Updated Thu, Jan 2, 2014 6:35 pm
After starting the 2013 season with a 6-2 record, the Ohio Bobcats faltered, dropping three of their final four contests of the regular season. Ohio’s appearance in the Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl followed a similar narrative, as the Bobcats allowed the East Carolina Pirates to score 20 fourth quarter points and win 37-20 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg.
Ohio came back from an early deficit to take a 20-17 lead over the Pirates into the start of the fourth quarter, but two interceptions by quarterback Tyler Tettleton and an East Carolina offensive explosion helped the Pirates speed ahead of Ohio by scoring 20 points in the fourth quarter.
“It was a hard fought football game that came down to making plays in the fourth quarter,” head coach Frank Solich said. “They did, we didn’t.”
Ohio kicker Josiah Yazdani gave the Bobcats the 20-17 edge after a 28-yard field goal, but missed his following attempt from 45 yards, igniting a number of Bobcat fourth quarter miscues. After the missed field goal, a personal foul penalty on Ohio linebacker Ben Russell and a pass interference call on cornerback Travis Carrie helped East Carolina running back Vintavious Cooper and the Pirate offense to march down the field, ending with a 31-yard touchdown scamper by Cooper to propel the Pirates back into the lead.
Cooper’s performance adds him to the list of successful running backs against the Ohio defense this season, as he totaled 198 total yards and two touchdowns. Cooper is the sixth running back to eclipse 100 yards against the Bobcats this season.
The Bobcat defense got off to a slow start against the potent Pirate offense, allowing East Carolina to gain 207 yards in the first quarter alone. The Pirates were led by Cooper, who tallied 90 yards in the first quarter alone. Behind Cooper, the Pirates offense surged, driving down the field to score two touchdowns in the opening quarter.
After opening struggles, the Ohio defense responded, as it stalled two East Carolina drives inside the red zone and allowed the Pirates to score on just one field goal in the second and third quarter combined to help the ‘Cats claw back into the game.
“We were all playing it like it was our last game,” senior linebacker Keith Moore said. “I loved our energy and that’s why, I’m upset, but I know that we played as hard as we could.”
While the defense had two quarters of success, Cooper and quarterback Shane Carden returned to make their presence known in the fourth quarter. Carden finished the game with 273 yards and a touchdown by completing on 29 of his 45 pass attempts. Carden also recorded a receiving touchdown in the fourth quarter, a score that stretched the Pirate lead to 31-20.
The loss takes Ohio’s 2013 record to 7-6 and ends a two-year bowl winning streak. It also marks the conclusion of the careers of 19 members of Ohio football’s winningest senior class.
Senior quarterback Tyler Tettleton finished with 228 yards, one touchdown, and three interceptions by completing on 21 of his 40 pass attempts. Fellow senior Donte Foster had his best performance of the 2013 season, as he caught six passes for 160 yards and a touchdown.
Derrius Vick, Ohio’s backup quarterback and heir to the starting quarterback position, completed all three of his pass attempts for 100 yards and a touchdown, including an 80-yard bomb to Foster to knot the score at 14-14 in the second quarter. Sophomore Daz’mond Patterson also had a strong showing for Ohio, as the small but speedy back hauled in six receptions for 77 yards and a touchdown and also recorded 28 yards in the rushing attack.
The end of the season also opens discussion on whether or not the 2013 season can be described as a disappointment or a success, but Solich said that he’s proud of how his team fought.
“They played their hearts out,” Solich said. “I’m proud of them in terms of the way they played.”
The Bobcats return to the gridiron in April when they will play their annual Green and White game at Peden Stadium before opening the 2014 campaign on the road against the Kentucky Wildcats on Sept. 6.