Ohio's roster loaded with fifth-year seniors
HUNTINGTON - As is well documented, Marshall's football team has only nine seniors on its roster - and two are single-year transfers from Boston College and one is redshirting after coming from Penn State.
Ohio has 15 fifth-year seniors on the two-deep roster. Five are starters on defense, four on offense. The defensive side also has two fourth-year seniors and two fourth-year juniors, and the offense has five fourth-year juniors and a fifth-year senior.
Put another way, there are six senior starters in the defensive front seven, and free safety Gerald Moore is the elder statesman of the secondary. There would have been another, but fifth-year cornerback Travis Carrie suffered a season-ending injury in preseason camp.
"Those guys are all in my class, and we've pushed each other to work hard," Moore said. "We've always wanted to have one of the best teams that's ever come through Ohio. We've pushed each other and had that goal in mind."
That veteran roster extends into the coaching offices.
Both coordinators, Tim Albin on offense and Jim Burrow on defense, have gone the eight-season distance with head coach Frank Solich. So have quarterbacks coach Gerry Gdowski, offensive line coach Keven Lightner and director of football operations Jason Grooms.
All that experience, all that cohesiveness may be the toughest aspect for opponents to combat.
"They just don't make mistakes," said MU offensive coordinator Bill Legg. "You're going to have to beat them; they're not going to beat themselves - which puts the onus on you executing play after play after play.
"Because if that 'three-technique [tackle]' is supposed to be in 'B' gap, I can guarantee you he's going to be in 'B' gap. If the corner's supposed to be playing inside leverage, than he's going to be playing inside leverage. They're going to do what they're supposed to do.
"They've done a great job of building that program, and it shows. They've recruited well, they've developed well, they've got a good system, they coach well and they're reaping the benefits of it right now."
All that experience can help a team regroup and make needed adjustments at halftime. The Thundering Herd will have to match that and stem Ohio's third-quarter explosions.
It's a small sample of two games, but the Bobcats' third-quarter performances are startling. That begins with the combined score of 38-10 - 14-0 at Penn State and 24-10 against New Mexico State.
In the first game, the Bobcats rallied from a 14-3 deficit at Happy Valley; last week they simply blew a 21-14 game wide open. In those spans, they have scored twice by land, twice by air, one by a Nathan Carpenter interception return and once by field goal.
The total yardage difference is 320-65, even more lopsided than the score. That was 159-49 at Penn State, 161-16 against New Mexico State.
Those Bobcat players surveyed are a little bewildered. "I don't know," said quarterback Tyler Tettleton. "I wish we could put it together the whole game. Hopefully, we can start the first half as well."
Marshall also is winning the battle of the third quarter 31-28, and winning the second by the same score. The Herd trails in the first quarter (13-3) and the fourth (28-21).
If Marshall avoids a third-quarter avalanche, there's the matter of Tettleton in the fourth.
At Penn State, the Bobcats were ahead just 17-14 when Tettleton directed a 14-play, 93-yard drive that evaporated 6 minutes, 42 seconds from the clock. When Donte Foster scored on a 5-yard catch, the Nittany Lions had just 2:55 left.
That catch came on third-and-goal, and was the fourth third down converted on the march. The third such conversion was a 31-yard pass to Landon Smith to the Penn State 5.
Since taking over as Ohio's starter last year, Tettleton is 52-of-85 for 599 yards, six touchdowns and two interceptions in fourth quarters. He led game-winning drives against Bowling Green, a win clinching a division title, and against Utah State in the bowl game in Idaho.
In the latter effort, Tettleton hit NFL-bound LaVon Brazill for 13 yards on fourth-and-6, putting the ball on the Utah State 1. Tettleton ran it in with 13 seconds left and Matt Weller kicked the extra point to give Ohio its first bowl victory.
"It was amazing to be a part of history, part of probably one of the best drives ever at Ohio," Tettleton said.
Keep your old Mickey Tettleton baseball cards at home, for there will be no impromptu autograph sessions. However much the 14-year veteran of the Oakland Athletics, Baltimore Orioles, Detroit Tigers and Texas Rangers would love to, he can't make it to Huntington.
Right now, he can barely make it off the couch.
"He was supposed to come to [the] New Mexico State [game], but he had a hernia," the younger Tettleton said. "He had a hernia, had to be on the couch. [Marshall] is one of the craziest atmospheres to play in, and I wanted my two parents to be there. It's really a special place to play."
Having exhausted his eligibility, George Carpenter is still trying to pay back little brother Nathan, who is in his second year of being the Bobcats' top nickel back.
George is a graduate assistant in the Herd's strength and conditioning program, so one figures he might remind players of the Ohio game as he squeezes another rep out of them.
On the off chance George forgets the last year's 44-7 Bobcats rout, Nathan will remind him in family get-togethers.
"There was some tension there during the holidays," Nathan said. "I'm not going to start a fight with him. He's a pretty big guy."
MU's season-ticket sales dipped a little, topping 12,600 with a late push. In 2011, that figure was right near 13,000.
"I look around the country, and they're dipping everywhere," said athletic director Mike Hamrick. "But we had a huge single-game crowd Saturday for Western Carolina. I don't look at it as a significant dip."
With no television and a lot of excitement surrounding the Ohio program, expect a larger walk-up crowd if the weather holds up. OU sold its allotment of 300 tickets, which didn't always happen when Marshall was in the Mid-American Conference.
One uniform change: Inside receiver Tommy Shuler is trading in his No. 17 for No. 1. That number was being worn by cornerback A.J. Leggett, who has undergone season-ending surgery.
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130 or firstname.lastname@example.org.