Tyler Tettleton did a little bit of everything as the Ohio Bobcats captured a close 29-28 win over Bowling Green to secure a spot in the MAC Championship Game. (Photo Credit: OhioBobcats.com)
The Ohio Bobcats had one of their worst offensive game of the year last night, which is weird to say when your team puts up 447 total yards on offense. The Bobcats could move the ball for stretches but time and time again their drives would stall before reaching the endzone. This put all of the pressure on kicker Matt Weller, who has come through time and time again during his career at Ohio but has also missed some key kicks, including what would have been the game-tying field goal against Ball State as the clock ticked down to zero. Weller made four of his first five field goal attempts, with his only miss coming from 47 yards out.
Ohio was able to mix in a touchdown with those kicks in the second quarter when Tyler Tettleton hit LaVon Brazill for a 24-yard touchdown strike to put Ohio up 10-7 at the time. After that, it was all field goals for the Bobcats until the fourth quarter, one of which Ohio really shouldn't have had. On second and nine from the Ohio 25 with less than 20 seconds left in the first half, Bowling Green was looking to score before the half but Schilz lofted up a poor pass to a wide open Travis Carrie, who plays for the Bobcats. Carrie nearly got all the way to the endzone but returned the INT for 81 yards, being downed at the Falcons' seven with two seconds left for Weller to kick and he made the 24-yarder to put Ohio up 16-14.
After another Weller field goal and a three-yard touchdown run for Bowling Green's Anthon Samuel, at the 13:41 mark in the fourth, Matt Schilz found Eugene Cooper for a three yard touchdown pass on a designed rollout and put Bowling Green up 28-19. The way Ohio's offense had been playing, or finishing, putting together two scores in just one quarter while also stopping the Falcons to get the ball back seemed like a tough task.
But Tyler Tettleton wasn't done yet. After Donte Harden returned a short kickoff all the way to Bowling Green's 46 and Beau Blakenship rushed for nine yards on first down, Tettleton put together a string of three runs for two (on third and one), 32 and four yards, the four yarder being a touchdown run/dive that put Ohio within two with 11:44 to go. That 32 scamper looked like a broken play as Tettleton faked a handoff to Donte Harden, who wasn't near the ball. Tettleton rescued the play by finding a seam in the defense and gashing the Falcons all the way to the four.
Bowling Green appeared to be ready to answer, as they had gotten into Ohio territory in just four plays, but on third and six from the 40-yard line Blake Jones penetrated Bowling Green's offensive line and sacked Schilz for a loss of five. It was the first sack of the game for the Bobcats and one of the few times they actually got pressure on Schilz. With the ball back at their own 33 and 7:34 left in the game, Frank Solich would pull of one of the most ballsy drives of all-time.
Generally, when you are losing, you want every second you can have, but down two, Solich went for the kill: both of the clock and of Bowling Green. The Bobcats ran a 15 play drive, combining a lot of Tettleton runs with a few Harden runs and Tettleton passes, that chewed the clock perfectly.
The key series on the drive came when Ohio was still in their own territory. After Donte Harden lost five yards on a rush play on first and 10, Tettleton found Riley Dunlop for 14 yards on second down. Tettleton would fail to pick up the yard he needed to on third down, putting Ohio in a tough position: fourth and one on Bowling Green's 46.
Ohio lined up in a shotgun formation, which indicated to me that there was no way they planned on snapping it - if they were going to go for it was going to be on a sneak, and in that case Tettleton would take a direct snap. We often see these situations where it is painfully clear that the only reason the offense is on the field to draw the defense offsides. And that's exactly what happened. On a bit of a controversial call, Bowling Green defensive lineman Chris Jones touched Ohio offensive linenam Eric Herman, who was leaning forward just a tad. The call gave Ohio a first down and that would be the beginning of the end for the Falcons' potentially ginormously amazing MAC upset of the week special.
Tettleton and Harden would get the Bobcats all the way to Bowling Green's seven yardline and the Bobcats would let the clock tick down to two seconds before calling a timeout. So Ohio had a chance to take the lead (and win), from 24-yards out and two seconds left on the clock. Where have we seen this before? Oh yeah, the first half. Of course, there was a lot more on the line for Weller this time. Make the kick: Ohio wins the MAC East outright and books their trip to Detroit for the MAC title game. Miss it and things get more complicated with a rivalry match-up coming up against Miami (OH).
Weller nailed the kick, putting Ohio on top 29-28 for good.
Game balls from this one go to Tyler Tettleton and Noah Keller, the two unquestioned leaders on both sides of the ball for the Bobcats.
Tettleton once again delivered under pressure, which is not surprising at this point, even if he is a first year starter. 18-of-27 for 194 and a touchdown isn't his greatest passing statline on the year but 23 carries for 128 yards is his best rushing line on the year and he added his eight ground touchdown of the year as well. Tettleton was making all the right decisions in this game and most of his incompletions had more to do with the receivers than his throws. Given the plays he made on the final two drives, his 322 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns, and what was on the line, this was one of his best games on the year.
Keller was an absolute beast. He finished 15 total tackles, 1.5 tackles for a loss, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery (the other fumble he forced was also recovered by Ohio) as well as on pass broken up to go with some huge hits. With just one more regular season left in his career, Keller continues to make a good impression on NFL scouts. Keller has come through over and over for the Bobcats this season and is finishing strong. Let's hope he gets to finish his career with a bowl win.
Same goes for LaVon Brazill, who set two more school records with his performance in this game. He now has the school record for receiving yards and has 10 touchdowns on the year, a first in school history. Brazill wasn't the top receiver in this game - Riley Dunlop had five grabs for 96 yards - but he did have five catches for 43 yards and Ohio's lone receiving touchdown. Fellow senior Donte Harden had 70 yards on the ground on 17 carries and 24 receiving yards on two catches while returning five kicks for 107 yards, keeping in the 10 in the country for return yard average.
And an honorary game ball goes to Frank Solich who kept his offense on the field for the final 7:34 of the game despite being down. Huge decision and it paid off in the form of a MAC East title.