A.J. Ouellette battles with Purdue’s Navon Mosley during Ohio University’s game against Purdue University on September 9, 2017 (Blake Nissen | Photo Editor)
With 5:33 left in the second quarter Friday, Ohio’s defense went onto the field at Ross-Ade Stadium for its next series.
The game was still within reach for the Bobcats – they were only down 17-7.
But then Purdue decided to run a play that no one expected.
The Boilermakers ran a reverse flea flicker, which ended in quarterback David Blough throwing a 62-yard touchdown pass to Cole Herdman. The Bobcats’ defense was lost, with the Boilermakers purposefully forcing most of the unit to the left side of the field.
As Herdman raced down the right side of the field, only cornerback Jalen Fox was within reach, but wide receiver Gregory Phillips blocked him out the way. Quentin Poling sprinted down the field in pursuit of Herdman, too, but he had no chance.
The Boilermakers scored, and the Bobcats were left frazzled.
They couldn’t recover after that, and in their second game of the season, the Bobcats lost 44-21 to the Boilermakers.
“We knew they were going to do some funky stuff and trick plays and stuff like that,” linebacker Chad Moore said. “We were ready for it. We just had miscommunication all around.”
As the flea flicker developed, Moore and defensive end Kevin Robbins rushed Blough. But even with both rushing him, Blough had time to make the deep throw.
The rest of the defense scrambled around the middle and left side of the field, trying to figure out what was taking place.
The Boilermakers ran the play out of the pistol formation. As Blough caught the snap, he first pitched it to running back D.J. Knox. Then wide receiver Jackson Anthrop came around and caught the pitch from Knox.
Anthrop tossed the ball back to Blough, and that was it.
“We practiced that play 500 times in practice,” Moore said. “And when we came to the game, we just didn’t execute.”
The Bobcats prepared for the play as much as they could. A trick play is inherently surprising, so some uncertainty of how the play is executed is expected.
But not to the point where only Fox – one player out of eleven on the unit – had the best chance to save a touchdown.
That play happened in the second quarter and the worst hadn’t transpired. The Bobcats had trouble tackling well, especially in terms of defending the running game. Ohio allowed 263 rushing yards, the most it has allowed since Texas State ran for 237 yards during last season’s home opener.
No, that play was the worst. And it was representative of a defensive unit that struggled for the entire night.
Ohio relies on possessing a stout defense – that’s part of its reputation. As the Bobcats progress through the season, they can’t allow a trick play to develop like that again.
“We did not play a very good defensive football game,” coach Frank Solich said. “We had a couple turnovers on offense, so it was a bad game to really not step out and play well in those two categories.”