Ohio Vs. Penn State Live Blog

10:55- It’s baaaaaaack. And from historic Beaver Stadium.

Keep it here for a running diary of today’s big game. Also, as you all prepare, head over to my preview at MAC Report Online for the players thoughts heading in to today’s game.

10:59- The Joe Paterno statue outside Gate F here is gone but some fans have left a tribue to their former coach. This is the first time that Penn State is opening a season without Paterno as head coach since 1965.

11:11- Teams on the field for warm-ups. Although the student section is still well empty, the roars for each Lions unit as they take the field has been impressive. Ohio rocking their new green helmets that scream Michigan State.

11:13- Some stats to throw around:

-Ohio and Penn State are meeting for the first time since 1974.
-The Bobcats come into today’s game winning six of their last seven games.
-A win today would be the Bobcats’ first over a Big 10 team since they defeated Illinois in 2006.
-A win today would be the first for Penn State since 1997. Yes, that is not a misprint. According to the NCAA sanctions they accepted, they vacated all wins between 1998 and 2011.
-The Nittany Lions have also technically defeated a MAC team since 1992.

11:22- A big question heading in to this game will be the play of PSU quarterback Matt McGloin. It’s no secret that he struggled through much of 2011. If the Bobcats get pressure to him early and often, the defense should be in good shape.

11:32- Penn State sold out of 21,000 student season tickets in a day this summer. To put that in perspective, Peden Stadium, the home of the Ohio Bobcats holds 24,000 people total.

11:39- It’s a stupid thing, I know, but there is nothing quite like sitting back and watching a place like Beaver Stadium go from having 0 people in it to 100,000 in a matter of two hours.

11:41- Internet is apparently going to be an issue today, so apologies if the updates are light.

11:53- It’s game time in Happy Valley.

12:00 – PSU is debuting a new branding today, using the slogan “One Team”. It’s being used to brand the athletics program as a whole. 600 student-athletes formed a tunnel to welcome the players on the field. It truly is a new era here.

12:05- Penn State to receive after Ohio wins the toss and defers. This could be one of the biggest drives in recent history for both teams.

12:13- Methodical drive from PSU here. Lots of play-action and spreading of receivers has Ohio out of position most plays. Lions marching down the field and about to enter red zone.

12:16- Two missed tackles on a fourth and third down costing Ohio. Drove fans crazy with the last year.

12:17- Drive looked hopeless for Ohio until Belton coughs up the ball after a hit by Gerald Moore. Time for the big matchup: PSU Defense vs. Ohio Offense.

12:22- Just like that, Ohio goes three-and-out. Don’t be surprised if that is common, especially early. Grant Venham’s first career punt travels 53 yards and pins the Lions inside the 20.

12:23- Penn State takes over again but is quickly stopped. Matt McGloin is 8-for-11 throwing through two drives.

12:36- Ohio gets things going on their second drive, but stall out at the 35 of Penn State. They punt but the ball goes into the end zone. Thought going for the 52-yard FG with Weller would be worth a 16-yard change in field position.

12:44- Ohio’s refusal to press receivers is giving McGloin and Co. all day to set up.

12:50- That score by PSU was the first for them in 14 years.

12:59- Yet another miscue puts Ohio in business. A dropped punt inside the 15 puts Ohio in the red zone. ‘Cats go three-and-out and have to settle for a FG. Needed a TD there. 7-3 PSU with 10:22 left in the half.

1:11- Big swing yet again for Ohio, an apparent catch by PSU at the Ohio 35 overturned and PSU punts. Tettleton needs to get more throws in, as he only has 10 at the moment.

1:16- Tettleton getting others involved and it is paying off. They have marched all the way down to the PSU 35 in seven plays. Tettleton now 10-for-14 for 92 games. Big 4th-and-2 on the PSU 27.

1:21- That’s disappointing. Ohio marches all that way only to settle for a 44-yard FG which Weller pushes left. Seems an awful lot like the offense we saw late last year.

