Updated Tue, Nov 13, 2012 10:23 pm
On Oct. 17, President Barack Obama opened his speech to the Ohio student body by recognizing the Ohio football team for their success in the season. At that time, the Bobcats were a perfect 7-0 and ranked 24th in the AP Poll.
“I came here today because I heard you got a pretty fine football team to watch,” Obama said. “Undefeated if I’m not mistaken. A shot at the MAC Championship. Maybe a BCS bid.”
A lot can change in three weeks, though.
It has been 26 days since Obama visited Athens. During that time, the President has been reelected and Ohio has fallen out of contention for the MAC Championship and a BCS bid.
As Ohio travels to Ball State Wednesday, they’re looking to bounce back from their 26-14 loss to Bowling Green. The loss, along with Kent State’s win over the weekend, removed Ohio from the MAC Championship conversation.
Ball State will not be an easy bounce-back game, though. They upset No. 25 Toledo last week and are riding a four-game winning streak into the game. The Cardinals are second in the MAC in total offense, and are balanced in the pass and run attacks.
Ohio gave up 181 rushing yards to Bowling Green’s Anthon Samuel, who also tallied two touchdowns on the night. The Bobcats are focusing on containing Ball State’s rushing game and progressing from there.
“We pretty much just know that they have a good run and pass offense, so we're worried about stopping the run first and making them one dimensional. Making them pass it,” cornerback Ian Wells said. “I know that they've got a couple good receivers, and we've got ways of double teaming them, taking them out of the picture.”
One of Ball State’s biggest weapons is wide receiver Willie Snead. The sophomore leads the MAC in receptions (73) and receiving yards (946). He and fellow receiver Jamill Smith will pressure the young Ohio secondary.
The Bobcats are hoping the pressure they place on running back Jahwan Edwards and quarterback Keith Wenning in the backfield will limit the workload for the secondary. Stopping the two will not be easy.
Wenning and Edwards have tallied 33 touchdowns together this season and are the engine to this high-powered offense. Wenning’s decision making is questionable, though. In Ball State’s first five games, the junior had only two interceptions. Since then, he has thrown a disastrous eight picks, including three against Toledo.
Turnovers will be a deciding factor in the game Wednesday. Ball State is ranked eighth in the MAC with a -4 turnover ratio, while Ohio is second with a +15 ratio. Ohio had zero turnovers against Bowling Green, but punt-blocking issues gave the Falcons an advantage for most of the game.
Ohio worked on fixing the problem in the short week, so the same doesn’t happen against the Cardinals.
“This week, we kind of worked on the fundamentals and kind of the small keys that (the blockers) should be looking at,” Wells said. “Like who they should be blocking, who they shouldn't, who they should let go and stuff like that. Going back to the fundamentals of what we learned back at the beginning of fall camp.”
Several Ohio players are approaching career and single-season records as the season comes to a close in the next two weeks.
Quarterback Tyler Tettleton is six completions away from rewriting another record in Ohio history, while running back Beau Blankenship needs 58 yards to move into the top three for single-season rushing yards. Wide receiver Donte Foster is also two touchdown receptions away from cracking the top three of all time.
As the players have been stating all year, those milestones are great to look back on, but the entire team is just focusing on Ball State this week.
“We just want to get back to what we talked about during the beginning of the year. Taking one game at a time. Keep winning and playing our best ball,” Wells said. “Our only two goals is taking one game at a time and winning that and going to a bowl game and winning that.”
If they are successful in doing so, President Obama’s opening statement will remain partly true. A winning Ohio football team is a fine one to watch for all fans.