Updated Sat, Oct 6, 2012 11:08 pm
Ohio outlasted the Buffalo Bulls in its MAC home opener 38-31 Saturday. With the win, Ohio becomes the first bowl eligible team in the Football Bowl Subdivision.
“It’s a testament to our program,” said senior offensive lineman Eric Herman, who made his 44th consecutive career start Saturday. “Being bowl eligible is a great gift and it’s a testament to how we play on the field.”
The Bobcats can now secure a bowl game for the fourth consecutive season and the fifth time in Solich’s eight years as head coach.
“Knowing what we face every time we step on the field in the MAC, knowing we came through a physical non-conference schedule, knowing all the injuries that we’ve had leading up to this point, I couln’t be more pleased in terms of winning this game and winning the games that we’ve won,” said Solich.
“It’s a bottom line business and wins are the bottom line.”
Ohio received big contributions from Ryan Boykin. The redshirt junior gained 64 yards and two touchdowns on just six carries as a spell to Beau Blankenship. Boykin had been battling injuries for much of the 2012 season, playing only his third game of the year Saturday.
“It was kind of hard on me mentally, it’s hard being out for so long,” said Boykin. “I’m happy we had a lot of good progress.”
The coup de grâce for Ohio came on a 51-yard touchdown on a stretch play to the right in the fourth quarter by Boykin.
“Coach said if the end goes out, you cut it straight up,” said Boykin. “So I followed my guard and took it to the promise land.”
The Bobcats rebounded from a slow start when Daz’mond Patterson returned a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown off a Buffalo score. The return cut the Bulls’ lead to 14-7 at the 3:17 mark in the first quarter and provided a spark for the Bobcats.
“It was a pretty big boost for our football team,” said Patterson. “I just followed my blocking and it hit perfect.”
“We were struggling and they weren’t,” said Solich. “The way they were running the ball it would have been tough (to be pinned deep). So that was big.”
Quick-strike offense was a theme for Ohio throughout the game as the next two scores came on one-play drives.
Ohio’s Corey Hasting forced a fumble in Buffalo territory and Nate Carpenter recovered, giving Ohio the ball on the 14-yard line early in the second quarter. Blankenship then ran the ball in from 14 yards out.
Later in the quarter, after an Ohio three and out, Grant Venham’s punt hit a Buffalo player and Ohio recovered the live ball on the Buffalo 15-yard line. Tettleton then completed a back corner pass to Tyler Futrell to take the lead on the next play.
The touchdown was Tettleton’s 38th, tying him with former Bobcat quarterback Boo Jackson for first all-time in Ohio touchdown passes.
Buffalo struck first on the opening drive of the game. The Bulls went 75 yards in 10 plays as Devin Campbell capped the drive with a four-yard touchdown. All 75 yards on the opening drive came on the ground for Buffalo.
On the ensuing drive, Tettleton threw his first interception of the season on a streak down the middle of the field intended for Chase Cochran. The interception was his first since last season’s MAC Championship game.
The Bulls would take advantage of the rare miscue and drive 93 yards for a touchdown on a pass from Alex Zordich to Devon Hughes to take a 14-0 lead.
Blankenship, who came into Saturday’s game the second-leading rusher in Division I, managed 88 yards and a touchdown on 25 carries.
The Buffalo running attack was problematic for Ohio all day. The Bulls outgained Ohio on the ground 313-149.
“That’s what we like to do,” said Solich. “They were able to do that better to us than we were to them.”
Receiver Bakari Bussey had 8 catches for 77 yards filling in for the injured Donte Foster.
“As a team we’re suffering with injuries…we just have to find guys to step up,” said Bussey. “Depth has always been a problem at this program, and I think we finally have the depth that we need to succeed.”
Ohio started the game shorthanded on the defensive side of the ball, playing initially without captain Gerald Moore, safety Xavier Hughes and defensive tackle Carl Jones.
Jones played sparingly but Moore remained sidelined for most of the game while Hughes did not play.
“Right now we just have to weather the storm,” said Herman. “I feel like we’ll continue our course and play hard…how Ohio plays.”
The Bobcats will return to the field for their homecoming game next Saturday against Akron.