CFN Analysis - Ohio Shocks Utah St In Potato
Posted Dec 17, 2011

The instant analysis and reaction to the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl

CFN Analysis   

2011 Famous Idaho

By Pete Fiutak

- Just when it seemed like Utah State was over its bout with the late game gags, it does this. The Aggies started the season by choking against Auburn, gacked away the Colorado State and BYU games, and ended it all on this.

- How did this happen? Utah State was in total control up 23-10 late in the third and with the running game rolling, but Tyler Tettleton and the Ohio offense came up huge when it had to.

- This makes up for the Northern Illinois collapse in the MAC title game.

- Almost.

- LaVon Brazill was questionable to play, but the Ohio receiver played and played big with his brilliant 44-yard touchdown catch – which should've been reviewed – and finishing with eight catches for 108 yards and a score.

- Utah State ran for 345 yards and controlled the clock … again, how did it lose this game?

- Tettleton didn't make any big mistakes. He ran well and threw better.

- Tettleton will be one of the MAC's signature players going into next year. He'll be in more bowl games before his career is done.

- The Aggies might have run wild, but Ohio linebacker Noah Keller won more than his share of battles, finishing with 11 stops.

- Frank Solich and Ohio deserved this. The program has been strong enough to be close time and again, and now both finally got the big win on a national stage.

- Fun stat: Utah State is now 0-7 against Solich-coached teams.

- This might be a good thing for Utah State. Not that the team was going to get a big head with Gary Andersen as the head man, but with so many young players, this might be just enough of a motivating factor to use throughout the offseason.

- No, that's not just coachspeak-cliché when it comes to motivation. Young players learn from games like this.

By Richard Cirminiello 

Wouldn't Frank Solich make a great fit in Happy Valley during these troubling times? While Penn State has shown no interest up to this point, the Ohio head coach has the steady, no-nonsense demeanor and attention to academics to start restoring some order with the Nittany Lions. If contacted, you'd have to figure he'd like one more shot at the big time. Playing in the same league as Nebraska wouldn't hurt either.

It's hard to imagine that despite playing football for more than a century, the Bobcats have never won a bowl game … until now. Yeah, the postseason is bloated, but without so many games, does Ohio ever get a chance to enjoy a seminal moment, like it did this evening?

Shame on you, Utah State. No team that rushes for well over 300 yards should ever lose a game. Backs Michael Smith and Robert Turbin, and the linemen that blew open holes all night for them, deserved a much better fate.

Few schools were interested in QB Tyler Tettleton coming out of Norman (Okla.) High School; a lack of prototypical size, and a junior year lost to injury have a way of quelling interest. Ohio, though, is thrilled to have the sophomore in the huddle and behind center for the next two seasons.

Linebackers Noah Keller of Ohio and Kyle Gallagher are just football players. In other words, they're outstanding college defenders, but are too small and too slow to keep playing at the next level. Aggie Bobby Wagner, on the other hand, has a very good chance of playing on Sundays.

There's no way of knowing for sure, but you have to figure this game might have gone a little different if QB Chuckie Keeton wasn't still injured for Utah State. Adam Kennedy somehow threw for just 64 yards on 18 attempts, or a measly 3.6 yards a pass.

Ohio WR LaVon Brazill was downright heroic in Boise. Despite playing with a slightly torn meniscus, and not practicing leading up to the game, he was still one of the team's offensive stars.

By Matt Zemek

The Ohio Bobcats had their intestines ripped out in the Mid-American Conference Championship Game when they blew a 20-0 lead against Northern Illinois. Just two weeks later, the boys from Athens, Ohio, had to make a cross-country trek to Boise to play in one of those low-rent, pre-Christmas bowls with an absurdly long name. Their punter wanted no part of the journey, and it was easy to think that Ohio wouldn't want to claim the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl with the same ravenousness and resolve the Utah State Aggies figured to display.

Instead, the Bobcats made the kinds of memories that will last a lifetime… not just for themselves and their coaching staff, but for a university community that now has a prized addition to its trophy case.

No, this wasn't one of the 35 bowl games that shouldn't have existed. Ohio and Utah State were not part of the 14-team club that failed to post winning records over the course of the regular season. Pre-Christmas bowls feel wrong in general, but this game felt oh-so-right not just because the Bobcats and Aggies deserved to have this postseason stage, but because both teams spilled the tank and created a thriller worthy of the event. Bowl games can be depressingly listless affairs because one of the participating teams drags itself through the motions, but on Saturday afternoon in Boise, two determined sides treated a Dec. 17 bowl game with respect and maturity. It all created a heartstopping finish that should reflect well on the winner instead of shining a harsh light on the loser.

One has to understand how often Ohio football has fallen short of a signature accomplishment in recent years despite winning multiple MAC East Division titles and making a habit out of landing bowl bids under coach Frank Solich. Ohio couldn't take down Marshall as a clear favorite in the Little Ceasars Bowl, and then it got blown out in last year's New Orleans Bowl by Troy. The Bobcats also fell short whenever they contested the MAC title in Detroit (against Central Michigan in 2009 before crumbling against NIU this year), adding to the notion that when a bright-lights-big-stage moment greets Ohio University, a superb regular-season ballclub can't close the sale. Nothing that happened in the first three quarters of this game against Utah State suggested that Ohio was ready to change its stripes, but just when it would have been easy to count the Bobcats out – especially in light of their MAC title game collapse – they wrote a new script and manufactured some magic.

