Updated Sat, Sep 7, 2013 2:40 pm
Saturday will mark a historical evening for Ohio Football one way or another. Six days after suffering one of the worst losses in recent program history, Ohio (0-1) welcomes North Texas (1-0) to Peden Stadium, Saturday at 7 p.m., for a chance to mark the fourth consecutive year the ‘Cats open their home season with a win. A victory Saturday would be head coach Frank Solich’s 60th win since coming to Athens nine years ago, and the 20th for third-year starting quarterback Tyler Tettleton.
But a loss to the Mean Green would also mark history, as it would be the first time since 2008 the Bobcats have started off a season 0-2. That year they finished 4-8. But Ohio is hoping a different piece of more recent history repeats itself. In 2009 – the last time these two teams faced off – the ‘Cats entered the game 0-1. They won that matchup 31-30 in double overtime and rode that momentum to a 9-5 season.
Saturday not only has historical ramifications, it has an impact on the identity of a team that failed to put up a fight in Week 1.
“We didn't play the way we're capable of playing. That's a little bit disturbing,” Solich said Tuesday at his weekly press conference. “We've got to get a lot of things straightened out in a short period of time. If we can get that done, we can be a pretty good football team."
The ‘Cats get an opportunity to prove just that against a Mean Green team that is coming off of a 4-8 season, and features a defense that finished 75th in the nation in yards allowed per game in 2012. That’s good news for a ‘Cats’ offense, which struggled to accumulate 273 total yards in Week 1.
With only six days between games, the team is operating on a short week of preparation heading into a game against a North Texas squad that appears to be improved after beating Idaho 40-6 this past week. Making matters worse for the Bobcats is the loss of two starting offensive lineman, right guard Sam Johnson and left guard Jon Lechner, who both could be done for the season. To make up for the loss of the two, Ohio has shifted some linemen around and is going to rely on getting the offensive momentum going early. That could be a harder task than some may think.
North Texas features a balanced offensive attack led by third-year starter Derek Thompson. The 6-foot-4 quarterback torched Idaho’s defense to the tune of 349 yards and two touchdowns. His favorite target is speedy slot receiver Brelan Chancellor, who accumulated 135 yards and one touchdown on six receptions this past week. The pair is complemented by a trio of big backs who combined for 144 yards and three touchdowns on 31 carries against Idaho. It’s a tough test for an Ohio defense is coming off a poor performance.
"This will be a big challenge,” said Solich. “We need to play up to our potential in all phases of the game. If we don't, then obviously it's going to be a struggle. I know they'll be physical. We need to also make it physical.”
Complicating matters even more is the fact that starting linebacker, and captain, Keith Moore is out for the game with a high ankle sprain suffered during the Louisville game.
But fellow defensive captain, cornerback Travis Carrie, isn’t letting injuries or a poor Week 1 performance cloud the defense’s focus.
“We have to go out there and handle our business,” he said. “Let’s go out there and play ball.”
Carrie elaborated that the plan is to make Thompson uncomfortable, and that if they can it should change North Texas’ offensive approach and possibly tip the scales in Ohio’s favor.
The Bobcats will need to execute that plan to a T if they want to avoid falling on the wrong side of history Saturday evening.