Football: Bobcats look to right late-season woes in Independence Bowl

Ohio redshirt junior running back Beau Blankenship goes airborne, looking to avoid a tackle against Kent State in the Bobcats' final regular season game. (Dan Kubus | File)

The Mid-American Conference has struggled to a 1-3 record during this bowl season. Friday, Ohio aims to change that luck against Louisiana-Monroe and tack on a ninth victory in the Advocate V100 Independence Bowl to close its 2012 season.

This particular tilt, held at Independence Stadium in Shreveport, La., features teams with similar storylines to the season.

Both teams earned a signature wins in the opening week of the season. The Bobcats defeated Penn State and the Warhawks toppled then-ranked No. 8 Arkansas.

The defining play of that game happened in overtime when Warhawks’ junior quarterback Kolton Browning snaked his way through defenders and dove toward the pylon for the touchdown, giving his team the victory.

That signature win helped vault the Warhawks to their first winning season since moving to the Football Bowl Subdivision, but as coach Todd Berry said during the Independence Bowl opening press conference, the team won’t rest on the laurels of past success.

“We’ve talked from day one with this football team about trying to be ‘1-0’ each week and the substance to that is that we’re really not going to look back into the past,” he said.

Ohio became the first FBS bowl-eligible team this season, after marching to an undefeated record before losing four of its last five games by a combined score of 129-67.

The Bobcats have had more than a month to both stew over their late-season swoon, and add depth back to the roster because of the break. Redshirt senior safety Gerald Moore said the team is excited to return between the painted numbers Friday after the beneficial time off.

“It helps heal those injuries, (and) it definitely gets us feeling better and more confident about ourselves when we’re out there on the field practicing,” said Moore. “It’s been a good a thing for us.”

Injuries still remain an area of concern, as both squads have suffered key injuries throughout the season. Ohio coach Frank Solich ruled out any kind of return for offensive linemen Ryan McGrath, a redshirt junior and Vince Carlotta, a redshirt senior.

New players protecting Ohio redshirt junior quarterback Tyler Tettleton late in the season affected continuity up front, and Tettleton will need to make plays in order to keep pace with the Warhawks, which boast the Sun Belt’s second-most potent scoring offense, scoring almost 36 points per game.

Both offenses could light up the afternoon in Shreveport, which could make for the most intriguing bowl matchup either conference has had thus far.

“They’re obviously a high-scoring offensive unit, they have very good special teams which helps them put points on the board,” Solich said. “They are very capable in a lot of ways of getting the football in great field position and doing something with it.”

An Ohio victory in this game would mark the second bowl victory in Ohio history and would the fourth nine-win season in the Solich era.

Ohio (8-4, 4-4 MAC) vs. Louisiana Monroe (8-4, 6-2 Sun Belt)

Advocare V100 Independence Bowl

Shreveport, La.

2 p.m.

—Tettleton is 57 yards away from totaling of 6,000 for his career.

—Redshirt senior offensive lineman Eric Herman is slated to make his 51st consecutive start.

—Redshirt junior linebacker Keith Moore is 11 tackles away from 100 on the year.

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