HUNTINGTON - It’s a typical after-practice ritual on the campus in Athens, Ohio.
Ohio Sports Information Director Tom Symonds corrals some of the more quotable players and has them return calls to media members who have interview requests. Usually that means a conversation with a sportswriter from the Columbus Dispatch or the Athens Messenger.
But these area codes looked different to Ohio quarterback Tyler Tettleton -- (212) New York City … (860) Bristol, Conn.?
Peter King from Sports Illustrated and Dari Nowkhah from ESPN had stories to write. The New York Times called too. Ohio was the story of the week.
All because the Bobcats scaled Mount Nittany on the opening week of 2012 college football. To go in and get a win over Penn State in front of 97,000 people is noteworthy any time. But after a scandalous summer in State College, a national television audience watched this game with great interest. Football fans from coast-to-coast watched the Mid-American Conference’s Bobcats pull off the 24-10 win.
“It took a couple days before it hit me,” Tettleton said. “We knew we had a good opportunity. We were glad to get a win for the program. I would hope people realize we’re pretty good.”
“Pretty good” is an understatement. Saturday the Bobcats upped their record to 2-0, in front of a Peden Stadium record crowd of 25,893. Ohio’s 51-24 demolition of New Mexico State included another virtuoso performance from Tettleton.
He threw for 257 yards and 2 touchdowns. Many football pundits across the nation are noting how Ohio’s biggest test of the season will come at Marshall. Beat the Herd and they say the Bobcats could go undefeated.
“You can’t win 12 games just by thinking about it,” Tettleton said. “Every week in the MAC is tough. We just have to go out and do it.”
Ohio rang Marshall’s bell to the tune of a 44-7 whipping last year in Athens. Tettleton, the son of former Major Leaguer Mickey Tettleton, proved he inherited the throwing gene from his dad. Marshall found out how difficult he is to defend because he’s adept at passing and running.
This year, the “Battle for the Bell” comes back to Marshall’s turf . Beating the Herd
in Huntington has been a difficult task for Ohio. Marshall has won the last seven meetings at home and the last time the Bobcats won in Huntington., Jimmy Carter was in the White House. It was 1977.
“That place is unbelievable,” Tettleton said of Marshall’s home-field advantage. “When people ask me what’s the best atmosphere to play in, Marshall’s up there with all of them.
“Two years ago, I didn’t play but it was wild. I love what they’re all about down there. They love their football. It will be a tough test and a rivalry game. They’re a solid team.”
The game, in and of itself, is always important to both schools. Athens and Huntington are only separated by about 85 miles. It’s an hour and a half bus ride the players look forward to.
“It’s a fun atmosphere for football,” Bobcats tight end Jordan Thompson said. “Going to Marshall is one of the games I look forward to each year just because it’s close and there are a lot of strong ties through the rivalry over the years. We got ‘em last year but I’m sure they’re gonna try to get us back this year.”
The Thundering Herd players remember well the shellacking last year when Ohio scored 37 unanswered points after the game was tied at 7.
“Right after the game (Western Carolina win) we’re all excited and happy and Coach Holliday comes in and said, ‘When Sunday rolls around, come in pissed off,’ and he’s right,” Herd sophomore tight end Eric Frohnapfel said. “Last year was a little bit of an embarrassment for us. It’s time to get back to work because Ohio’s a good team and they’ve proven that so far.”
Even at Ohio’s media day in August, the players were ready to talk about the Marshall game and its significance to the season.
“They’re gonna come out firing,” Ohio defensive lineman Tremayne Scott said. “They’re gonna come out with a nasty taste in their mouth. They’re not gonna want to lose at home.
“They definitely don’t want to lose in a rivalry. We’re gonna have to prepare for that game as well as any other game this season.”
The stage is set. Ohio has possession of the Bell. Who will be the story of the week this time?
Keith Morehouse, who has spent years covering Marshall athletics as the veteran sports director at WSAZ Newschannel 3, has joined the Herd Insider staff.