Updated Thu, Sep 19, 2013 9:10 pm
The Ohio Football team is no stranger to being an underdog. The Bobcats have experienced it often, sometimes coming out victorious — as was the case against Penn State in 2012 — sometimes the results are less favorable — Week 1 against Louisville. But when the ball is kicked off Saturday at Peden Stadium, the ‘Cats will find themselves in an unfamiliar role: That of an FBS powerhouse. Ohio (2-1) closes out its non-conference schedule Saturday at 2 p.m. against the Austin Peay Governors (0-3) in a game that has the Bobcats favored by as much as 30 points at home.
Austin Peay enters Athens fresh off a 42-10 drubbing at the hands of Chattanooga and is off to a rocky 0-3 start. Statistically, the Governors rank among the worst programs in the Football Championship Subdivision (the level just below the Football Bowl Subdivision). They’ve been outscored 125-13 this season, and have showed little signs of optimism.
Through the first three weeks the Governors have failed to put up more than 211 yards of total offense in a single game. Ohio quarterback Tyler Tettleton has 108 more total yards than the entire Governors offense, and Ohio defensive players Toran Davis and Jovon Johnson individually have as many touchdowns (one each) as the entire Austin Peay offense. To put it nicely, the Governors are a struggling team.
But that’s no reason for Ohio to take it easy or look ahead to next week’s bye. Already this season 12 FCS schools have beaten FBS teams, and two of those came over Mid-American Conference schools. Despite Austin Peay’s record the ‘Cats will need to stay on edge. Just ask Xavier Hughes.
“We can’t underestimate anybody. You’ve seen what can happen. Michigan almost lost to Akron, and no one thought Akron could win. But Akron played a heck of a game and almost beat Michigan,” Hughes said referencing fellow MAC member Akron’s near-upset of then-No. 11 Michigan this past week.
It’s easy for a team to lose focus when heading into a game that appears to be a surefire win. When the focus slips, upsets happen. The main goal in preparing for this weekend’s game will be maintaining that focus and taking it one game at a time.
“We need to treat them just like any other team. It’s exactly the same,” said running back Beau Blankenship. “We can’t look past them at all … we’re going to have to bring our A-game.”
To do that Ohio will look to focus on its running game, which has struggled so far this season. Through three games the ‘Cats are averaging 114.7 yards-per-game on the ground, putting them 101st in the nation in rushing. That’s a huge step back from 2012 when they averaged 203 rushing yards per game. Luckily for them, the Governors are allowing 251 yards per game on the ground, which should allow the Bobcats to hit the ground running.
But while the ‘Cats’ offense looks poised for a big day Saturday, it must ensure it doesn’t let the lack of offensive production from Austin Peay allow it to slip up. The Governors feature some real weapons on the offensive side of the ball, including former Central Michigan running back Tim Phillips who has been the one consistent spot on the offense for Austin Peay. He is responsible for the team’s lone touchdown, an eight-yard rushing score against Chattanooga in Week 3. Then there is 6-foot-6 wide receiver Darryl Clark. His numbers aren’t that spectacular this season with just nine receptions for 143 yards. But with his size and speed Clark has the ability to change a game.
“Oh yes we’ve been watching a lot of film [on Clark],” said Hughes. “He had a couple great catches against Tennessee so we’ve got to focus on him and make sure he doesn’t get to us.”
Hughes is confident the ‘Cats have given this game enough attention and that they respect Austin Peay enough to come out with the victory Saturday. But as he knows, in football even the mighty fall sometimes.