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Football: Special teams snafus prove too costly for Bobcats in loss
Athens County decided on its traditional blue to conclude election season Tuesday, but as night fell, the Ohio special teams unit ended the game feeling black and blue.
The Bobcats’ disastrous special teams play put their Mid-American Conference fate in the hands of their division foes en route to a 26-14 defeat at the hands of Bowling Green.
Redshirt freshman punter Grant Venham’s attempts were blocked twice, and he was also forced to scramble after a muffed snap. When redshirt senior kicker Matt Weller was brought on to alleviate Venham’s woes, the snap trickled by him into the end zone, where he covered it up for a safety.
“It was all kind of a nightmare that we didn’t get straightened out,” Ohio coach Frank Solich said.
Ohio (8-2, 4-2 Mid-American Conference) chugged through its opening drive, facing only one third down in the process. Redshirt junior running back Beau Blankenship lugged the pigskin seven times for 29 yards before redshirt junior quarterback Tyler Tettleton scampered in for a five-yard touchdown to cap an 11-play, six-minute drive.
After sputtering in the first quarter with three quick three-and-outs, it took just three plays and eight seconds of the second quarter for the Falcons to even the score. Sophomore running back Anthon Samuel scored on a 15-yard run with several Ohio defenders draped over him to tie the score at 7-7.
After Ohio’s punt, Bowling Green (7-3, 5-1 MAC) took over with 10:14 left in the second frame. The drive was the game’s most explosive, as Samuel found 16 yards of running room and redshirt junior wide receiver Jordan Hopgood snagged a pass for 15 more yards.
On the ensuing play, Schilz executed a play-fake that befuddled the Bobcats’ defense, sailing a pass to a waiting redshirt freshman wide receiver Chris Gallon, who took the ball into the end zone to give Bowling Green a 14-7 lead with 7:34 left in the second quarter.
Ohio’s special teams woes continued as Venham bobbled the snap after the ensuing six-play, nine-yard drive. He had plenty of time to get a punt away but instinct took over and he scrambled for a short gain.
That set up Bowling Green in Ohio territory, but the Falcons could only muster three points to push the lead to 17-7 with 1:46 left in the second quarter.
Venham was momentarily benched in favor of Weller, who had never punted in his career with Ohio. He mishandled the snap, though, and had to cover the ball in the end zone for a safety, giving Bowling Green a 19-7 lead heading into halftime.
“We obviously couldn’t get things blocked up front because there were just too many guys coming to the back wedge,” Solich said. “That will be an interesting session looking at that film.”
Redshirt senior wide receiver Ryan Clark muffed a Bowling Green punt and redshirt freshman cornerback Devin Bass covered up the loose ball at the five-yard line to begin Ohio’s first possession of the third quarter.
Ohio matriculated a 14-play, 95-yard scoring drive with the legs of Blankenship. He accumulated 44 yards on the ground before Tettleton found redshirt sophomore wide receiver Chase Cochran for the five-yard touchdown to bring Ohio within five at 19-14, at the 6:54 mark in the third quarter.
Neither team got much accomplished in the waning minutes of the third quarter until after a quick three-and-out for Bowling Green, Venham had another punt blocked. That turned into seven more points for the Falcons as Samuel moved the pile into the end zone to open up a 26-14 lead to start the fourth quarter.
Ohio, who has been a second-half team all season, could not muster the comeback. The play that put the proverbial nail in the coffin was one that looked eerily similar to the sack of Tettleton that ended the game against Miami.
“They have an amazing defense,” Tettleton said. “It’s probably one of the best defenses I’ve faced since I’ve been here.”
It was not the type of Senior Night that the departing class envisioned, but with two games remaining, there’s little time to mope.
“We had a very good season going and now we’re all of a sudden 8-2,” Solich said. “Now it’s time to look at what we’re going to do in order to make things work for the last two ballgames.”