Posted by Adam Jacobi
OHIO WON. Tyler Tettleton led the Ohio Bobcats on a 9-play, 60-yard drive in under two minutes and capped it with a desperation scramble into the end zone with 13 seconds left to give Ohio its first ever bowl victory, 24-23, over Utah State. Tettleton connected with LaVon Brazill, Ohio's all-time leading receiver, eight times for 106 yards and one touchdown in the winning effort.
WHY OHIO WON: It's hard to point to much good on the defensive front when a team gives up almost 350 yards of rushing and still wins the game, but the fact is it's a testament to Ohio's defense inside its own 30 yard line that Utah State's offense only scored 21 points (the last two came on a safety -- after Ohio stuffed Robert Turbin at the one-yard-line on USU's opening possession). Moreover, even though Utah State completed 13 of its 20 passes as a team, the production in those plays was so anemic -- under 5.0 yards per attempt -- that Utah State basically couldn't take advantage of Ohio's one-dimensional defensive scheming. Still, this was a one-point victory spread over 60 minutes, and to point to one factor as the defining factor would be to overstate its importance and understate the rest.
WHEN OHIO WON: Utah State had been in nine one-possession games this season, and Ohio seven of its own, so the fact that this one came down to the last minute was actually truer to form than if this had been an uncompetitive game for either team. As such, nobody can be surprised that Ohio's winning score came with 13 seconds left, or that Matt Weller's PAT on the TD gave Ohio its first lead of the entire game. That's just the way these two teams roll. Ohio had one last desperation attempt to score from its own 25, but the ensuing series of ineffectual laterals and general stand-aroundery (new word alert) from the Bobcats made it clear that a career in rugby was in nobody's future there.
WHAT OHIO WON: For Ohio, the win has no shortage of historical meaning. It's the Bobcats' first bowl victory ever. It's their first 10-win season since a 10-1 campaign in 1968. It's Frank Solich's first bowl victory since winning the Alamo Bowl with Nebraska over Northwestern in 2000. And above all that, it's a great way to go into the offseason for the junior-to-be QB Tettleton and the rest of his teammates.
WHAT UTAH STATE LOST: It must be hard for Utah State not to feel some pangs of painful déjà vu after the series of last-minute September losses it endured to Auburn, Colorado State, and BYU. But the Aggies return their top two quarterbacks (Chuckie Keeton and Adam Kennedy) and most of their offense, head coach Gary Andersen just signed an extension and got a Utah State tattoo to commemorate the season, and now the team has this loss as a motivating factor going into next year. Think there won't be a recommitment to being the best-conditioned team in the 4th quarter after this year? These are the types of losses that push teams to higher levels of dedication in practice, and that's the type of work that pays off during the season.
THAT WAS CRAZY: Here is a full accounting of the 4th and 6 play that put Ohio on the 6-inch line with 40 seconds left: Tyler Tettleton throws to LaVon Brazill, who stretches out and lands the ball near the goal line, at which point he drops the ball and then recovers it on the goal line. The officials signal a touchdown. Head referee Penn Wagers then announces that Brazill recovered his own fumble and was down short of the goal line, but that the play is under further review. The play is reviewed for a couple minutes. Wagers announces that the ruling is confirmed. The officials reconvene. Wagers announces that Brazill fumbled the ball, then recovered it in the end zone for a touchdown. The officials reconvene. Wagers announces that Brazill was down short of the goal line, and that the ball should be placed on the 6-inch line, and so it was.
The thing of it is, the correct ruling was obvious after just one viewing of the replay. Brazill lost the ball when he stretched and hit the ground with it, but his knee and hip were both down well before that. Additionall, the ball didn't cross the goal line until after he recovered his own fumble. How there could be such a breakdown in communication to lead to that series of misstatements is astonishing; this should have been a 30-second review. At the very least, though, the final ruling on the field was the correct one, and that's what's most important.
FINAL GRADE: A. We wanted a close game, and this, like so many of each team's previous games this season, went down to the wire. Not a bad bowl game for the first day of the FBS postseason. May all bowls be as enjoyable as the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.