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Special teams miscues cost Bobcats in 26-14 loss to Falcons

Ohio fails to get off 4 punts, gets shut down offensively

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ATHENS, Ohio – Ohio failed to get off four punts and struggled to get its offense moving, losing 26-14 to Bowling Green on Wednesday night at Peden Stadium.

Ohio punters mishandled two snaps and had two other punts blocked, the Bobcats managed only 244 yards of offense and the Falcons’ Anthon Samuel rushed for a career-high 181 yards.

With the defeat, the Bobcats (8-2, 4-2 Mid-American Conference) fall two losses behind Kent State in the MAC East and one behind the Falcons (7-3, 5-1 MAC), making their chances of returning to Detroit for the league championship game very slim.

“That’s a tough way to accept a loss,” Ohio coach Frank Solich said. “Bowling Green has a good football team. We could have done things better in all phases of the game, especially the breakdowns in the punting game.”

Grant Venham’s punt was blocked late in the first quarter, giving Bowling Green field position at the Ohio 20-yard line. That led to a Samuel 15-yard touchdown run in which he bowled over several defenders on a third-and-5 play on the first play of the second quarter.

The Bobcats were fooled defensively when the Falcons faked a screen and a reverse, allowing Chris Gallon to get wide open for a 55-yard touchdown pass from Matt Schilz that made it 14-7.

Venham then mishandled a snap to give Bowling Green prime field position again, with it resulting this time in a 35-yard Tyler Tate field goal.

After the first two punting mishaps with Venham, Ohio turned to senior kicker Matt Weller to try to fix the problem. But a bad snap got past him and all the way into the end zone for a safety that made it 19-7 before the half.

“The one punt (with Venham) was bobbled twice and he maybe still had an opportunity to get it off,” Solich said. “The one to Matt was a low snap. It was difficult to handle, but he possibly could have handled that one.”

The final punting error occurred late in the third quarter when Venham was blocked for a second time. That led to another Bowling Green touchdown, this time a 4-yard Samuel run on the first play of the fourth quarter.

It followed a 10-yard Samuel run on third-and-5 that if not converted could have forced a field goal try that would have kept it a one-score game. Instead, a struggling Ohio offense needed two scores and did not get any in three fourth-quarter possessions.

The Bobcats managed to move the ball their final time with the ball, getting to the Falcons 13-yard line, but Tyler Tettleton was sacked for a 16-yard loss on third down and his fourth-down pass to Derek Roback was well short of the first down with 2:24 remaining.

“It all came down to their defense,” Tettleton said. “All the credit goes to them. They have an amazing defense. They’re probably one of the best defenses I’ve faced since I’ve been here.”

Tettleton finished 21 of 34 but for only 145 yards. Running back Beau Blankenship proved to be Ohio’s top offensive weapon, rushing for 97 yards on 18 carries, but as a team, the Bobcats finished with 99 rushing yards on 44 attempts. Tettleton was sacked four times.

“We were forced out of the pocket or we ran out the pocket way too much in order to get a viable pass attack going that could help,” Solich said. “There were times we did have a running game going but we weren’t able to get much of a throwing game going with any consistency.”

The only times the Bobcats found success offensively were on the opening drives of both halves. They drove 72 yards on 11 plays, scoring on a Tettleton 5-yard run to take an early 7-0 lead.

Then trailing 19-7, Ohio got a quick stop from its defense and the offense took advantage, going 95 yards on 14 plays, capped off by a 3-yard Tettleton pass to Chase Cochran with 6:54 left in the third quarter.

“They quit blitzing after that first drive,” Blankenship said. “I don’t’ know how that affected us. They did a great job shutting us down. We had some success, but their defense was just great.”

Down just five, the Bobcats got a three-and-out from their defense, but the offense stalled and the final punting mishap ensued.

Punting for the Falcons was a definite strength. Brian Schmiedebusch averaged 50.5 yards per attempt, netting even more – 52 yards per try – due to Ohio’s four returns netting a loss of 9 yards.

“I think it was very discouraging,” Solich said. “When you give up field position like we were giving up, that’s disheartening for everyone on the sideline. In this game, you’re going to have those kind of things happen. You hope they don’t happen as much as they did tonight, but you have to be ready to make a change and operate effectively. I don’t think we’re operating at a real high level on special teams, offensively or defensively.”

Samuel carried Bowling Green’s offense, carrying it 29 times. Schilz was just 7-of-17 passing for 91 yards and other ball carriers netted only 16 yards on seven attempts.

Only three games ago, with a 7-0 record, the Bobcats had dreams of an undefeated season. Now with two losses in the last three games, Ohio could finish in a swoon with challenging games at Ball State and at Kent State remaining on the schedule.

“We had a very good season going and now we’re all of a sudden 8-2 and so now it’s time to look at what we’re going to do in order to make things work for the last two ball games,” Solich said. “There’s only two ways to go. Either you don’t practice well and you don’t play well and you go into a tailspin or you battle out of it. I’d like to think we have the players who will battle it out.”

The Bobcats will try to get back on track at 8 p.m. Wednesday at Ball State.

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