Updated Sat, Dec 29, 2012 10:25 pm
In the fourth straight bowl appearance for the Bobcats, the Green and White did not need another dramatic finish to record a win, as a stomping in Shreveport was evident as early as the beginning minutes of the first quarter.
Led by quarterback Tyler Tettleton, who seemed to back the preseason merits he was expected to vie for, the Bobcats did not trail at all in their success over Louisana-Monroe, as the Bobcats drained ULM, 45-14 in the Independence Bowl.
With over 550 yards of total offense, including a record-setting game by running back Beau Blankenship, the Bobcats took to the air early, only to rely on the four rushing touchdowns of Blankenship to secure a cushiony win.
"It was probably as complete of a ballgame as we've played in some time," said head coach Frank Solich.
Ohio was off to a hot start on its first possession, driving down the field in three plays. After Tettleton rolled out of the pocket to drill Tyler Futrell with a 26-yard pass on first down, a pass to Chase Cochran for 51 yards left the Bobcats with a first and goal at the three-yard line. A short pass to Donte Foster gave Ohio its first lead in under three minutes of play.
Just minutes later, Gerald Moore picked off ULM’s Browning at Ohio’s 13-yard line.
"We actually put more pressure on the quarterback than we have all year,” said Moore, a senior and a captain. Ohio’s defense was responsible for three sacks and three interceptions.
It took only two plays for another touchdown, as the same wide-receiver combo led to a scoring play. With a 17-yard pass to Futrell, and a play-action pass to Cochran for 68 yards, Ohio took an early 14-0 lead. Tettleton completed five of five passes for 165 yards in the first two scoring drives.
"I think the quick start and the big plays at the beginning were a big help to us,” said Solich.
With time dwindling in the first quarter, Ohio had the ball at midfield, when, on third and 5, Tettleton fumbled a snap, the Bobcat’s ninth turnover of the season. Off the Ohio turnover, ULM took five plays to move 53-yards down the field for a score early in the second quarter.
ULM started to gain momentum on its next drive, capitalizing off a roughing-the-passer call, but after failing on a third-down conversion, the Warhawks settled for a field-goal attempt, which was blocked by Ohio’s Ian Wells.
Tettleton took over and fired a deep pass to Futrell to put the Bobcats within scoring range. After a dropped pass by Donte Foster in the endzone on first down, a failed fake field-goal attempt three plays later proved ineffective. Well short of a first down, and branded with an ineligible receiver flag, the Bobcats took to the defensive end on the two-yard line.
On the first play of ULM’s drive, Browning threw into Ohio’s defensive line, specifically Tremayne Scott’s hands, paving the way for a touchdown run by Blankenship on third and goal.
With time expiring in the first half, the Warhawks had the ball within the red zone, converting on a 4th and 14 to get to Ohio’s 1-yard line. Yet, another defensive play by Scott, this time a sack on ULM’s Browning for a loss of 9-yards, put the Warhawks further from scoring position. With five seconds left and 11-yards to the endzone, Browning threw it beneath the stands, launching over the endzone. The Bobcats led 24-7 at the half.
The return of Tremayne Scott, who has not played since the close win against Marshall, proved to be crucial to Ohio’s defense, which was outscored by nearly double in its final three home games.
"We're so glad he was able to play in this ballgame,” said Solich. Scott had two sacks on the day and the interception at the goal line proved to be a game changer for the Bobcats.
Ohio's competitive edge remained unbroken in the second half as it scored within three minutes off a Blankenship two-yard touchdown run. After a three-and-out by ULM, Tettleton led the Bobcats downfield, eventually leading to Blankenship’s third touchdown of the day.
Blankenship would score his fourth touchdown seconds into the fourth quarter, marking the record for most touchdowns an individual in the Independence Bowl. Blankenship finished the day with 104 yards on 19 attempts, averaging over 5 yards a carry. His total for the season totals over 1,600 yards.
ULM’s Browning passed to Kevin Steed for a touchdown with under three minutes in the third quarter, but that proved to be a shimmer of retort in Shreveport, as the Warhawks were shutout in the fourth quarter. With less than 10 minutes of play left, Solich put in redshirt freshman Derrius Vick in for Tettleton.
As he was decorated with a Gatorade shower with time expiring, Solich offered a rare smile. The Bobcats hoisted the Independence Bowl trophy in Shreveport, La., where Blankenship and Tettleton shared the most valuable player award.