Aug 30, 2013
By Alex Marcheschi
OhioBobcats.com - Staff Writer
If history really does repeat itself, Bobcat fans could be in for a treat this Sunday when Ohio battles No. 9 Louisville at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium. It's not often that a program gets the chance to open up consecutive seasons with a monumental game.
Last season, Ohio began the year at the legendary Beaver Stadium in Happy Valley and defeated Penn State as the Nittany Lions were in the midst of a cloud of controversy. It was a huge game, maybe the biggest in the history of the program, but the Bobcats have a chance to top it on Sunday.
"The challenge will be every bit as great as the Penn State game was, and probably more so in terms of the amount of players that they have coming back that are proven football players," said Ohio head coach Frank Solich.
Awaiting Ohio is one of the highest powered offenses in the country. The Cardinals are returning many key parts, including Heisman hopeful quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and his two favorite targets, Devante Parker and Damian Copeland. The trio combined for 1,372 yards and 12 touchdowns last year, and they look to be even more effective this season. The Cards also added a BCS National Championship MVP to the roster when former Auburn running back Michael Dyer transferred in this summer.
However, the Bobcats aren't letting the prospect of facing a national championship favorite disrupt their mindset.
"Our coaches do a great job of keeping us poised," said redshirt senior linebacker Keith Moore. "Our goal is to win a MAC Championship, and to go 1-0 each week. We just do what we do, and react to what they do."
Ohio will need to keep a level head and make smart decisions to start the game. It would be very easy to stumble early on against a team like Louisville in a raucous environment, and Moore realizes that.
"Composure is key in this game. We have a bunch of veterans who have been here and played at Penn State, so that's going to help out," Moore said. "We're going to rally our troops. It's going to be a hot game, so we have to do all the little things like stay properly hydrated, eat right, things like that."
The defensive line in particular will play a big part in keeping the Bobcats cool. It is an inexperienced group, and will be working as a platoon this year with many members seeing action, but it's ready for the challenge. And Louisville offers a bit of a trial by fire for the group.
"They're going to have a real good running game and our D-Line is going to have to be prepared for that, but the good thing about that is we have a lot more speed on the D-Line (this year)," said redshirt senior defensive end Ty Branz. "We're a little young, but I think we could make some stops up front to set the tone right away."
His fellow defensive lineman, junior Antwan Crutcher, is on board with that thought process.
"Making stops is the key to the game. We have to play four quarters of football," Crutcher said. "Our goal as a D-Line is to get that doubt out of people's minds, that idea that we're not capable of being dominant."
The facts boil down to this: Ohio is a 21-point underdog; the game will be on national TV on Sunday at 3:30 pm on ESPN; there will be many emotions swirling around on both sidelines; and each team has a chance to show a nation what they're capable of.
"(Louisville) wants to show the world that they're here, and they get a chance to do that on national TV," Solich said. "But we also get a chance to show them what we're about on national TV, so we're excited about that also."
Senior wide receiver and team leader Donte Foster put it in its simplest form. He will play a critical role in attacking for the Bobcats and he knows what it takes to win a big game.
"Louisville is a powerhouse; they're going to be a difficult team. It's going to be a huge environment. The biggest thing will be not to be rattled, because it's rare that we see that many people," he said. "If we come out there with some poise and really set the tempo, that will be beneficial for us."
The Penn State experience is beyond significant for Ohio heading into the showdown with Louisville. The fact that the Bobcats were able to go into a hostile environment and get the win last year sparks a flame of encouragement with the team as it prepares to face the highly-touted Cardinals.
Alex Marcheschi will serve as the OhioBobcats.com staff writer during the 2013-14 season. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @BobcatFeatures.