Updated Mon, Dec 2, 2013 3:10 pm
The Ohio Bobcats were on a mission on Black Friday in Athens. No, not for the hot holiday item on sale, but for a strong win to send one of Ohio’s most successful senior classes off in style. Ohio sprinted out of the gates, scoring two touchdowns on their first eight offensive plays to jump ahead and sprint away from the Minutemen 51-23 on senior day.
Ohio took control early, but UMass showed life, fining the end zone and scoring on a 42-yard field goal attempt to trim the Ohio lead to 14-10. The Minutemen forced an Ohio turnover near midfield, but that’s where it all changed.
UMass quarterback A.J. Doyle looked for his receiver on the left sideline, but senior Travis Carrie flew in and intercepted the pass and returned it 66 yards for a Bobcat score. Immediately after, Ohio forced a fumble on the UMass kickoff return that set up another Bobcat score by senior Ryan Boykin.
“Anytime you get the opportunity to get a pick-six the momentum change is huge,” Carrie said. “The morale was so high for us during the whole game.”
Ohio’s two scores came in a matter of 39 seconds and marked the first time that the Bobcats have responded to adversity throughout the three-game losing streak.
While the defense provided the spark for Ohio, the Bobcat running game had one of its most impressive performance of the season thus far. The rushing attack was led by senior Beau Blankenship, who totaled 124 yards on 13 carries. Blankenship has had success against UMass for two consecutive seasons, as the back has tallied two of his highest rushing total of both years against the Minutemen. Head coach Frank Solich said that it was promising to see Blankenship burst into the secondary and find some open room to run.
“He hasn’t had a lot of those opportunities all year,” Solich said. “He’s as good of a team guy as you’ll find.”
The Bobcats headed to the locker room with a 31-10 lead at halftime, but the Minutemen showed life early in the second half, as they scored 10 unanswered points in the first half of the third quarter.
But, whenever UMass threatened throughout the game, Ohio switched up the offense, using Derrius Vick, Daz Patterson, and Ryan Boykin to provide a change of pace. The change was used to disrupt the Minuteman defense, but it also provided Bobcat fans with a glimpse of what they will likely see from the Bobcat offense next season.
The most impressive performance of the afternoon came from Travis Carrie, as he intercepted two passes and ran them both back for touchdowns. The redshirt senior sat out last season with an injury, but certainly made a lot of noise in his Peden Stadium finale.
“You saw his face light up after each of those interceptions,” head coach Frank Solich said. “He has a great deal of ability and being able to showcase that here in this last ballgame the way he did was just great.”
With the win, Ohio advances to 7-5 on the year, marking the fifth consecutive winning season and the sixth of the Frank Solich era. Ohio’s bowl chances still seem slim, but the ‘Cats could still find their way into a bowl if the Northern Illinois Huskies qualify for a Bowl Championship Series berth. Ohio can also hope for a number of five-win schools from major conferences to lose, as a six-win bowl eligible squad from a major conference would likely receive a bid over the Bobcats. Ohio will need to wait until Selection Sunday on Dec. 8 to see if they have done enough to receive a bowl bid.
“We’re not assuming anything and at 7-5 you really can’t,” Solich said. “I think winning this ballgame and scoring 51 points was what we needed to do to put our best foot forward.”
Whether or not Ohio receives a bowl bid, players could not stress enough how much it meant to go out on top in what might be the last football game that they ever play.
“It’s great to go out like this,” Blankenship said. “It still keeps our bowl hopes alive, but it’s great to go out like this.”
“It kind of erases everything that happened the last three weeks,” Tyler Tettleton said. “There’s no other way I’d rather do it.”
The Bobcats turn their focus to the upcoming MAC Championship Game between the Bowling Green Falcons and Northern Illinois, where a Huskie win would dramatically decrease the Bobcats’ bowl probability.