Updated Mon, Sep 26, 2011 9:41 am
Sometimes, when things are going as well as they had been for Frank Solich's squad, the adage goes, "The only way they can lose is if they beat themselves."
Who ever said clichés can't be true?
Ohio committed four turnovers and were called for nine costly penalties and lost its first game of the season, 38-26 to Rutgers.
After the first 3-0 start in 35 years, Ohio seemed on the cusp of a program-defining season. That still may happen, but 2011's regular season resumé won't include a win over a BCS school.
Mistakes were the theme, by far, of the first matinee game Ohio has played this season.
Tyler Tettleton coughed up two fumbles in the first half, and LaVon Brazill fumbled on a punt return, which helped the Scarlet Knights (2-1) sprint past Ohio in Piscataway, NJ.
Ohio committed four turnovers altogether, and they all seemed to come at promising times for Ohio. Tettleton's second lost fumble happened with Ohio on the RU 29-yard line, and Brazill's fumble was returned for a touchdown by Rutgers late in the second quarter.
"I had good space in front, one guy was free, he put a good hit on me and he scored," Brazill said. "It was a big turn around in the game."
Ryan Boykin's third-quarter fumble came with Ohio down 28-20 and threatening to enter RU territory.
Mistakes, mistakes, mistakes.
Ohio was called for three offsides penalties on a single drive. The 'Cats committed nine total penalties. Rutgers converted nine of 15 third down conversions, many of them from five yards or longer.
Ohio gave up more points against the Scarlet Knights than it did in the first three games combined.
But for a team that looked so good in Athens last week to look so bad in Piscataway this week takes more than a few miscues.
Rutgers' wide receiver Mohamed Sanu caught 16 passes for 176 yards and two touchdowns. Ohio simply didn't have an answer for the six-foot-two-inch wide-out destined for the NFL.
"Any time you catch the ball as many times as he did that's impressive," Solich said. "We tried new things, they didn't work. I thought their QB played well, read routes and coverages well."
Rutgers held the football for nearly 38 minutes and denied Ohio its first 4-0 start in 35 years.
Prolific in its first three games, Ohio's rushing attack went cold on a dreary day in New Jersey. Ohio rushed for just 65 yards on 23 carries (2.8 ypc), while Rutgers racked up 407 total yards on Ohio's defense. The Ohio rushing attack had averaged nearly five yards per carry in its first three games.
But mistakes crushed the Bobcats hopes of a perfect non-conference season. The problem with allowing yourself to overreact is that the fall is that much harder.
Ohio will have to get back up quickly, though. Kent State travels to Athens next Saturday for the start of Mid-American Conference play. Last year, the Golden Flashes handed Ohio its most brutal loss, 28-6 in the last game of the regular season.
"We're going to go watch film on Monday," Brazill said. "We'll be ready to go for MAC play."