|Beau Blankenship celebrates one of his four rushing touchdowns in Ohio's 45-14 Independence Bowl win. (US Presswire)|
OHIO WON: With some time to prepare and, most importantly, get healthy, Ohio was able to regain its early season form and jumped out to an early lead on the way to a 45-14 Independence Bowl win against Louisiana-Monroe on Thursday in Shreveport. The Bobcats defense forced two interceptions, a fumble, and a turnover on downs in the first half, entering the locker room with a 24-7 halftime lead. The Warhawks have been able to mount big comebacks this season, but they were unable to slow an Ohio offensive attack that finished with an Independence Bowl record 551 total yards.
HOW OHIO WON: The Warhawks defense crowded the line of scrimmage early, concerned about Beau Blankenship and that potent Ohio rushing attack. Tyler Tettleton made ULM pay for the decision early, hanging in the pocket long enough for his receivers to beat man coverage for big plays. Chase Cochran (three catches, 162 yards, one touchdown) and Tyler Futrell (five catches, 133 yards) were the primary benefactors of the big-play opportunities, but taking the top off the offense also opened things up for Blankenship, who finished with 99 yards and an Independence Bowl record four rushing touchdowns.
WHEN OHIO WON: The 24-7 halftime lead would have been much different at 24-14, the score if ULM converts on fourth-and-goal before halftime. The Warhawks had converted one fourth down already on the 13-play drive, but were unable to capitalize with a score that could have changed the tone of the game. After halftime, Ohio scored touchdowns on each of its next two possessions. Then, at 38-7, the game felt out of reach (even for ULM).
WHAT OHIO WON: The Bobcats recorded their seventh nine-win season in school history, with four of those falling in Frank Solich's tenure. Solich's work turning around the Ohio program has been covered extensively, but five bowl games in the last seven years and back-to-back bowl wins is a noteworthy accomplishment for a coach at any school. After the 7-0 start, the way the Bobcats finished was a bit of a disappointment. But with another bowl victory and nine-win season in the bag, there will be very few complaints from the Ohio fan base.
WHAT LOUISIANA-MONROE LOST: An in-state bowl location and excitement around the first bowl appearance were reasons why many -- myself, included -- believed that ULM would show up ready to play on Thursday. But when Ohio punched them in the mouth early, that lack of experience may have come into play on the Warhawks sideline. There is no reason to second guess decisions, but execution was lacking in some key situations during the first half. This is not the last we've seen of ULM in the postseason, and I think Todd Berry makes this a building block moving forward.
For all of the dates, times, ticket and viewing info for all 35 games; check out the Bowl Schedule page
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