Sports Column: Bobcats reach historic success in landmark season

Potatoes and sweet things don’t normally go together, unless you’re talking about Ohio athletics during the past four months.

In one school year, the Bobcats broke down more than 40 years of frustration and defeat.

If, like most Ohio students, you were uneducated about Ohio athletics before deciding to make Athens your temporary home, this type of athletic success may seem typical. After all, it was only two years ago that Ohio topped Georgetown in the NCAA Tournament and the football Bobcats had won their last Mid-American Conference East Division crown.

But for those more acquainted with Ohio’s athletic history, a bowl win and trip to the Sweet 16 in the same season might be a lot to grasp.

But there’s no need to pinch yourself; it really happened.

Ohio had never previously won a bowl game and had not won two games in the NCAA Tournament in 48 years.

The basketball Bobcats won their second Mid-American Conference Tournament championship in three years and a school-record 29 games. In fact, the Bobcats shattered the previous single-season wins record of 25.

Three months prior, their football counterparts capped off their first 10-win season in 43 years with a 24-23 win against Utah State in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.

The season was a stark contrast compared the 1-10 season Ohio fans endured only 10 seasons prior.

As the final buzzer sounded on the men’s basketball team’s storybook season Friday night, only Michigan State had more combined wins (40) than the 39 that the Ohio football and basketball teams had acquired during the academic year.

The Bobcats also found themselves among select company in postseason wins. Ohio was one of just six Football Bowl Subdivision schools to win a bowl game and two games in the NCAA Tournament this school year.

Ohio’s trip to the Sweet 16 was the culmination of many milestones and record-breaking performances for both teams along the way.

Ohio quarterback Tyler Tettleton entered the season young and unproven, but it did not take long for him to silence any critics.

The redshirt sophomore nearly rewrote Ohio’s single-season record book, including records for passing yards, passing touchdowns and total touchdowns.

The Bobcats played on national television six times, including the first-ever Ohio home game to be televised on ESPN — a 35-31 victory against Temple.

The regular season ended with the Bobcats claiming their second MAC East title in three years.

The basketball Bobcats picked up right where the football team had left off.

The team got off to a 12-1 start, matching the program’s all-time record.

Sixteen wins at The Convo broke the previous record as Ohio went undefeated against MAC opponents at home for the first time since 1985.

The Ohio all-time career assists and steals records both fell to point guard D.J. Cooper, who is in line to break many more records before his time in Athens expires.

During possibly the greatest season in Bobcat basketball history, Ohio honored one of its greatest players.

Gary Trent watched his No. 20 rise to the rafters of The Convo as Ohio defeated rival Miami, the first of two wins against the RedHawks.

Three wins in three nights in Cleveland earned the Bobcats their second MAC Tournament title under coach John Groce and the program’s 13th trip to the NCAA Tournament.

Wins against No. 4 Michigan and No. 12 South Florida in the tournament’s opening rounds capped eight months of unbridled success on the gridiron and in the gym.

In fact, the only thing sweeter than this year’s triumph would be sustained success in the years to come.

 

Rob Ogden is a senior studying journalism and the assistant sports editor at The Post. If you remember the Brian Knorr days, email him at ro137807@ohiou.edu.

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