Q&A: Ohio football beat writer Jim Ryan breaks down Saturday’s matchup

By Stephen Hewitt

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This week, the Collegian’s football beat writer Stephen Hewitt talked to Jim Ryan, the assistant sports editor and football beat writer at The Post, Ohio University’s student newspaper to talk about the Minutemen’s next opponent, Ohio, who they host at Gillette Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

Collegian: Being undefeated at this time of the season might be misleading, but Ohio seems to be legit at 4-0 and earning a lot of votes for the top 25. Are the Bobcats for real or do they still have a lot to prove?

Ryan: Ohio coach Frank Solich will be the first one to tell you that the Bobcats still have plenty to prove. That being said, their 4-0 record is far from misleading. Ohio won arguably the most prominent game in program history against Penn State in the season opener, and its comeback win against Marshall in week three was far from fluky, as well. Granted, the Bobcats’ wins against New Mexico State and Norfolk State were convincing, but neither team posed a legitimate threat to begin with. In short, Ohio’s record is indicative of how it has played, but expect the team to keep a back-against-the-wall mentality clear through the end of the season, no matter how it plays out.

Collegian: Ohio star quarterback Tyler Telleton, at the moment, is still questionable for the game Saturday. How critical is he to the success of the Bobcat offense?

Ryan: As of Friday morning, Tyler Tettleton was still considered questionable for Saturday’s game. Unlike last week, he was active in all team drills Wednesday and Thursday. He did, however, only run through conditioning drills on Monday and Tuesday. I spoke with backup quarterback Derrius Vick, a redshirt freshman, after Thursday’s practice, and he said he has been preparing as if he will start under center Saturday. That, of course, hinges on how Tettleton feels, but Solich is confident in Vick, especially after watching him throw for 199 yards and four touchdowns in his first collegiate start against Norfolk State last week.

All that being said, Tettleton is the key to Ohio’s offense. If the Bobcats are going to move at full tilt, it will be imperative that a healthy Tettleton is under center. Vick is a qualified signal caller — enough so that if Solich decides to rest Tettleton Saturday, popular perception is that Ohio’s offense won’t suffer. In the long run, though, the Bobcats need Tettleton to reach their potential.

Collegian: Aside from quarterbacks, who are some playmakers on the offensive side of the ball for Ohio?

Ryan: Aside from Tettleton, look for redshirt juniors Beau Blankenship, a running back, and Donte Foster, a wide receiver, to be the Bobcats’ go-to sparks on the offensive side of the ball. Foster is arguably the Bobcats’ most explosive receiver and is one of Tettleton’s favorite targets. Last week, Vick and Foster hooked up for a pair of beautiful over-the-shoulder, corner endzone catches, and regardless of who’s calling the shots, I would expect them to try to capitalize on more opportunities like that this week. Blankenship is a bruising running back that likes to tuck and run between the tackles. He has gained more than 100 yards in each of the past four games, and I wouldn’t expect that streak to end this week because regardless of the score, he will continue to pound the ball up the gut and generate offense for Ohio.

Collegian: Defensively, what are some of Ohio’s strengths? And do you think they’re built to keep up with the no-huddle style UMass will throw at them on Saturday?

Ryan: It’s funny you ask how Ohio will keep up with a no-huddle offense. UMass’ no-huddle attack could take some opponents by surprise this season — or at least take some getting used to on the opposite side of the ball. However, Ohio goes against Tettleton, Vick and their version of the hurry-up every day in practice, so it won’t come as any sort of a shock to the Bobcats, but will play into their hands. Ohio’s defense prides itself on being conditioned to the point that they can keep up with the offense on a daily basis, an attribute that shows late in games. The Bobcats tend to wear down their opponents once the third quarter rolls around, and if the score becomes lopsided their use of substitute linemen could tire the Minutemen out even more quickly.

Collegian: Ohio is a heavy favorite against UMass. You’ll be at the game Saturday at Gillette. What’s your prediction for the game?

Ryan: It’s no secret that UMass’ transition to FBS football has been messy. Each of its games has been lopsided, and I don’t expect Saturday’s to be any different. Ohio, which had early-game offensive problems earlier in the season, will come out firing on all cylinders and won’t look back until halftime, similarly to how it approached the first half against Norfolk State last week. The future is bright for UMass, but I don’t see the Minutemen making any major moves in their first Mid-American Conference season. Ohio will walk away with a smooth 45-13 victory at Gillette Stadium Saturday.

Jim Ryan is the assistant sports editor of The Post, Ohio University’s daily, independent student newspaper. Follow him on Twitter at @JimRyan015 for game coverage, and visit www.thepost.ohiou.edu for more analysis about UMass’ week five opponent. Don’t agree with Jim’s opinions? You can reach him at [email protected]

Stephen Hewitt can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @steve_hewitt.