It would have been easy to write off Ohio when Utah State's running game began to blast open holes with regularity in the third quarter, enabling the Aggies – a team that rebounded from a brutal start to its always-on-the-edge season – to forge a 23-10 lead.

It would have been easy to write off Ohio when its offense continued to sputter and Utah State made two separate forays inside the Bobcats' 45 in the second half. Had Ohio allowed just one field goal on either one of those drives, USU would have been able to attain a 26-17 lead and a two-possession stranglehold on the proceedings. There were so many occasions when Ohio stood on the precipice of ultimate defeat. It seemed for the first 52 minutes of this contest that Utah State needed just one more 20-yard run to capture permanent control.

That one play never came. Ohio avoided the knockout blow and extended the game long enough to score in the final minute. The team that has so consistently exhibited such resolve within the context of its MAC regular seasons finally transferred that ballsy boldness to the postseason arena. Utah State once again lost a heartbreaker – the Aggies' fifth loss by one score this season – but coach Gary Andersen's team fought the good fight. On this afternoon in the state of Idaho, the storyline is nothing other than Ohio's bowl breakthrough, a proud moment for a team which – like its MAC brother from Northern Illinois in 2010 – turned this smurf turf bowl game into a titanic turnaround two weeks removed from a stomach-punch loss in the MAC title tilt.

By Terry Johnson
Please follow me on Twitter @TPJCollFootball

- Congratulations to the Ohio Bobcats for winning their first-ever postseason contest.

- Ohio's defense won this game. After blowing a 20-point lead in the MAC title game, the Bobcat defense made a statement tonight. Even though they allowed over 400 yards, OU held Utah State scoreless over the final 21 minutes, which made the difference in the game.

- The game ball goes to Bobcat WR LaVon Brazill. Coming into the game, no one knew whether or not Brazill would play since he has been slowed by a leg injury. Not only did he play, he torched the Aggie secondary for 8 catches for 108 yards a TD. He also made the game's biggest play, by catching a critical fourth down catch to set up the deciding touchdown.

- P Paul Hershey would finish a close second to Brazill for player of the game honors. Hershey punted 6 times, averaging 50 yards per punt with a long of 59 yards. More impressively, half of his punts landed inside the 20-yard line, giving Utah State poor field position.

- Why isn't Frank Solich drawing interest from other schools? After tonight's victory, Solich has a 51-40 record at OU. How impressive is that number? The last Bobcat coach to have higher winning percentage than Solich was the legendary Don Peden, who compiled a .711 winning percentage from 1924-1946. That is elite company.

- Utah State's running game continues to impress. Playing against the nation's 30th ranked rush defense, the Aggies continued to roll, running for 342 yards on 50 carries.

- Despite a loss today, Utah State had one of the nation's most dramatic improvements this season, winning 7 games for the first time since 1993. If the Aggies can learn how to hang on to a lead in the second half, they could be a BCS buster next season.

Phil Harrison
Follow me on Twitter @PhilHarrisonCFN

- Snatched from the jaws of defeat...You got the feeling all along in this game that Utah State was in control and then suddenly Ohio makes one final drive and takes the lead for the first time with :13 seconds remaining. It wasn't pretty, and the Bobcats started the game like they didn't want to be there, but they hung around and were able to find a way to get to ten wins and the program's the first bowl win ever. It took a while, but Frank Solich has the Bobcat program at heights it has never seen. Can he keep the momentum?

- Early on, the MAC is having a very good showing--going 2-0 with both of the games going against the grain. If Conference USA and the the Mountain West really want to merge, maybe they should start looking to poach some of the teams from the Mid-American Conference....

- Sometimes the stats just don't tell the story do they? Utah State outgained the Bobcats, out-possessed them, and controlled the game on the ground throughout. Still, it's the scoreboard that counts, and with no turnovers to take advantage of, the Bobcats--stuffed a lot of the day--made a few big plays when they needed.

- Tyler Tettleton has a bright future for OU. It was his continued development that resulted in the improvement to the play of the Bobcats through the end of the year. The sophomore QB is always going to be a threat with his scrambling ability, but it has been his underrated passing ability that resulted in the Bobcats winning six of its last seven.

- For Utah State, it has to feel a bit snake-bitten. The Aggies have not lost any game by more than ten points this season, and all told, four of its six losses now have been by a combined nine points. Par for the course in this one.

- What a way for senior RB Michael Smith to go out for Utah State. Smith only had twelve carries, but made the most of them-- gaining 157 yards (13.1 avg.), and scoring 2 TDs. Playing in the shadow all year of junior Robert Turbin, he can go out with his head held high.

- Don't look now, but the MAC has a real shot to take home the Bowl Challenge Cup. It's already sitting now at 2-0 and has three winnable games left between Western Michigan vs. Purdue in the Little Caesar's, Toledo vs. Air Force in the Military Bowl, and Northern Illinois vs. Arkansas State in the Bowl. That would qualify as water-cooler talk if ever anything did.