UMass football welcomes Ohio to Gillette Stadium

Last modified: Sunday, October 28, 2012
AMHERST — In a stadium filled with over 100,000 people, few were focused much on the Ohio University football team in its Sept. 1 season opener at Penn State.

The game had considerable national attention, but almost all of it was on the Nittany Lions, who were playing their first game after an offseason of turmoil surrounding former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky’s pedophilia scandal that landed him in jail and Penn State on probation.

Ohio just happened to be the opponent on the opposite sideline that afternoon.

But when the Bobcats upset PSU, which was favored despite NCAA sanctions and roster defections, Ohio got a little more attention and it’s been growing ever since.

After Michigan, the Bobcats, who visit Gillette Stadium Saturday at 3:30 p.m., might be the toughest opponent on the University of Massachusetts’ schedule. Ohio (4-0) is receiving votes in both top 25 polls and will likely be favored in each of its eight remaining games.

“Our program is not at the point where we can look that far down the road,” Ohio coach Frank Solich said. “We just have to be prepared for UMass and be ready to try to be on top of our game to try to get a win.”

As the Minutemen try to become one of the top teams in the Mid-American Conference, Ohio, which has been to bowl games each of the past three seasons, is a program to emulate.

“Our guys are excited about playing Ohio University. They know how good Ohio is. I think the Penn State game really was an eye-opener for our players that don’t quite know the Mid-American Conference. That was a great wake-up call for our football team,” UMass coach Charley Molnar said. “They’re a really, really good football team. We’re glad to play a home game against a quality MAC opponent.”

UMass senior linebacker Perry McIntyre added, “Those guys are really good. They’re undefeated for a reason. We’re going to have our hands full.”

The game will be UMass’ first home conference game as a member of the MAC. Commissioner Jon Steinbrecher will be in attendance to present UMass officials with a commemorative MAC football.

The following is a look at Ohio’s history:

NOTABLE FOOTBALL ALUMNI — The Bobcats haven’t been a factory for NFL talent. Punter Dave Zastudil might be their most successful pro in recent years. He played for the Ravens and Browns and finished his career with the 58th-best punting average (42.551 yards per punt) of all time. Current NFL players include: Landon Cohen (DL, Detroit); Ryan Senser (LS, Seattle); Joshua Abrams (CB, Green Bay); Michael Mitchell (S, Oakland) and Taylor Price (WR, Jacksonville).

OTHER NOTABLE ALUMNI — In addition to Jen Brodeur, the UMass football team’s trainer, Ohio boasts the following former attendees: George Shiraz Jr., United States Supreme Court Justice (1892-1903); Peter King, head NFL writer for Sports Illustrated; Today Show host Matt Lauer; actor Richard Dean Anderson, who played MacGyver and didn’t graduate; actor Paul Newman; actor Ed O’Neill, who played football at OU before transferring; former United States men’s national soccer team coach Bob Bradley; and Philadelphia Phillies Hall-of-Famer Mike Schmidt.

BOWL HISTORY — The Bobcats have been to six bowls, including the last three seasons (2009 Little Caesars Pizza Bowl, 2010 New Orleans Bowl and 2011 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl).

Time & location: 3:30 p.m., Gillette Stadium

Records: Ohio (4-0, 0-0 MAC); UMass (0-4, 0-1 MAC)

Last week: Ohio beat Norfolk State (FCS), 44-10; UMass lost to Miami (Ohio), 27-16

All-time series: First meeting

TV/Internet: ESPN3.com (former UMass running back Rene Ingoglia is part of the broadcast team).

Radio: WWEI-FM (105.5), WMUA-FM (91.1)

When UMass has the ball: After a weak offensive showing in its first game at Gillette against Indiana, the Minutemen will try to put on a better performance, but it won’t be easy. Ohio’s points (18.0) and yards allowed (322.5) are the fewest in the conference.

Last week proved to be a breakthrough for UMass running back Mike Cox, who had 188 yards rushing against Miami (Ohio), but that figures to be difficult to repeat against the Bobcats, who have allowed a MAC-best 83.0 yards per game on the ground.

Passing the ball effectively could be critical. The Minutemen could get some help in that department as wide receiver Marken Michel was cleared to play after missing the last two games.

UMass will have to be aware of senior defensive back Jason Woseley, who leads OU with two interceptions. Ohio has forced 12 turnovers (seven fumbles, five interceptions).

When Ohio has the ball: Junior quarterback Tyler Tettleton, whose father is former Detroit Tiger catcher Mickey Tettleton, is expected back under center after missing last week’s win over Norfolk State with an undisclosed injury. Tettleton presents the Minutemen with yet another QB who can run and throw, which they’ve had trouble with this season.

Tettleton has completed 66 of 99 passes and is averaging 260.3 yards per game. He’s thrown seven touchdowns and hasn’t been intercepted this season. He’s rush for 100 yards on 23 carries.

Even if Tettleton is hampered by injury, tailback Beau Blankenship can carry plenty of the offensive load. He’s averaging 122.0 yards per game this season and has scored three touchdowns.

Donte Foster has been Ohio’s top receiver with 18 catches for 188 yards.

Linebacker Greg Hilliard wasn’t on the Minutemen’s travel roster for the second straight week. True freshman Kassan Messiah will see more time and junior Mike Lee will likely start at nickelback.

Matt Vautour can be reached at mvautour@gazettenet.com. Follow UMass coverage on Twitter at twitter.com/GazetteUMass. Get UMass coverage delivered in your Facebook news feed at www.facebook.com/GazetteUMassCoverage.