1:26- Nice sequence for the defense who gets a quick stop. Time for the ‘Cats to get agressive since they could go two-for-one to start the second half.

1:29- Or not. They go three-and-out and get the punt blocked. PSU takes over inside the Ohio 20.

1:34- So. Many. Arm. Tackles. PSU goes up 14-3 after just three plays in the red zone. McGloin to Lehman from 14 yards out. Just a horrible swing. 1:30 to go in the half. PSU 14 Ohio 3.

HALFTIME: PENN STATE 14 OHIO 3

-Things could be a lot worse for Ohio, but they could be much, much better. They certainly don’t deserve to win at this point, that’s for sure.

-Their preparation of handling the passing game has been less than stellar. They were planning on letting McGloin throw all day, but he has made them pay. 16-for-26 for 178 yards and 2 TDs with no picks sounds like a dream for a Lions fan.

-Where is the big play on offense? It helped the ‘Cats get things going in numerous games last year, but they seem to be sitting back today. They have attempted one pass over 10 yards. Solich and Co. love some trickeration to keep the defense on their toes.

-Tyler Tettleton has been good as advertised. 15-for-22 for 117 yards. Would like to see him try and make a big play here in the second half. He looks a little afraid at times.

-Total yardage: PSU 237 Ohio 198. Not nearly as bad as you would think.

-Time of Possession: Ohio 15:02 PSU: 14:58. The ‘Cats clearly controlled the 2nd quarter. Needed to finish, though.

-Final conclusion: Ohio is still very much in this game. It is really just a matter of not missing opportunities like they did in the second quarter and shoring up the passing defense. Now that the ‘Cats have a feel for Bill O’Brien’s offensive scheme, it seems possible that they can get things fixed on defense.

-Stay tuned through the end of the game for updates.

2:07- National TV games absolutely ruin the flow of the Ohio offense. A 20-second break for an injury just turned into a three-minute break.

2:14- What a break for the Bobcats. On a third-and-seven from the PSU 43, Tettleton forces a throw that gets tipped but right into the hands of Landon Smith who takes it to the house. 14-10 PSU with 10:40 to go in the third. An 82-yard drive which was just what the doctor ordered.

2:26- Color me impressed with the Ohio secondary this quarter. They get the big stop on defense on fourth down on the Ohio 35 and then the offense goes for some razzle-dazzle on a double reverse for 11 yards.

2:35- Incredible turn of events here in Happy Valley. It’s Tettleton Time as he leads the Bobcats for a 72-yard scoring drive. Ohio leads 17-14. Crucial sequence for the defense here.

2:43- Defense gets a quick stop and the offense is back on the field. Tettleton getting stretched out a lot, may be suffering from cramps.

2:47- The 3rd ends and the Bobcats are in the lead 17-14. Just 15 minutes away from history.

2:48- Great stat from Athens Messenger beat writer Jason Arkley. Ohio has outgained PSU 302 yards to 113.

2:54- Not a day to remember for senior kicker Matt Weller who misses his second kick of the day. PSU takes over on their 22-yard-line.

3:00- Ohio gets the stop. 9:37 to go in the game and will take over on their own 7. A long scoring drive will all but certainly put this game out of reach.

3:26- What a finish. Ohio running this one out. Truly the greatest in the history of the program.

MAC Twitter List

Since I’ve been bored this summer, I came up with the idea of having a Twitter list for making it easy to follow the action from all 13 teams on Saturday (and Monday, Tuesday, Wedensday and Thursday for that matter). It features beat writers that cover the various schools in addition to the school’s athletic accounts.

You can subscribe to it at the following link. I’ll get around to adding more basketball accounts once that season gets rolling.

Twitter List

I’ll be covering the team again for MAC Report Online this season, while also contributing some pieces for The Athens News. If you are a fan of the almost-world-famous live blog, I can guarantee those will be returning as well.

 

 

Ohio Football Scrimmage Notebook

The Ohio Bobcats had their first full-contact scrimmage Tuesday afternoon, giving a lot of the young players their first chance to show their skills at full-speed, while veteran players get an opportunity to jockey for more playing time.

