FACTS & STATS: Site: Peden Stadium (24,000) -- Athens, Ohio. Television: ESPN3.com. Home Record: UMass 1-5, Ohio 4-2. Away Record: UMass 0-5, Ohio 2-3. Neutral Record: UMass 0-0, Ohio 0-0. Conference Record: Eastern Michigan 1-6, Ohio 3-4. Series Record: Ohio leads, 1-0.
GAME NOTES: The Ohio University Bobcats will try to end a losing streak and head into the postseason with a win when they bring in the Massachusetts Minutemen for a Mid-American Conference affair at Peden Stadium.
The Minutemen have been suffering from a long losing streak of their own but do not have the bright light of bowl eligibility keeping them going. UMass' second season as a FBS program has gone just about as poorly as its first, as the Minutemen are just 1-10 overall. A 37-0 shutout on the road against Central Michigan last weekend was the fifth straight setback for the team.
The losses have been piling up for Ohio, though not at such a drastic rate. The Bobcats were topped, 44-13 at home last Tuesday for their third loss in as many games. Fortunately for the Bobcats, they had already earned the six wins necessary to become bowl eligible back in October. The Bobcats can move to .500 in league play with a win on Friday.
During its 7-0 start a year ago, the Bobcats struggled against UMass but managed to squeak out a 37-34 victory on the road. Beau Blankenship rushed for 269 yards and two scores on 43 carries and Tyler Tettleton threw for 229 yards and two more touchdowns in the win, which came in the first ever meeting between the two programs.
UMass is still trying to figure out how to move the ball effectively each time out. This season the Minutemen are scoring only 10.6 points per game while failing to reach the 300-yard mark in offense each week. UMass is second to last in the league in both scoring and total offense.
Lacking much offensive consistency has forced the Minutemen to rely on a pair of quarterbacks. Neither has been particularly effective though. A.J. Doyle got the start against Central Michigan and finished with a miserable 45 yards on 6-of-16 passing while also being picked off six times. Doyle has 1,165 yards and five scores on the year but has been intercepted nine times and completed only 55.6 percent of his passes. Those numbers are still improvements on the efforts of Mike Wegzyn (47-of-95, 575 yards, three TDs, six INTs).
A trio of running backs have been making plays. Jamal Wilson (368 yards, TD) leads the team in rushing but both Lorenzo Woodley (310 yards, two TDs) and Stacey Bedell (301 yards, TD) each have at least 300 yards and 80 carries on the year as well. Wilson was the only back of the three to contribute against CMU as he tallied 23 yards on four carries. Shadrach Abrokwah picked up all 93 yards of his yards this season on 20 attempts against the Chippewas.
Tajae Sharpe is the only receiver that has been a consistent threat on the outside for the Minutemen. Sharpe has team-leads in receptions (58), receptions (607) and is tied for the most receiving touchdowns on the roster with three. Sharpe had only two receptions for 16 yards against CMU. Rob Blanchflower (27 receptions, 313 yards, three TDs) is solid at the tight end spot as the second-leading receiver.
The Minutemen have had a bit more fight on the defensive side of things. Although they are in the bottom half of the league in scoring (314 ppg) and total defense (430.7 ypg) they do rank 10th out of 13 teams in both categories. Stanley Andre is the anchor for the unit with 104 tackles on the campaign. Andre is one of four players in the league to have reached the century mark in stops this season.
On the other side Ohio is sitting near the middle of the pack as an offensive unit in the MAC. The Bobcats rank seventh in the league in total yards (383.2 ypg) and a spot better at sixth in scoring (27.2 ppg). The Bobcats were nowhere near those numbers in their loss to Kent State as they finished with only 204 yards of total offense.
Blankenship and Tettleton are still making plays for the Bobcats but not at the level of success that the Minutemen may remember from a year ago.
Tettleton has missed some time this year but has still thrown for 2,380 yards on the year with 18 touchdowns. Tettleton has been intercepted eight times but is completing 62.8 percent of his pass attempts. Tettleton finished with only 132 yards with a touchdown to match an interception against Kent State. Tettleton completed only 11-of-21 pass attempts in the contest and eventually gave way to Derrius Vick, who hasn't accomplished much when given opportunities this year.
Blankenship is still the team's leading rusher, but he isn't even close to matching the 1,604 yards he rushed for a year ago. On the year Blankenship has tallied 720 yards and four touchdowns on the ground via 170 carries. Blankenship battled to pick up 76 yards on 23 carries against Kent State. Ryan Boykin (372 yards, six TDs) is a reliable backup, though he did not get a carry against Kent State.
When not turning around to hand the ball off, Tettleton is often looking for Donte Foster in the passing game. Foster has been by far the most productive receiver on the roster with 57 receptions for 769 yards and six scores. Foster was held to only 35 yards on four catches against Kent State. Chase Cochran (27 receptions, 572 yards, three TDs) is a big play threat, as he is averaging more than 20 yards per reception. Matt Waters (32 receptions, 446 yards, three TDs) also gets in the mix.
Ohio is a solid, albeit far from dominant, defensive team. The Bobcats are fourth in the MAC in yards allowed (401.6 ypg) and sixth in scoring defense (27 ppg). One area where the Bobcats have been strong is in getting pressure on opposing quarterbacks as they are third in the MAC in sacks (29). Up front Tarell Basham (6.0 sacks) has been left to anchor the pass rush with Ty Branz out indefinitely with a knee injury.
Tettleton should have an easier time completing passes against a weak UMass secondary. With their own quarterback situation far from certain the Minutemen will fall yet again.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Ohio University 34, Massachusetts 17
Friday, November 29, 2 p.m. (et)