After facing stingy defense, Bobcats go up against high-scoring offense
Cardinals move ball effectively on the ground and through the air
By Lonnie McMillan / Contributor
Tuesday, November 13, 2012
MUNCIE, Ind. – A week after facing a challenge from the Mid-American Conference’s top defense, the Ohio football team faces one of the league’s best offenses.
The Bobcats did not pass last week’s test, falling to Bowling Green, 26-14. Now, they will try to play the role of spoiler against Ball State, which still is in the West Division title hunt after knocking off Toledo last week.
Ball State ranks second in the MAC in yards per game at 470.5 and third in the league in scoring at 33.7 per game.
“There’s no question they are one of the top offensive teams in the MAC,” Ohio coach Frank Solich said. “And we’ll see at the end of the year where they’re at. They can run and they can throw and they have good people doing both of those. It’s a very difficult chore to slow them down.”
In MAC play, the Cardinals (7-3, 4-2 MAC) are averaging 38.8 points and 509.8 yards per game.
Jahwan Edwards, who keyed the Cardinals’ 23-20 homecoming upset of the Bobcats last year, leads Ball State in the running game with 1,054 yards and 10 touchdowns. He is averaging 5.8 yards per carry.
Quarterback Keith Wenning has developed into a major threat for Ball State, completing 64.8 percent of his passes for 2,705 yards and 20 touchdowns with 10 interceptions.
Four different receivers have caught at least 39 passes from Wenning, led by Willie Snead with 73 receptions for 946 yards and six touchdowns. Jamill Smith has made 64 grabs for 670 yards and six scores.
“We’ve got to have good coverage,” Solich said. “We can’t let them make big plays after the ball’s caught. We’ve got to keep the third-and-six and seven from being a problem with those completion routes that they run. There’s a lot that’s going into this ballgame. They present a lot of problems that really complicate your game plan.”
Defensively, Ohio ranks third in the MAC both in points allowed (22.8 per game) and yards allowed (377.5 per game).
Keith Moore leads the Bobcats with 80 tackles, while Jelani Woseley has 47 tackles and 70 tackles for loss. Defensive tackle Neal Huynh has made eight tackles for loss, including 2.5 sacks. Nathan Carpenter has been tops in forcing turnovers with two interceptions and two fumble recoveries.
Ball State’s defense does not rank as highly, allowing 32.7 points and 471.3 yards per game, both ranking in the bottom half of the MAC.
Linebacker Travis Freeman is the team’s leading tackler with 107. Defensive end Jonathan Newsome has 9.5 tackles for loss, including six sacks.
The Cardinals have forced 12 turnovers on the year, while giving up the ball 16 times.
“Producing turnovers in going to be huge in this ball game,” Solich said. “We’ve got to take care of the ball and get some turnovers. I don’t particularly care how they come. But, obviously they’re going to do both. They’re going to run the ball, but they’re going to throw the ball a fair amount too.”
Turnovers have keyed Ohio’s success. The Bobcats have only five turnovers on the year and have forced 20 of them.
Quarterback Tyler Tettleton has been key in Ohio’s ability to take care of the ball. He has thrown only two interceptions while completing 61.5 percent of his passes for 2,045 yards and 16 touchdowns.
Beau Blankenship leads the rushing attack with 1,194 yards and eight touchdowns, but backup Ryan Boykin recently had surgery and will be out of the season. He finished the year with 445 yards.
Solich said true freshman Daz Patterson will see reps at running back. He has averaged 5.7 yards per carry in limited action this year.
Ohio has been hit hard with injuries in the pass receiving game, having lost wideouts Landon Smith and Mario Dovell and tight end Jordan Thompson for the year.
Donte Foster is the Bobcats’ leading receiver with 42 catches for 518 yards and seven touchdowns. Bakari Bussey has made 30 receptions for 266 yards.
Especially after last week’s punting debacle, special teams will be important for Ohio. Solich said the team has made same changes.
“We’ve made some adjustments,” he said. “We think those adjustments will be of some help. Obviously we got to snap the ball well, we got to catch the ball. If we do those two things, I’ll feel much more comfortable about what we’re doing in the punting game.”
Having dropped two of the last three games, Ohio has no guarantee its season will extend beyond next week’s regular season finale at Kent State. One more win almost certainly would clinch a bowl game, but Solich said he simply wants to get back on track.
“Right now I don’t feel comfortable about anything,” he said. “The only way to make me start to feel comfortable is to win.”
Kickoff between the Bobcats and Cardinals is set for 8 p.m. Wednesday at Scheumann Stadium on ESPNU.