Here is what I took out of my trip to Peden:

Defense dominates

Although many starters on both sides of the ball sat out, and many veteran players only played a couple of drives, the defense really impressed me whether it was first-string or third-string. The offense only had one scoring drive on the afternoon, led by the second unit. The linemen and linebackers handled the run very well, filling holes quickly and giving the running backs fits. The secondary made the quarterbacks and receivers earn every catch. It was a fine display of the defensive depth that the team will have the next few years.

Offense faster than a speeding bullet

While the defense won the day, the offense wasn’t unpolished by any stretch. From top to bottom, they played very fast, taking an average of 10 seconds between plays when running their no-huddle. The Bobcats gained an edge by playing so quickly in 2011, and they look to exploit it more in 2012.

Daz’mond Gets His Work In

Of the 2012 recruiting class, running back Daz’mond Patterson may be the most intriguing player in my opinion. Listed at just 5-foot-6 and 178 pounds, he looks like the kind of player that has no right playing in the FBS. But judging by the reps he got with the first-team, (Ryan Boykin and Beau Blankenship sat out) it seems like he may be the one carrying the running game a few years from now. His size gives him a low center of gravity and an ability to fit in holes that your prototypical 6-foot, 200 pound running back can’t. Fans will want to keep an eye on his progress.

On working with

“It was a chance for me to show everyone that I am ready to be out there in a game situation. Coach gave me the ball a lot, a bunch of plays in a row. And then when I was tired, I got the ball again. It was a test to see if I was ready. We’ll see if it pays off.”

Derrius Vick Improves

Following the transfer of Kyle Snyder, sophomore quarterback Derrius Vick (no relation to Michael or Marcus) is now the No. 2 behind Tyler Tettleton. He looked a bit lost in practices at times last year, but he has gradually built up his athletic frame and played in Tuesday’s scrimmage with plenty of confidence. His throws were more sharp and didn’t let the relentless defensive pressure get to him too much. If he continues to improve, life after Tettleton may not be as bad as originally thought.

On his throwing:

“I came in last year just hoping I could complete the pass, but this year I have a better grasp on the offense and it seems slower and I can make plays when I need to.”

The Bobcats have one more scrimmage before the start of the season, and then their first regular season game on September 1 at Penn State.

 

 

 

Ohio Bobcats Football 2012 Media Day: It’s All About First Impressions

First impressions are everything.

When it comes to college football, your first impressions of the team comes from the media day the team holds shortly after the beginning of camp.

It’s usually the first time that you get to meet one-on-one with the new leaders of the team. You get a feel for what is going on during fall camp, which is a completely different thing than spring ball.

When it came to the Ohio Bobcats media day, your first impression was that this team is on a mission. Some would be happy with a 10-win season, or the first bowl win in school history, but not these Bobcats.

The loss in the MAC Championship to Northern Illinois still sits with a lot of these guys, and they are going to do everything they can to win Ohio’s first MAC title since 1968.

The media feels that it will happen this year, as they are the pre-season favorites to win the conference. But as wide receiver Donte Foster said, “they don’t give out the championship on paper.”

This team knows they have a lot of work to do to achieve their goal, but in talking with them you really see that they are confident that this is the year.

Here are the highlights and my first impressions of the players I got to talk with.

Head Coach Frank Solich 

On being pre-season MAC favorites:

“It’s a tribute to our football players and the guys that have played here in the past that have gotten the program from where it came from…It’s also a tribute to our coaching staff. Our guys have done a great job of coaching year in and year out.”

On the wide receiving unit:

“It’s going to be critical on the offensive side of the ball to replace the guys that we lost. We graduated four players that caught over 120 balls for us and that’s a lot of big plays and big catches to leave on the table. Someone has to step up. I do like what our receivers have been about in our first four days of practice. They are catching the ball much better than in the spring. They are blocking better. It’s more promising than what it was coming out of spring.”

