Football: Despite injuries, OU improves to 6-0

Ohio running back Beau Blankenship breaks a tackle and runs for a 14-yard touchdown as the Ohio Bobcats defeat the Buffalo Bulls 38-31. With this victory the Bobcats are now bowl eligible. (Daniel Kubus | For The Post)

Ohio allowed Buffalo to convert a pair of touchdowns in the first quarter Saturday, setting the table for a tough come-from-behind march reminiscent of wins against Penn State and Marshall earlier this season.

The deficit was a call to arms for Ohio’s defense, as it forced four fumbles from there on out and allowed the Bobcats to go the distance for its second straight gritty win.

Although Ohio (6-0, 2-0 MAC) allowed more offensive yards and points than in any game this season, it found a way to the winner’s circle with a 38-31 victory, which was enough to give the Bobcats the nation’s first bowl-eligible tag.

Ohio coach Frank Solich, a self-proclaimed perfectionist, admitted after the game that he was far from satisfied with the nature of the win and said the team’s depth, however limited, was what saved the Bobcats’ pristine record.

“If this would have happened to us three, four, five years ago, we wouldn’t be 6-0,” he said.

Still, there was plenty to nitpick from the Ohio’s win. The Bulls (1-4, 0-2 MAC) had 14 more first downs, possessed the ball for 11 more minutes and more than doubled the Bobcats’ 149 rushing yards.

Buffalo’s two-pronged rushing attack quickly became the game’s focal point, as freshman running back Devin Campbell and junior quarterback Alex Zordich torched the Bobcats for a collective 5.55 yards per carry.

The dual threat was reminiscent of the Bobcats’ early-season offense, in which redshirt junior quarterback Tyler Tettleton drew attention away from redshirt junior running back Beau Blankenship with the ability to take off with the ball when necessary.

Tettleton has not taken to the ground often, of late, following an injury sustained in week two against New Mexico State. He rushed only four times for negative yardage Saturday.

“With Tyler having been banged up, we’re a little one-dimensional in the running game,” Solich said.

The return of running back Ryan Boykin, a redshirt junior who had not seen action since week one against Penn State, gave the Bobcats a more diverse look out of the backfield Saturday. He spelled Blankenship at several points in route to accumulating his first two touchdowns of the year — one of which was a 51-yard bust that gave the Bobcats their widest lead of the game with six minutes remaining in the game.

“It was a pitch to the right, (and) the tight ends did a good job keeping the end out,” Boykin said. “Coach said, ‘If the end goes out, you cut straight up.’ I followed my guard and he took me to my promise land.”

Boykin’s run was far from the Bobcats’ most explosive play of the day, though.
After falling behind 14-0 with less than four minutes remaining in the first quarter, freshman running back Daz’mond Patterson broke loose on a kickoff return for a 100-yard scamper to the end zone — the turning point of Ohio’s win and the first touchdown of his collegiate career.

“From what I remember, the only guy I had to make miss was the kicker, so I just followed my blockers and it hit perfect,” Patterson said.
The return tied a score from former Ohio running back Chris Garrett (2006–09) for the longest in program history.

Patterson was not the only player to take a more prominent role than usual Saturday. Several players filled greater roles because of injuries, most notably redshirt senior wide receiver Bakari Bussey, who led the wideout corps with eight catches for 77 yards in the absence of injured redshirt junior Donte Foster.

Ohio will have another hole to fill moving forward, as Solich said the Bobcats might have lost redshirt senior tight end Jordan Thompson for the season because of a leg injury that forced him to leave the game in the third quarter.

Although Solich said he was anxious to get back to the drawing board to remedy Saturday’s shortcomings, there was a definite, concise message that can be taken away from the Bobcats’ second narrow victory in a row.

“It’s a bottom-line business,” Solich said. “Wins are the bottom line.”

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