Updated Thu, Oct 10, 2013 10:40 am
While a number of injuries have plagued the Ohio Bobcats over the past two seasons, they have been able to rely on the stable leadership of quarterback Tyler Tettleton. In Saturday’s contest with Akron, Tettleton passed Kent State alumnus Joshua Cribbs to become 25th on the All-Time MAC Passing list, further solidifying himself as one of the best quarterbacks to ever play for the Bobcats.
As for the Central Michigan Chippewas, finding true leadership has been one of the biggest struggles that they’ve faced this season.
Junior Cody Kater, the Chippewas’ clear starter at quarterback headed into their opener with the Michigan Wolverines, suffered a broken collarbone that sidelined him for the remainder of the game and the foreseeable future. Alex Niznak replaced Kater for the remainder of the Michigan game, but coach Dan Enos sided with Cooper Rush to step in for Kater long-term.
Rush, a freshman out of Lansing Catholic High School in Lansing, Mich., led the Chippewas to two wins against New Hampshire and Miami (Ohio), but has also seen his fair share of struggles. In his first five starts, Rush has thrown eight total interceptions, including three games with multiple interceptions. The Chippewas lost all three of Rush’s multiple-turnover games.
When you add in the fact that the Chippewas also lost leading rusher Zurlon Tipton to a season-ending injury in the Michigan game, even more pressure is placed upon the young shoulders of Rush to be not only a leader on the stat sheet, but in the locker room as well.
On Ohio’s end, Saturday’s game will be Tettleton’s 41st game in which he has seen playing time throughout his career as a Bobcat. Comparing Tettleton’s status with Rush’s clearly shows that both programs are on very different paths, but there’s no doubt that the Chippewas hope that Rush follows in Tettleton’s footsteps.
While the talent at quarterback is still developing, the Chippewas provide a tough test in the running game with Saylor Lavallii and a talented offensive line. Star lineman Eric Fisher provided leadership last year, but the Central Michigan front line still poses a threat without its most talented piece from 2012.
“They're not guys who are somewhat undersized out there playing their hearts out,” Ohio head coach Frank Solich said. “They're talented football players that have really good size.”
Solich also recognized the growth and talent of leaders on his defense such as corners Travis Carrie and Devin Bass, but recognized that Central Michigan wide receiver Titus Davis could pose one of the biggest challenges the Bobcats have seen this season.
“[Davis] really fits in with them,” Solich said. “He's really good and he's the kind of guy that you have got to know where he's at on the field every second. You can't let him just take over the football game because he's capable of doing that.”
While the Chippewas still have talented pieces remaining to match some of the Bobcats’, they’re still in the process of developing the leadership that Ohio features.. Tettleton’s performance against Akron appeared to be the Tettleton of old, and the healthy defense has handled the majority of the challenges thrown its way this season.
With a win on Saturday, the Bobcat program would move to .500 in its history. Achieving that mark would ascend this crop of Bobcat seniors to the level of one of the greatest classes to ever pass through Athens. While they certainly faced their growing pains early in their careers, leaders such as Tettleton and others are ready to take the Bobcat program to new heights.
“There's a lot that has gone into where the program is at,” Solich said. “It's come through some tough times and it's come through some good times. To be able to bring it back to some good times and to get things done at a level to get it to .500 is very meaningful to everyone associated with the program and that's very far-reaching from those in the past to those in the present."