On team leadership

“There are as many leaders on this team as there ever has been. We’ve established a ‘Unity Council’ with two players from every position plus a kicker. This enables us to throw forward more guys with leadership abilities and develop more leaders.”

Players

Junior wide receiver Donte Foster

Replacing a playmaker that is about to crack the Indianapolis Colts starting lineup as a rookie isn’t easy, but that is what Donte Foster and the rest of the Bobcats wide receivers must do following the graduation of LaVon Brazill. After a disappointing spring, the receivers have shown up to fall camp ready to work. After talking with Foster, you get the feeling that the passing game will be just fine.

On the receivers’ progression during fall camp:

“After we saw what we did in the spring, we all got the impression that we really needed to improve. All summer we came out and worked a whole lot more and it is showing in our catching and blocking here in the fall.”

On replacing four receivers:

“It’s tough to lose them all in the same year. They had outstanding years out there. A lot of people can say we are rebuilding, but I see it as if we are reloading to have another great season.”

On his knack for making acrobatic catches:

“They put me out there to make plays. Of course I’ll try to make an easier play if I can and I’ve tried to be more consistent in making the common, easy plays.”

Senior tight end Jordan Thompson

The first thing you think when you talk to Jordan Thompson is that he has to be a coach when he is done playing. Now entering his third year as a starter, you feel like Solich was talking directly about Thompson when he mentioned the great leaders the team has. Playing one of the tougher positions on offense, he emerged as one of Tyler Tettleton’s favorite targets in a pinch and hopes to help him lighten the load in 2012 as well.

On his role in 2012:

“We’ve had some tremendous receivers in years past, so I think this year we may try and spread the ball out more and as a tight end that means more opportunities to make plays.”

On playing as a tight end:

“I wouldn’t say it’s tough, I think it’s more fun because you get the physicality of playing on the line and then you also get to go out and catch some balls. So I think it’s a lot of fun being versitale and being able to do a little of both.

On being elected captain:

“It’s humbling. To know that the guys look up to me as a leader and that they trust me to be a representative of the team, it’s a nice honor.”

On being MAC preseason favorites:

“I think as far as being picked No. 1, we expected it. It’s a great place to be as a program. To see our name at the top means that we have the target on our backs. We’re going to get everyone’s best shot so we have to be ready.”

Senior defensive lineman Neal Huynh

Although he has a quiet demeanor, few play on the Bobcat defense with the amount of intensity that Neal Huynh does. Huynh was in the middle of a breakout season before a knee injury ended his 2011 prematurely. Coming in to 2012, you have a feeling he is going to come out more fiery than ever and help the defense improve.

On getting back on the field in 2012:

“It feels great to get back out there and pick up from where I left off. It came early in the season and when I was able to come back it kept me from being 100 percent. I’m looking forward to being on the field and playing football to my full capabilities.”

On the experienced defense that returns eight starters:

“Having that experience is key. The now seniors especially were able to step up last year and show the younger guys the example. Being on the same page and prepared for the season really helps early, too. If we need a second string guy to go in, it may not be as big of a deal with the depth we have.”

On the defense’s ‘stop the run first’ mentality

“The defensive linemen have to come out aggressively each play and play on their side of the ball. We have to have gap integrity and make sure the holes are filled no matter what.”

Junior running back Beau Blankenship

There is no doubt that Beau Blankenship is the easiest Bobcat to recognize across a room. Besides being one of the few white guys that can pull off putting his hair into dreadlocks, we learned in 2011 that he is a talented running back and one of the most fun guys to be around on the team. After the departure of Donte Harden, he will be expected to carry the bulk of the load at running back. 

On his blonde locks:

“I’ve grown it out for about seven months. I’ve wanted dreads since high school and I could never find someone to do it. I finally did  and I thought, ‘let’s do it.’ I’m going to have some fun with it and we’ll see how long it lasts.”

On his increased role:

“I’m ready for whatever workload they want me to have. I’m always more excited to get the ball a lot but between me and Ryan [Boykin] we can really have a good 1-2 punch.”

