Herd defense will have hands full with Ohio QB Tettleton
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Chuck Heater has traveled to Athens, Ohio. He has seen the work of Tyler Tettleton up close.
Heater was defensive coordinator at Temple, a program that rose from the dead to contend in the Mid-American Conference. The Owls played the Bobcats in one of those Wednesday night "MAC-tion" duels, with the division lead on the line.
That night didn't go very well for Heater, now running the Marshall defense.
"We had the third-ranked defense in the country, scoring defense, two years ago," Heater recalled. "Alabama, LSU, Temple. After eight minutes left in the game, they scored 14 points; we could not keep them from scoring. So they get all my respect.
"We could not do what you needed to do to finish that game out, and we had a great defense. It was him, making plays."
The Owls led 24-21 before Tettleton drove the Bobcats 80 and 78 yards in those final eight minutes to steal a 35-31 win.
On third-and-7, he hit LaVon Brazill for 28 yards to set up that first score. On the drive that put Ohio up for good, Tettleton hit Donte Harden for 50 yards to get into field goal range, and later threw an off-balance, sidearm pass to Donte Foster for the final 5 yards.
Tettleton finished with 258 yards passing with three touchdowns, and added a short rushing TD. That was eerily similar to his performance two months earlier in the Bobcats' 44-7 steamrolling of turnover-prone Marshall.
He went 21 of 30 for 279 yards and three scores in that game, and his 7-yard TD run sent the Bobcats to a double-digit lead at 17-7. Of his nine rushes, four gained first downs.
In Ohio's 27-24 win last year in Huntington, Tettleton threw for three touchdowns and ran for one, with his 27-yard scoring pass to Ryan Clark on fourth-and-5 tying the game at 24. In the second quarter, he was 11 of 15 for 104 yards in helping Ohio turn a 14-0 deficit into a 17-14 lead.
As the senior Tettleton prepares to take on the Herd at 8 p.m. Saturday at Peden Stadium in Athens, Ohio, he does so holding nine school passing record, including passing yards (6,653), completions (534) and touchdowns (48). He has at least 10 games left to set a few more records.
Marshall's defense isn't unfamiliar with the Bobcats by now. Jeremiah Taylor and Monterius Lovett started in the 2011 game, with 13 more current defenders coming off the bench, so this team knows what it's up against.
But what can the Thundering Herd do about Tettleton and the Bobcats offense?
"Guys like that, they're very tough to handle," Taylor said. "For one, if you get up there, they've got the ability to squirt out, just run to keep the play alive or hit somebody else downfield.
"The one thing we're going to have to do a great job of is pressuring the pocket, keeping him in the pocket, getting hits on him when we get the chance - you know, making it hard for him."
Easy to say, tough to carry out, and Heater knows that as well as anybody.
"He's going to make his plays," Heater said. "You're not going to dominate him like in some situations, maybe the last two weeks. It's not going to be like that."
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5140, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.