Bobcats cut it close in road win against UMass

Ohio running back Beau Blankenship runs 40 yards for the game-winning touchdown.The Bobcats defeated the Massachusetts Minutemen 37-34 on Sept. 29 at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (DANIEL KUBUS | For The Post)

Fireworks lit up the sky above Gillette Stadium after Ohio’s 37-34 triumph against Massachusetts on Saturday, but both teams saw explosiveness on the field long before the game ended.

The Bobcats entered the game as heavy favorites against a winless Minutemen team that was averaging less than nine points per contest, but they were forced to scrape by to maintain their unblemished record (5-0, 1-0 Mid-American Conference).

UMass has seen marked improvement from week to week this season. In their inaugural Football Bowl Subdivision game, they were shut out and scored only a combined 20 points in their next two games.

UMass’ defense had its struggles as well, most of which were a product of Ohio redshirt runningback Beau Blankenship’s career-best offensive performance.

Blankenship tied the school record for carries in a single game (43) and the third-most rushing yards in a single game (269). He also chipped in two rushing touchdowns.

Ohio redshirt junior quarterback Tyler Tettleton made it clear he was not operating at 100 percent during the game, and Solich said after the game that Ohio’s offense was limited because of the opposing defense’s ability to key in on one aspect of the Bobcats’ attack. However, the Minutemen were far from successful in containing Blankenship, who seemingly willed his way to an Ohio win.

“I’m just thankful to have (the) players I have around me. The offensive line did a great job opening up holes and receivers did a great job blocking downfield,” Blankenship said. “I am just thankful we came out and got the win.”

The Minutemen’s offense was much more successful, though, stringing together 511 yards of offense — 40 yards more than its next-best showing and eight more than its opponents.

UMass redshirt freshman quarterback Mike Wegzyn did not have a passing touchdown heading into Saturday’s game, but walked away with four against Ohio, as he took advantage of Ohio’s depleted secondary. He converted 10 of 19 third-down opportunities, while braving Ohio’s offensive line, which was in his face from start to finish.

UMass coach Charley Molnar said the Minutemen took a step in the right direction Saturday, but will have to draw upon more of the same to see success in the MAC.

“I tell the guys, ‘You are a resilient bunch of guys and you have been knocked on the canvas already and you keep getting back up,’’’ he said. “That, I love about our group of guys.”

Ohio relished the challenge of facing a new MAC opponent, which turned out to be much more stiff of a test than most anticipated heading into the game.

“They’re going to be good here (in the MAC) in a couple of years,” Tettleton said. “It’s a good young team to go against and I’m excited we could come here to Gillette Stadium and get the win.”

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