Today's game between Rutgers and Ohio surprised me. I thought for sure that this was going to be a defensive battle with quite a few three and outs along the way. Instead, it was a relatively high scoring battle when you consider the statistical merits of the two teams prior to this game. Rutgers won by the final score of 38-26, proving my prediction for a winner and for a defensive battle wrong.
That said, there were a couple of things I was right about. One of those things was Tyler Tettleton's performance. There's no doubt that Rutgers has a stingy defense but Tettleton was still able to operate smoothly and effectively in the passing game just like he did in Ohio's first three games. While he did fumble the ball, Tettelton connected on 23 of his 36 passes for 339 yards and three touchdowns. He made smart decisions with the ball and he was accurate as usual. I've come to expect this from Tettleton and it surprised me how many people I talked to this week doubted his ability to come through on the road against a Big East team.
Rather than Tettleton being the goat, he was one of the few, if not the only, bright spots for Ohio in this game. The Bobcats running game was completely shut down by Rutger's defense. They only had 65 yards on the ground on 23 carries (2.8 yard per carry) and it would have been even worse if it wasn't for a pair of long runs from Omar Leftwich and a 17 yard scamper by Tyler Tettleton in garbage time - though it did bring his rushing total to -7 yards, so that's good.
Though Ohio was able to move the ball through the air a key fumble by Tettleton here and a Ryan Boykin cough up in the second half there stopped them from getting into the endzone. And when they had momentum on what appeared to be quick scoring drives, they would come upon third down situations, and they weren't all that unmanageable, that they couldn't convert. There was one play on third and two when the Bobcats could have easily gotten a run up the middle for the first but opted for the option that resulted in no gain.
Meanwhile, Ohio's defense was doing the complete opposite. They would be doing relatively well on the first two downs of a given series but then allow all types of plays on third down. Whereas Ohio couldn't convert 3rd and 2's, Rutgers was repeatedly - sometimes even on the same drive - converting 3rd and 10's or longer. What's even worse than them repeatedly converting on what is perceived as the most defense-friendly situation in football is that they would never go to anyone but Mohamed Sanu.
And don't think that I'm exaggerating just because I predicted he was going to have a huge game. Sanu set a career high with 16 receptions in this game. If this were the NFL and you had him in a PPR league he would have won your league without gaining a single yard after those catches. Rutgers only completed 22 passes on the day, with no other player other than Sanu catching more than one (Ohio, on the other hand, had two players with four catches, five with two or more and three with one).
Sanu was a monster. Sanu was the target on every third down play and if the ball was thrown in his direction, he caught it (There were two occasions where the ball was intended for another Scarlet Knight receiver and Sanu came up with anyways. He's magic.) At the risk of offending the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts, I'm just going to call him SANU from now on. He's like Ihiro or the Rock. He doesn't need two names for you to know who I'm talking about. I know one of Ohio's top corners in Travis Carrie was hurt during the game but you have to do better than allowing their only offensive playmaker to catch the ball 16 times. The ESPN3 broadcasters said "he's had some issues with dropped balls this season" about everyone of Rutgers receivers other than SANU. SANU ended up 176 yards and a pair of touchdowns and there was nothing Ohio could SANU about it.
Luckily for the Bobcats they get to face Kent State next week and the Golden Flashes aren't very good. Want to know a fact that you won't get anywhere but Hustle Belt? Sure you SANU. Next week marks Ohio's fourth straight opponent with a two-part team name. They started this stretch with the Gardner-Webb Runnin' Bulldogs, then they took on the Thundering Herd of Marshall, they just lost to the Rutgers Scarlet Knights and now they are taking on the Golden Flashes. That's got to be some kind of NCAA record. Not coincidentally, all of those team names suck. Anyways, at least this game counts towards Ohio's MAC standings because now it seems like their only realistic goal for this season is to capture a MAC title. It's a shame because I was really waiting to see how they'd look against LSU in the title game.