Aug. 28, 2006
ATHENS, Ohio - The 111th season of Ohio football begins on Saturday, Sept. 2 when the Bobcats host Tennessee-Martin at 7 p.m. The Bobcats return 17 starters from last season, eight on offense and nine on defense.
After three weeks of preseason preparation, the Bobcats are ready to get the regular season started.
"(The attitude) is very good, and it has been very good all through fall camp," Head Coach Frank Solich said. "Now it's time to really line up and get into the regular season. Players get tired. They go through a fall camp and they get beat down a little bit and their legs are tired. Now we've given them some rest. We've backed off a little bit and their energy level is high. They want to get started. They're tired of looking at one another and playing against one another. They want to line up and get this going. The attitude has really been very good."
Two of the returning starters --junior running back Kalvin McRae (Decatur, Ga.) and senior linebacker Matt Muncy (Miamisburg, Ohio) -- were first-team All-MAC picks last season. It is the first time since 1999 that Ohio has returned at least two first-team all-league choices (Mike Varone and Dave Zastudil). Muncy led the MAC with 115 tackles, while McRae posted the third-best single-season rushing total in school history with 1,135 yards.
The UT Martin contest marks the third time in the last four seasons that the Bobcats have opened the schedule at Peden Stadium. Ohio defeated Southeast Missouri State in 2003 and VMI in 2004. Last season, the Bobcats lost the opener at Northwestern. It is only the eighth time since 1973 that Ohio has played its first game of the season at Peden Stadium. The Bobcats are unbeaten the last six times they've opened a new campaign at home (5-0-1). The last loss was to Kent State in 1973.
Bobcat coach Frank Solich begins his second season on the sidelines for Ohio. Of the nine Bobcat head coaches that have walked the sideline for at least two years since Don Peden took the reins in 1923, seven have shown at least a one-game improvement in their second season. Of those seven, Jim Grobe can take credit for the largest turnaround. The Bobcats were 2-8-1 overall and 1-6-1 in MAC play in 1995, but improved to 6-6 overall and 5-3 in the MAC in 1996. Solich posted a three-game improvement from his first season as the head coach at Nebraska to his second. In 1998, he led the Huskers to a 9-4 record and a berth in the Holiday Bowl. In 1999, Solich guided the squad to a 12-1 mark, a Big 12 championship and a win in the Fiesta Bowl.
Jason Simpson is in his first season not only as the Skyhawks' head coach, but also as a head coach at the collegiate level. Simpson was the offensive coordinator at Tennessee-Chattanooga last season.
UT Martin is coming off its first winning season since 1993, finishing the 2005 campaign at 6-5. The Skyhawks' 4-4 finish in the OVC last season was good enough for 4th place in the conference, the highest the team had finished since 1995.
Tennessee-Martin returns many of its major contributors from 2005, including leading rusher, junior Donald Chapman, a 2005 Lindy's All-American. The Marietta, Ga. native rushed for 1,396 yards and scored 16 touchdowns. Chapman looks to continue a streak from the previous two seasons, setting the Skyhawk single-season rushing record with 1,084 yards in 2004, and then breaking his mark in 2005.
Ohio and Tennessee-Martin have never faced each other in football. The Bobcats are the third Division I-A team the Skyhawks have faced. The other two teams were Western Michigan and Arkansas State.