Originally appeared in Speakeasy Magazine.
Midway through the final quarter in their season opener against Penn State, the Ohio Bobcats held a slim 17-14 lead, all they needed was another score to seal the victory. The ‘Cats started at their own seven-yard line and marched 93 yards into the deafening noise of the Penn State student section to lock up the victory, 24-14.
Frank Solich led the Bobcats to their first win over a BCS team since their 2006 win over Illinois. (Photo by Ohio University Athletic Department)
“I’m so proud of them,” Ohio head coach Frank Solich said after the game. “You go back to the last game that we played, prior to this, and that was the bowl game, in Idaho in another come from behind win against a really, really good Utah State football team. That’s two in a row now for us against a really, really good Penn State football team a come from behind win. A lot of heart showed by our players.”
All offseason, the Bobcats have readied themselves for a matchup with a Penn State program lost in the shadows of a scandal surrounding Jerry Sandusky and Joe Paterno. The Nittany Lions started a new era under new head coach, Bill O’Brien.
Bobcats head coach Frank Solich said they had to avoid the emotion Penn State was playing behind and make a surge of their own.
“We knew we were going to have to take on a surge,” he said. “We knew would be a difficult atmosphere to play in. So what we told them was we just got to keep pounding and try to turn it into just a football game, and were pretty good at playing football.”
Ohio’s defense appeared on edge on its first drive of the game. The Green and White allowed 67 yards on 11 plays before Gerald Moore came up and put a big hit on Penn State running back Bill Belton causing him to put the ball on the turf.
However, Ohio couldn’t make anything out of their early possessions. The ‘Cats had two possessions in the first quarter and had one less play than Penn State did on their first drive of the game alone.
Penn State was able to score before the end of the first quarter on a dump-off pass from Matt McGloin to Belton to go up 7-0 after one quarter of play.
Ohio had a great opportunity early in the second quarter to tie the game when Gerald Hodges muffed a Grant Venham punt that Alphonso Lewis recovered to put Ohio in the red zone. Three plays later, all the Bobcats had to their name was a 22-yard Matt Weller field goal.
Corey Hastings gets to Penn State quarterback Matt McGloin for the sack. (Photo by Ohio University Athletic Department
Right before the half, Penn State utilized a special teams turnover to get great field position when Nyeem Wartman blocked the Venham punt enabling McGloin to hit Matt Lehman in the flat for a 14-yard touchdown.
McGloin was the star of the first half completing 16-of-26 passes for 178 yards and two touchdowns. His efforts led the Nittany Lions into the locker room with a 14-3 lead.
Ohio took the field in the second half and executed much more successfully on offense. Tyler Tettleton was in the midst of orchestrating a beautiful drive when he forced a ball into double coverage only to have it land in the outstretched hands of Landon Smith who took it to the house for Ohio’s first touchdown on the day.
“I’m just so happy that he got a chance to catch that,” Tettleton said. “You know, any time those guys get the ball there so lethal.”
Just like that, Ohio only trailed by four.
Ohio’s defense continued to live by the motto “bend but don’t break,” giving up another drive but stopping the Nittany Lions on fourth down to give the offense the ball back with just under four minutes to play in the third quarter. Tettleton and running back Beau Blankenship took the reins on the possession marching down to the one-yard line where Tettleton plunged over the sea of blue for the score that put Ohio up 17-14.
Ohio’s defense held strong preserving the three-point lead. The Bobcats took over with 9:37 left in the game. Ohio needed a touchdown to put the game away.
This was Tettleton’s time to shine. Early in the drive, Ohio faced a third and short and the redshirt junior gunslinger was able to perfectly place the ball into the hands of Jordan Thompson for a first down, only because Blankenship picked up the oncoming blitz.
Later in the drive, Tettleton again faced a third down and hit Bakari Bussey over the middle in traffic to keep the drive moving. Smith hauled in a slant on another third down and broke a tackle racing all the way down to the five-yard line.
On the final third down of the drive, Tettleton once again found his receiver, this time it was Donte Foster in the back corner of the end zone to give the ‘Cats the insurmountable lead.
Afterward, Solich said that drive was the essence of Ohio pulling out this win.
“Us being able to go on a 93 yard drive 17 plays,” he said. “I think that was the real key in the game.”
Ohio quarterback Tyler Tettleton amassed 371 yards of total offense and had three total touchdowns against Penn State. ( Photo by Maddie Meyer)
Tettleton finished 31-of-41 with 324 yards and two passing touchdowns as well as the one on the ground. Blankenship was a workhorse racking up 183 yards of total offense.
“It means so much,” Tettleton said. “This is the reason all of us came here to win this type of games. To make a statement one game, then do something next week.”
Next week, the ‘Cats will face New Mexico State. Last year Ohio beat down the Aggies 44-24 to open the season. Kickoff from Peden Stadium is Saturday at 7:00 p.m., where the ‘Cats will look to avoid the emotional letdown and keep their perfect season alive.