On working out with fellow Oklahoma natives Donte Foster and Tyler Tettleton in the offseason:

“It’s awesome having that chemistry. It’s good to be back home working out with them. It’s crazy that we all ended up together at OU from Oklahoma.”

Junior quarterback Tyler Tettleton

In his first year as a starter in 2011, Tyler Tettleton led the Bobcats to their first ever bowl win, smashing many passing records in the process. Entering year two, you can really tell that he is more relaxed under center and ready to take more control of the offense. MAC defenses beware.

On camp as a second-year starter compared to last year:

“That whole year has allowed me to become more of a leader. Our succes last year has given me and the rest of the guys a lot of confidence going into camp.”

On the state of the passing game:

“Since spring those guys [receivers] have worked their tails off. They were behind great guys that they could look up to. It’s time for them to go out and get those reps and hopefully we can make plays.”

Challenges of a new receiving unit:

“Not having LaVon or Riley [Dunlop] is big. Those were two of the best receivers I’ve ever played with. It’s a matter of getting the younger guys more reps. So far, you can go down the list, everyone has been impressive in camp. We have depth, but not experience, but the reps will fix that.”

On avenging MAC Championship loss:

“It’s a huge motivation point for us. One of our biggest things this year is ‘Unfinished Business’ and we really are wanting to get back to Detroit and give it another go. Having that target on our back this year is what we’re here to do. Hopefully, we can up the win totals too, but the biggest thing for us this year is getting back to Detroit and winning the championship.”

On the team’s first scrimmage on Tuesday:

“I’m looking forward to seeing the younger guys and what we can do in a live situation. We have an experienced line and good backs, but the biggest thing for us is seeing the receivers live and who will be the go-to guys.”

The Bobcats open the season on September 1 at Penn State.

Dwight Smith Watch: A Slow Start

If you didn’t read my post from a month ago, I’ve been keeping an eye on Toronto Blue Jays prospect Dwight Smith Jr. after pulling his autograph in a pack of baseball cards.

Unfortunately, Dwight hasn’t done much to make those hastily scribbled initials worth big bucks during his first couple months of professional ball, as he has struggled throughout the 2012 season with the Blue Jays’s Rookie League Affiliate, the Bluefield Blue Jays.

His stat line hasn’t been that impressive, as he is hitting just .226/.316/.393 in 21 games with three home runs and 11 RBI’s. After a paltry month of June where he hit .219, he has looked slightly better in July, hitting .231. Those numbers would be better, but after last night’s game, he is now in a 1-for-17 slump.

He also, for whatever reason, cannot hit at home, where he has posted a ridiculously low average of .160 as compared to .254 on the road. He also hasn’t excelled in situations where he can knock in runs, hitting just .190 with RISP.

There is no need to panic however, as young Dwight is just 19 years old playing against some competition that is older. It will be interesting to monitor his progress through the rest of the season, to see if he can begin 2013 at a higher level in the minors.

Field Trippin': Arthur W. Perdue Stadium

As I was going through my camera today, I noticed that I had pictures from a visit me and my family had made during our vacation to Arthur W. Perdue Stadium.

Located in Salisbury, Md., it is the home of the Class-A affiliates of the Baltimore Orioles, the Delmarva Shorebirds. They play in the South Atlantic League, or Sally League for short. It is the launching pad of many Major League careers as is the first stop for many draft picks in their journey to the MLB.

There is nothing quite like going to a minor league baseball game, as it is the game in its purest form. No flashy bells-and-whistles, big corporate influence, and there is just something about seeing big leaguers before they make it to The Show.

Unfortunately, the 2012 season is a bit of a down one for the Delmarva Shorebirds as they just don’t have the highly touted prospects as they have in past years. It has shown attendance wise, as the 5,200 seat stadium had roughly 1,000 patrons despite a beautiful night for baseball.

