Ohio Beats North Texas 27-21 In Home Opener

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Saturday the Ohio Bobcats had an opportunity to plead their case that the team that showed up in Louisville a week ago was not who they really are. Ohio opened their home season before an audience of 24,511 devoted fans (the fifth largest crowd in Peden Stadium history), beating North Texas 27-21.

“We knew we were a good team,” running back Ryan Boykin said after the game. “It was just a question of how good could we be.”

Making an impressive opening statement, Ohio (1-1) scored on a 75-yard touchdown pass from Tyler Tettleton to Chase Cochran on the first play from scrimmage. But late in the second half the ‘Cats found themselves in some trouble on cross examination as North Texas (1-1) mounted a comeback. Early in the fourth quarter quarterback Derek Thompson marched them down the field, concluding an 8-play drive with a 6-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Darnell Smith, tying the game at 21-21.

Ohio took over from its own 23 yard line and struggled to move the ball down the field. The ‘Cats were pegged with two penalties during the drive and stalled on a fourth and eight, turning to kicker Matt Green to give them the advantage. Green had missed a 40-yard field goal earlier in the game, pulling it wide right. But with tied with the Mean Green part of the way through the fourth quarter Ohio had no choice but to turn to the kicker once more. Green sailed the ball through the uprights form 38-yards out to put Ohio up 24-21 with 8:08 left in the game.

“We felt it was just a matter of it turning for him a bit,” Head coach Frank Solich said when asked why he decided to stick with Green for the kick. Entering that moment Green was 0-for-3 in his career, after missing two field goal attempts the week before. “He wasn’t missing by much…so we ended up the decision of him kicking it and I thought he had a great shot of kicking it through at that point.”

From there on out the ‘Cats defense took over, locking down North Texas. The defense forced a three and out, and Ohio began a lengthy closing argument. Tettleton took control of the conversation, marching Ohio down the field on a slow but deliberate drive that ate up more than six minutes of the clock and ended in another Bobcat field goal, this one from 22 yards out.

“We just knew that we had to put some points on the board,” Tettleton said of the late scoring drives. “We knew what we had to do and we went down and did it.”

The Bobcats were stifling, holding a prolific North Texas offense to 299 yards, a huge improvement over the unit’s performance the week before against Louisville. Safeties Josh Kristoff and Xavier Hughes were huge in the game, combining for 15 tackles. Hughes made a key interception late in the fourth quarter, sealing the Ohio win with just over a minute left.

Earlier in the game linebacker Jovon Johnson returned an interception 42-yards to give the ‘Cats a 14-point lead in the second quarter. The biggest defensive achievement of the night however, was holding speedy slot receiver Brelan Chancellor to 35 total offensive yards. The week before the offensive weapon torched Idaho accumulating 144 yards on seven touches, including a receiving touchdown.

Offensively Ohio looked like a different team. Behind and new-look offensive line that had to be rebuilt after two starters suffered serious injuries the week before. The ‘Cats managed to tally 442 yards of offense on the night, including 203 on the ground behind the two-headed monster of Beau Blankenship and Ryan Boykin. The pair had 83 and 93 rushing yards respectively. Boykin also added two receptions to his stat-line, including a 10-yard touchdown r early in the second to regain the lead after North Texas running back Antoinne Jimmerson tied the game up late in the first.

Tettleton also put up an impressive performance, finishing the game with 239 yards and two touchdowns on 19-of-30 passing. Cochran finished the game with 103 yards on six receptions, including a huge one-handed catch late in the game to set up to keep the game-final Ohio scoring drive alive. The victory also gave Solich his 60th during his nine-year career in Athens, and third-year starter Tettleton his 20th.

With the win Ohio can head into next week’s showdown against rival Marshall with a boost of confidence. For now though the team can rest its case on the solid argument it put forth Saturday evening.