Bobcats open MAC play against Minutemen
Ohio to play at Gillette Stadium
By Lonnie McMillan / Contributor
Thursday, September 27, 2012
FOXBORO, Mass. – Ohio is set begin its quest to complete its “unfinished business” this season when it opens Mid-American Conference play against Massachusetts on Saturday.
The Bobcats finished non-league play with a perfect 4-0 mark by downing Norfolk State, 44-10, last week, and now it moves on to the first step toward its primary goal this year of winning its first MAC championship since 1968.
UMass (0-4, 0-1 MAC) is transitioning into the Football Bowl Championship level and is in its first season in the MAC, having played its first-ever MAC game last week, a 27-16 loss at Miami. The Minutemen also have losses to Michigan, Indiana and Connecticut.
Although the results have not been pretty – UMass has been outscored 172-35 – Ohio cannot take the game lightly, Bobcats coach Frank Solich said.
“Statistically, it doesn’t match up to the kind of football they are when you turn on the film,” Solich said. “I think they’re well-coached, I think they’re sound in all phases of the game. It’s a game where you can’t afford to make errors. You’re going to have to play well.”
Having played three major-conference opponents, the Minutemen do not have impressive-looking statistics. They have averaged just 8.8 points and 263.2 yards per game, but they are coming off their best offensive performance of the season, having gained 471 yards against the RedHawks.
Running back Michael Cox, a transfer from Michigan, has been UMass’s top offensive threat, rushing for 301 yards and two touchdowns while averaging 4.4 yards per carry.
“I think he’s talented,” Solich said. “I think he’s a physical player. He’s able to make plays. So you’re faced with that. But we’ve been faced with individual talent through the course of our first three games. Really it comes down to how you match up across the board and obviously a player here, or a player there, at the quarterback spot for instance, could make a huge difference.”
Quarterback Mike Wegzyn has struggled, completing just 51.3 percent of his passes for 561 yards and no touchdowns with four interceptions. He ranks second on the team in rushing with 75 yards.
“He will really try to pin-point passes,” Solich said. “He’s a guy that’s not afraid to let the ball go. He’s big, strong. You’re just going to have to try to get some pressure on him and hopefully make him throw a few up.”
Five players have between eight and 12 catches. Deion Walker, who has played in only three games, has the most yards, 168, on 11 receptions.
The Minutemen’s offense will be challenged by a Bobcats defense that ranks as the MAC’s best. Ohio is tops among league schools with averages of 18.0 points and 322.5 yards allowed per game. Teams especially have struggled to run on the Bobcats, gaining just 83.0 yards per game on the ground.
Middle linebacker Keith Moore has emerged as Ohio’s leader on defense with 29 tackles. Safety Gerald Moore has 19 tackles, while defensive lineman Corey Hasting leads the Bobcats with 1.5 sacks and two quarterback hurries to go with 17 tackles.
UMass’s defensive numbers do not look good so far either. The Minutemen have given up 43.0 points and 490.2 yards per game.
Perry McIntyre has made 38 tackles to lead the defense. Defensive lineman Chaz Thompson has 3.5 tackles for loss.
Ohio leads the MAC offensively in both points (36.5) and yards (465.0) per game.
Quarterback Tyler Tettleton sat out the Bobcats’ last game against the Spartans with an upper side injury, but is probable to play against the Minutemen. He returned to practice Wednesday. Tettleton has completed 66.7 percent of his passes for 781 yards and seven touchdowns without an interception.
Derrius Vick filled in last week, completing 14 of 20 passes for 199 yards and four touchdowns.
Running back Beau Blankenship is off to one of the best starts in school history, having gained 488 yards through four games, ahead of the school-record pace set by Kalvin McRae when he rushed for 1,434 yards on the year.
Donte Foster is the Bobcats’ leading receiver with 18 receptions for 188 yards and four touchdowns.
Special teams is one area in which UMass has had some success, as Jordan Broadnax has averaged 24.0 yards per kick return.
“I think they do a good job with their 11 guys on that unit,” Solich said. “You don’t just have a guy catch the ball and all of a sudden and get an average of 24 yards a return by himself.”
Turnovers have been an area of excellence for the Bobcats, who have forced 10 more than they have committed. The Minutemen have committed one more turnover than they have forced.
While Tettleton probably will be back in the starting lineup Saturday, so too will guard Vince Carlotta, who also sat out against Norfolk State. Guard Eric Herman also has been cleared to play despite missing practice time. In addition, backup running back Ryan Boykin is expected to be ready to go.
However, backup offensive linemen Sam Johnson and Mike McQueen both have suffered injuries that will keep them out for an extended period of time, perhaps the whole season. Also out against UMass are wide receivers Tyler Futrell and Landon Smith and defensive end Tremayne Scott.
Ohio will have to be on top of its game as it begins MAC play, Solich said.
“I think it is clear they are an improving football team,” he said. “And obviously they got to be upbeat about getting the MAC started and wanting to make an impression in it. I think they’ll play very hard, and they have the capability of playing well. When those two things combine, it can cause you problems.”
Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m. Saturday at Gillette Stadium. The game can be seen online on ESPN3.