November Follies: The Collapse of Ohio Football In November

Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

November is a troublesome month for Ohio. Well, at least it has been for the last two years. But is there a larger issue?

Remember, remember, the fifth of November, the gunpowder treason and plot. I see no reason why the Bobcat treason would ever not result in loss.

While Ohio's loss at Buffalo in late October was horrendous in all aspects of the game, credit the Bulls for putting it to the Bobcats that night by a score of 30-3. But since then the November struggles of this Ohio University football team have been heart-wrenchingly painful for Bobcat fans to watch. A feeling of resignation seems to have been reached.

High expectations have been the norm in Athens over the last several years. Coming off of two MAC East championships in three seasons at the start of last year, Ohio has been the favorite for the East heading into each of the past two seasons. Frank Solich rejuvenated a program that was long dormant and averaged less than four wins a year before his arrival. The 2012 season was to be the high point. It was to be the year Ohio did all right, and maybe even reached a BCS game. It was something more than a few pundits predicted. A week one victory over Penn State had spirits at an all-time high as students flocked to Court Street, the strip of road that runs right past the Ohio University campus. It was a time for celebration.

All of this happened as injuries piled up. Among the defensive backs, among the offensive line, and the wide receivers. But not to worry, Ohio continued winning, reaching 7-0. But then in a trip to Oxford, Ohio fell at the hands of hated rivals Miami. The 'Cats rebounded with a solid victory over Eastern Michigan, but then the wheels fell off. In three consecutive weeks against Bowling Green, Ball State and Kent State, Ohio looked less than stellar. No one was quite sure what to attribute the collapse to. Was it injuries? Coaching issues? Lack of leadership?

A bowl victory over a more than respectable UL-Monroe squad seemed to instill some positivity back into the program.

So in 2013, things were supposed to change. The Ohio guys were healthy. Solich mandated less contact in practice. He rested more players. He was measured in the way in which he used his players. A week one loss to Louisville was disappointing if only for the fact that it seemed as if Ohio did not show up. But, it was a forewarning to what would come down the stretch.

Ohio played admirable ball, winning six of its next seven games. A MAC East bid was still a possibility even after a loss to Central Michigan. But that Buffalo loss told a whole new story. In the grand scheme of things, it revealed something intrinsic with Ohio Football. Something that is lacking. With a group so talented and with such high expectations, how have the 'Cats fallen so far?

After getting shellacked by Buffalo, stomped on in a merciless Tuesday night of #LACKtion vs. Bowling Green, and getting pounded into submission by Kent State in a second-half that was cringe-inducing, Ohio sits with one game remaining.  The pessimistic attitude and altogether downer aura surrounding the program pervaded the chilly Tuesday night. The cynicism was in the air. And the night proved to seal the fate of the collapse of epic proportions. They are 6-5, and 3-4 in the MAC. Where did it go wrong?

Tyler Tettleton, Mr. Everything, undoubtedly one  of the best players in Ohio history, has completed less than 50% of his passes over the last three games. He has passed for only 351 yards in his last three games, all losses.

Gripes about the play-calling continue, and justifiably so. Predictable schemes that are not executed well are a cause for concern. Runs right into the back of the center on first down become predictable when you see it 10 times a game.

The carries have been split in 2013 between Beau Blankenship and Ryan Boykin (with Boykin hurting as of late) in order to keep Blankenship healthy. This has not necessarily helped the Bobcats at all as they have never gotten their star running back going. Ohio ranks eighth in the MAC in yards on the ground per game.

Injuries cannot be an excuse like they were last year. Some point to the offensive line, but that does not adequately represent a team that has given up 30, 49, and 44 points in successive contests.

The punting game has even been inconsistent, something that Ohio struggled with down the stretch, especially in a loss to Bowling Green.

There seems to be a lack of leadership. The word of the week surrounding Ohio football is the "disconnect" between coaches and players. Solich talked about this after the Kent State game saying, "if there's a disconnect, you'd have to ask the players that."

When asked what the issue was after the Kent State game, Tettleton said, "I think it's just one of those things where we're not executing where we should be."

Maybe a want for focus?

In the press conference after the Kent State game, Solich said, "focus is something that you always address as a coach to your team. That's something that you continually need to keep coming back to, because, obviously, without focus - regardless of talent - you aren't going to be very good."

Players and coaches alike suggest that this is not the case, but it is hard to argue against it. Something is missing. Talks of change at Ohio are ablaze. This does not necessarily mean that Solich would go, as he has done more for the program than anybody. He could even leave on his own terms. But it seems apparent that something has to change.

The senior class, is arguably the most successful in Ohio history, so it is not all doom and gloom. In the Nov. 25th episode of the Solich Show he said, "they have been obviously special to me...they were a class that we were able to recruit and obviously have a system change during their time in terms of what we were all about offensively... They won a ton of football games and have done a lot in terms of promoting Ohio."

So maybe Ohio steps up, takes pride in what it has done. Especially the seniors. Maybe they come out ready to go down fighting to the end. Or maybe the November follies continue.

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