Updated Wed, Sep 14, 2011 2:54 pm
Thirteen years ago, Frank Solich, then with the University of Nebraska, started his head coaching career with a 56-21 win over Louisiana Tech. Saturday night, he got his 100th career win.
Tyler Tettleton improved to 2-0 as Ohio's starting quarterback, and the Bobcat defense held Gardner-Webb to 94 total yards (86 rushing), as Ohio beat the Runnin' Bulldogs 30-3 in the home opener at Peden Stadium.
The 'Cats won a game they were expected to win, and Solich improved his career record to 100-55 in 13 total seasons, 42-36 at Ohio.
"I feel good about it," Solich said. "But there are so many people involved in being able to win 100 games…when you have that kind of support, the wins can come."
The two teams entered the second quarter scoreless, but Ohio (2-0) scored 27 unanswered points (24 in the second quarter) on the strength of two Tettleton touchdown passes and an interception-for-a-touchdown by Jelani Woseley to blow the contest wide open.
Woseley jumped an out route in the second quarter for his first career interception, and he took it 26 yards to the end zone for his first career touchdown.
"We emphasize execution, so I just got an opportunity and just had to make the most of it," Woseley said, laughing. "Then I just ran."
Ohio intercepted Gardner-Webb's Chandler Browning three times, all in the monstrous second quarter, and had eight tackles for loss and a sack.
Offensively, Tettleton overcame an early red-zone fumble - he was slammed by Lyndrez Lesie while in the act of throwing - to toss for 139 yards on 14 of 24 passing and two touchdowns.
"I feel like I was more calm," Tettleton said. "The home crowd was awesome…but we can be a lot better. We just want to come out and be consistent."
For the second straight week, however, Ohio's running attack and defense made the difference.
Donte Harden led the Bobcats with 94 yards on 13 carries (also had a 70-yard kick return and a reception for 11 yards), and Ohio rushed for 221 yards on 46 carries.
"We got off to a little slow start," Harden said. "But I felt like, as the game went on, guys found their groove and we were able to do whatever we wanted on the ground."
Harden had back-to-back runs of 22 and 11 yards in the third quarter, and led the Bobcats rushing attack for the second straight game. Ohio has now rushed 90 times for 515 yards in its first two games, good for a 5.7 yards per carry average.
Defensively, Ohio held Gardner-Webb quarterback Chandler Browning to just 19 yards on 4 of 17 passing. After the Bulldogs' Kenny Little (29 carries, 70 yards) gashed Ohio early in the first quarter, the 'Cats responded, led by Neal Huynh, who had nine tackles from the nose tackle position.
"They were running downhill a lot," Huynh said. "From watching film we knew they were going to run downhill a lot, so I expected to have a lot coming in, but I'm just out there working."
"When you add the total yardage up at the end of the game, and when you look at what the defense did to control that game, I think they played very well," Solich said.
Ohio's defense was without starting middle linebacker Noah Keller, so Eric Benjamin filled the role.
"It's a young linebacking core," Solich said. "So that was a concern, but they seem to be catching on very well to our schemes...and they seem to be making plays."
Benjamin, however, is persevering without crucial ligaments in his right knee. How he is staying on the field is remarkable.
"He's got major knee problems," Solich said. "Most guys would just have surgery...but he's continued to play. I'm just proud of how he's able to keep himself on the football field. Not a lot of guys can do that, and there are very few that are playing with his type of injury."
But, even with the 27-point win for Ohio, questions linger, especially with the weakest part of the schedule behind the 'Cats now.
Ohio's special teams gave up another long kick return, a 54-yarder in the third quarter. Ohio committed six penalties for 46 yards and turned the ball over four times (three in the second half).
"I don't know what to do. We've addressed it," Solich said. "That's the problem, it doesn't seem to be getting better."
Next up for the Bobcats is the Battle for the Bell, next Saturday night when Marshall thunders to Peden Stadium for the 55th match-up between the cross-state rivals.
2011 could be a season of milestones for Ohio football. But for now, the lights stay on an undefeated Ohio team and its coach, who hit the century mark in wins.
"It was gratifying," Solich said. "I enjoy the fact that we've been able to make some strides here. That's one thing that I wanted to do, was to rebuild a program…I'm hoping we can continue to move the program forward."