No. 24 Ohio returns from bye to face rival Miami
Bobcats have won 6 straight in Battle of the Bricks series
By Lonnie McMillan / Contributor
Thursday, October 25, 2012
OXFORD, Ohio – Now into the top 25 of all major rankings, the Ohio football team, fresh off a bye week, turns its attention to Miami in the annual Battle of the Bricks.
The Bobcats are seeking their seventh straight victory in the series, which included a 21-14 victory at Peden Stadium last year.
“It’s a long-time rivalry,” Ohio coach Frank Solich said. “It’s important to Miami. It’s important to Ohio. It’s obviously important to fans. But when you look at football games, every game’s important regardless of who you are or how well you’re doing.”
Also coming off its bye week, Miami (3-4, 2-1 Mid-American Conference) still is in contention in the MAC East, despite a 37-12 loss to Bowling Green in its last game.
The success Miami has had has come as a result of its passing game, which ranks second in the league. Quarterback Zac Dysert, with more than 10,000 passing yards in his career, has thrown for 1,914 yards so far this season, completing 62.5 percent of his passes for 14 touchdowns with eight interceptions.
“The pro scouts are definitely paying a lot of attention to him, evaluating him, looking at him,” solich said. “You look at his size. You look at his arm strength. You look at his accuracy, his decision-making. All of those lead you to being an excellent NFL prospect. I’m sure he’s considered to be that. He’s throwing to some very good receivers. They have the ability to protect him very well. The whole combination of that makes it difficult to slow them down.”
Andy Cruse leads the RedHawks in receiving with 49 catches, good for 388 yards and four touchdowns, while Dawan Scott has provided bigger plays, gaining 501 yards and five touchdowns on just 32 catches despite missing one game. Nick Harwell, though, is Miami’s most explosive receiver with 23 grabs for 298 yards in four games. He had 14 catches for 163 yards against Ohio last year.
As good as the RedHawks’ passing game has been, the offense has produced only 23 points per game, in large part because of their lack of running game. No player on the team has reached even 200 yards on the season. Jamire Westbrook is the team’s leading rusher with 198 yards and an average of 4.1 yards per carry. He sat out against Bowling Green but is expected to play Saturday.
Ohio’s defense has struggled with injuries, but the two weeks off seems to have provided some help. Safety Gerald Moore returned to practice and seems likely to play against Miami. However, it was hopeful that defensive end Tremayne Scott would be able to return to action this weekend, but he has been ruled out for the fifth straight game.
“I think overall, the mental attitude and where we were in the season, guys with bumps and bruises, we took enough time off I think for those kinds of things to heal up,” Solich said. “It seems like when we were back on the field Thursday and Friday of last week, the attitude was good. They seemed rejuvenated.”
Linebacker Keith Moore leads the Ohio defense with 58 tackles this season. Linebacker Jelani Woseley is second on the team with 35 tackles and is tops with six tackles for loss and two interceptions.
Ohio has given up 394 yards per game to rank fifth in the MAC but its average of just 23.6 points per game ranks third. The Bobcats have allowed just 134.4 rushing yards but have allowed 259.6 passing yards per game.
All aspects of defense have been a struggle for Miami, which is allowing 37.6 points and 500.1 yards per game. Teams have gashed the RedHawks for 243.9 rushing and 256.3 passing yards per game.
Linebacker Chris Wade leads Miami with 75 tackles. Safety Pat Hinkel has picked off three passes, while Mwanza Wamulumba leads the team with 2.5 sacks.
Still, the RedHawks will challenge the Bobcats with some of the things they do defensively, Solich said.
“We know that Miami is a good football team and that they’re a physical football team,” he said. “(Last year), they showed us defensively a lot of blitzes, a lot of movement. They bring their linebackers quickly on a lot of things. So we’ll get tested, very much so with what they’re all about.”
Miami will be challenge to stop Ohio’s offense that averages 448.1 yards and 36.4 points per game. The Bobcats especially like to hammer opponents on the ground, averaging 217.3 rushing yards per game.
Beau Blankenship leads the Bobcats with 951 rushing yards and six touchdowns. Ryan Boykin, when healthy, has provided a powerful second running back option with 214 yards.
Quarterback Tyler Tettleton has completed 60.3 percent of his passes for 1,343 yards and 12 touchdowns with only one interception. Donte Foster is the team’s leading receiver with 24 catches for 264 yards and five touchdowns. Bakari Bussey has made 32 receptions for 215 yards.
Much of Ohio’s success can be attributed to turnovers, having caused 14 of them while committing only three. The RedHawks have lost 12 turnovers and forced nine.
Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m. Saturday at Yager Stadium.