This game goes down on the ESPN network and it features Ohio University Bobcats taking on Troy University Trojans in the 10th annual R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl in the Superdome down in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Troy, 7-5, 6-2 Sun Belt, is making its third straight bowl appearance and the fifth in the last seven years. The Trojans started their season in quest of their fifth straight Sun Belt Conference title, it did achieve, the goal wasn’t as easy as it had been in years past. With a little help from Middle Tennessee, which defeated FIU in the regular-season finale, the Trojans finished tied with the Golden Panthers atop of the league standings.
Head coach Larry Blakeney saw his team get out to a good and healthy start of 4-2 and then suddenly witnessed his squad go into a three game tail spin. Red-shirt freshman quarterback Corey Robinson stepped up and help get things back on course. Robinson threw for 3,339 yards and 24 touchdowns while completing over 62 percent of his throws. Helping Robinson’s maturation process was players like playmaker Jerrel Jernigan who will finish his college career as the schools and conference all-time leader in receptions, yards and all-purpose yards. This year the veteran wide-out led the team with 77 receptions and 774 yards while bringing in 5 touchdowns.
With all the attention diverted to the passing game the rushing attack for Troy quietly puts up solid numbers. The team comes averages 151.3 ypg and is being paced by duo of Shawn Southward, 548 yards, 7 touchdowns, and DuJuan Harris, 498 yards, 5 touchdowns.
Ohio, 8-4, 6-2 MAC, opened the year with a poor September, losing three of its first four games, but once the calendar shifted to October the Bobcats went into its regular season finale with a seven game winning streak and a chance to claim its third Mid-American Conference East Division title in five seasons. However that ended for head coach Frank Solich’s team when it lost to a mediocre Kent State 28-6.
The Bobcats though have an offense that are dedicated to pounding the rock because they have two monsters of tackles to go behind in First Team All-MAC Joe Flading and A.J. Strum. The Bobcats average 169.2 ypg on the ground behind Vince Davidson, who is leading the team with 513 yards and 6 touchdowns. To go along with Davidson is a dual rushing attack from the quarterback position. Phil Bates, who is mainly brought into the game to run the football, has rumbled for 508 yards, while starting quarterback Boo Jackson has rushed for 325 yards and a team best 7 touchdowns.
Jackson however is not much of a threat to throw the ball as he is on completing slightly over 60 percent of his throws and 16 interceptions. As for Bates, his passing numbers are a clear indication why he is brought into games, because the young quarterback completes only 40.9 percent of his throws.
Ohio makes its fifth postseason appearance and is back in a bowl game after last year’s 21-17 loss to Marshall in the Little Caesar’s Pizza Bowl. The Bobcats are 0-4 in bowl games. Troy is making their third straight bowl appearance and fifth in seven seasons. They lost 44-41 in double overtime to Central Michigan in the GMAC Bowl last season. Troy is 1-1 in the New Orleans Bowl, beating Rice 41-17 in 2006 and falling 30-27 in overtime to Southern Mississippi in 2008 and are 1-4 overall in bowl games. This will be the first ever matchup between the two programs on the the gridiron.
PICK: Ohio University Bobcats
The Ohio University Bobcats couldn’t muster up a win against in state rival the Buckeyes, 43-7, on the field. So it only makes sense they have their mascot do a sneak attack on Brutus. Now if Frank Solich’s squad could only muster up the apple sack like that of Rufus the Bobcat. Way to go Rufus.
The Little Caesars Pizza Bowl previously called the Motor City Bowl before this season takes place in Detroit for the 13th time and this year it will see Ohio University Bobcats, who are making just their second postseason appearance since 1968, take on the Marshall Thundering Herd who will be lead by interim coach Rick Minter. The Thundering Herd gave West Virginia assistant John “Doc” Holliday a five-year contract to coach the team.
Marshall is no stranger to this bowl, as the team played in the first four Motor City Bowls posting a 3-1 record. Overall the Herd are 5-3 in bowl games, but have not played in one since 2004 when the team was defeated by Cincinnati, 32-14, in the Forth Worth Bowl. Marshall opened its season with four wins in its first six games, but lost four of its last six games to finish 6-6 overall and 4-4 in conference.
The Thundering Herd was nothing special offensively this season, as the team produced just 21 ppg. Marshall did enjoy success on the ground averaging 138.8 ypg and the majority of the yards came by Darius Marshall, who led the squad with 1,054 yards and 11 touchdowns on an impressive 5.1 yards per carry. At quarterback Brian Anderson was very inconsistent this season passing for 2,561 yards with 14 touchdowns but almost matched in 13 interceptions. Receiving most of the catches where Antavio Wilson who had 57 receptions and 706 yards and Cody Slate who hauled in 50 catches for 607 yards and 4 touchdowns.
The Thundering Herd also dealt with plenty of problems defensively and surrendered on average 392.5 yards per matchup. The Herd gave up 145.1 ypg on the ground and 247.4 ypg through the air and allowed 19 passing touchdowns. The most alarming stat is that the Herd are allowing opponents to convert on 40 percent of their third down attempts. Mario Harvey is the lone bright spot on the defense with 105 tackles and 5 sacks.
As for the Bobcats, this will be just their fourth-ever bowl appearance, but the team’s second in the last three years. Ohio has lost all three of its bowl matchups, including a 28-7 loss to Southern Mississippi in the 2007 GMAC Bowl. Ohio started off the season 2-2 but turned things around by winning seven of its last eight regular season games but lost in the Mid-American Conference title game to Central Michigan 20-10 to finish 9-4 overall and 7-1 in conference.
Frank Solich’s Bobcats where led by Theo Scott who passed for 2,258 yards and 19 touchdowns with 10 interceptions. Scott had numerous wide receivers to choose from like Taylor Price who has 52 catches for 735 yards and 5 scores and LaVon Brazill who has 50 catches for 689 yards and 6 touchdowns. On the ground Ohio was lead by Chris Garrett who ran for 591 yards.
Ohio has been lead by a defense that held opponents to 21 ppg and collected 20 interceptions while also forcing 36 turnovers. Noah Keller is the heart and soul of this defense with 138 tackles but Dak Notestine is leading the team with 10 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks while Gerald Moore has grabbed 6 interceptions.
Before heading over to the Conference-USA the Thundering Herd were part of the MAC, so these two schools are no strangers to each other. Ohio currently holds a 29-17-6 edge over Marshall in the all-time series, but the Thundering Herd have won 10 of the last 12 meetings.
PICK: Ohio University Bobcats