - and will go down as one of, if not the, best wide receiver in school history.
Brazill tore his meniscus early in the MAC Championship game and played in Boise despite not practicing for much of the two weeks before the bowl game.
"I just forgot about my injury and went out there and do what I do," Brazill said. "It's hurting right now, but I'm so excited I don't even feel it."
Ohio was feeling some pain early on against the Aggies (7-6). Utah State jumped out to a 9-0 first quarter lead and led throughout.
"The first half was very frustrating," Solich said.
Ohio gave up 345 rushing yards (USU was averaging 277 per game in its first 12 games), including 157 yards and two touchdowns to Michael Smith and 101 to NFL prospect Robert Turbin. Smith ran for 117 yards and two touchdowns in the third quarter alone.
Even though Ohio's defense gave up more than a few big plays in the second half, Noah Keller and the defense kept the Bobcats in the game in the first frame when the offense was struggling mightily.
Keller finished with 11 tackles (six solo) in his last game in a Bobcat uniform.
"It's definitely a great feeling," Keller said. "We've had a football program forever…to be the first team to do it after five tries. It feels good to start a tradition."
"This one is a goal-seeking answer to what these guys wanted to get done at the beginning of the year," Solich added. "Over my career, I've been fortunate enough to be on teams that don't quit."
In a season where records were set almost weekly, more Ohio marks fell in Boise.
Kicker Matt Weller finished the season with 123 points, which is a single-season Ohio record.
Brazill finished his season with 74 catches for 1,146 yards and 11 touchdowns - all Ohio records.
But the name of the Potato Game, and the whole season, was "Relentless." That word was all over the program in 2011, and that's what Ohio was in Boise on Saturday.
For a team that gave away a conference championship just two weeks ago, it took advantage of the fact that it had one more chance to finish strong.
"To get the first win in the history of Ohio football is really meaningful to everyone associated with the program," Solich said.
"It's definitely a lot more enjoyable," Keller said. "At least we had a chance at some redemption."