One thing I also noticed about attending a game here is quite different than other minor league games I’ve attended, as there isn’t really much in the side-show department as compared to other teams. No zany promotions or events between innings, which made the already stale atmosphere seem more so. Part of the fun of going to a minor league game is seeing a ridiculous ice cream eating contest or Dizzy Bat race. The only real quirky gem of the park was a merry-go-round located down the left field line that was a hit with kids in attendance.

While some of the minor league fun was missing from the ballpark, I have to say that Perdue Stadium was a very nice stadium. $5 General Admission tickets for most of the ballpark was a steal, and the ballpark itself was clean and rather large. The staff was also a joy, as you could really tell they enjoyed working there and talking baseball with the fans. Nothing ruins the experience more for me than a cranky staff around a stadium, so kudos to the Shorebirds on that.

As with any minor league stadium, there were great ads that covered the fences.

The ballpark wasn’t located in the Salisbury, but about 10 minutes outside of the city on Route 50. It made for a pretty drab surrounding neighborhood as only trees and a four-lane highway were around the ballpark.

There was also plenty of history lessons throughout the ballpark, including a free Marlyland Baseball Museum, and these banners that were around the main concourse that honored former Shorebirds that made it to the major leagues.

As with any place, there was a Pittsburgh Pirates connection.

Their mascot, Sherman, was constantly roving the ballpark and interacting with fans.

The Shorebirds dropped another game to the rival Hagerstown Suns and saw their record drop to 20 games below .500. I certainly hope they can turn it around for the organization’s sake, as they do many things the right way.

All in all, I’d have to rank Perdue Stadium around the middle of the pack as far as minor league stadiums go. You get a good experience for the price, and if you are in need of a baseball fix while staying at a resort along the Maryland or Deleware coast, it is a great option. However, if you are looking for a true minor league baseball atmosphere, you may want to look elsewhere.

Book Review: Don’t Put Me In Coach by Mark Titus

I’ll start off this review by saying I’m not particularly fond of the Ohio State Buckeyes. Maybe it has to do with the fact that I attend OHIO University, something that the folks in Columbus fail to realize when jacking our name to root for OSU, but that is an argument for another day.

However, I must say that I was pleasantly surprised by former Ohio State basketball player Mark Titus’s book “Don’t Put Me In Coach”, as it was easily one of the funniest books I’ve ever read.

If you haven’t heard of Titus, it may be due to the fact he was a four-year walk on during his time with the Buckeyes and scored only nine points in his career. But Titus happened to be attending during one of the most successful eras of OSU basketball, beginning with the Greg Oden-led squad in 2006-2007 that made it all the way to the National Championship and concluding with Evan Turner’s outstanding 2009-2010 campaign that saw the team go on another deep run in the postseason.

The true goodness of this book doesn’t come from the story of the Buckeyes, but rather from the storytelling by Titus. He is the incredibly quick-witted college kid that I and many others wish we could be. I constantly found myself laughing aloud at his one-liners and his stories full of over-exaggeration.

Titus’s story of himself, is actually quite incredible. He was picked up by the AAU team that featured future NBA players such as Greg Oden and Daequan Cook after having a hot shooting day against the team. He was slated to receive a scholarship to play basketball on scholarship on Harvard until he was suspended for a high school game that the coaches from the school attended. Then, through the help of Oden and Cook, got a spot as a manager for the Buckeyes basketball team, which Titus turned into a spot on the practice squad and then to full-time walk on status. He began a blog called “Club Trillion” during his college days which catapulted him into cult internet hero status, and landed him a gig writing for Grantland after his college career was over.

Ohio Bobcat fans will appreciate the anecdotes that feature former basketball head coach John Groce (he was an assistant at OSU at the time) and current Bobcat guard Walter Offut (whose misfortunes with Titus in an elevator during a road trip was easily the funniest part of the book.)

If you are a Buckeye fan and haven’t picked up this book already, I have no idea what you are waiting for. As for the rest of the nation, there is plenty of laughs to be had, as Titus shows just how fun sports and our lives can be when we don’t take them so seriously.

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