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.

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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.

Bobcats mourn passing of Marcellis Williamson

It was a sad day for Bobcat fans with the news that former nose tackle Marcellis Williamson had died Wednesday in Cleveland at the age of 23. I covered the story for Speakeasy Magazine. You can read about it HERE.