Marshall football: Heater all too familiar with Tettleton
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Marshall Defensive Coordinator Chuck Heater holds memories of days as Temple's defensive coordinator when he faced Ohio University quarterback Tyler Tettleton.
They are not fond ones.
"We had the third-ranked scoring defense in the country two years ago - Alabama, LSU, Temple," he said. "We played that game and with eight minutes left in that game they scored 14 points and we could not keep them from scoring."
Both Ohio fourth-quarter touchdowns in the 35-31 Bobcats win came from Tettleton's arm, the last with 1:41 left in the game. The quarterback has gained mountains of Heater's respect both on and away from the field. And Heater knows that neutralizing Tettleton will be a major goal with the Thundering Herd visits the Bobcats on Saturday at 8 p.m. (ESPNews).
Heater realizes that's easier said than done. Tettleton is 20-9 as the Bobcats' starting quarterback, no small feat for a Mid-American Conference team that will challenge opponents from larger conferences.
Tettleton scored win No. 20 last week, throwing for 239 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions on 19-for-30 passing to beat North Texas.
It's Tettleton's ability to keep plays alive that makes him so dangerous, Heater said. He remembered Tettleton's game-winning pass in that 2011 Ohio-Temple game, a sidearm throw while rolling to his left in an instance where there was no real reason to throw the ball. But he got it to Donte Foster for a five-yard touchdown anyway.
The Bobcats are averaging just 17 points in two games, mainly because of a 49-7 loss to Louisville, but Heater doesn't expect Ohio to flounder with Tettleton under center.
"He's what you want in a quarterback," Heater said. "He finds a way to win games. It's a challenge. But that's what good quarterbacks are. They win games. He's mobile, athletic, just kind of heady and he's got the 'it' factor."
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HERD OFFENSIVE coordinator Bill Legg isn't planning for any surprises from Ohio's defense Saturday night. In his mind, the Bobcats are a great squad without them.
"They're the same today as they were yesterday as they will be tomorrow," Legg said. "There's no tricks. They pride themselves in being a physical football team. They pride themselves in swarming to the football. And they pride themselves in being sound fundamentally and executing their plan, understanding the strengths and weaknesses of every single call they make."
After giving up 615 yards to Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and Louisville, the Bobcats settled down and allowed less than half of that - 299 yards - to North Texas to win their home opener. Last season against Marshall, Ohio allowed 491 yards, but collected three turnovers - two fumbles and an interception - to win 27-24 in Huntington.
Legg said among the Bobcat defense's greatest strengths is its ability to play mistake-free.
"They don't get misaligned," Legg said. "They're not out of position. If you beat them, it's because you beat them. It's not because they beat themselves."
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PART OF Tettleton's success against Marshall has come from the Bobcats' offensive line.
"I don't think we've sacked Tyler Tettleton in two years," Holliday said.
Holliday is right. In two straight losses to Ohio the Herd did not record a single sack. Ohio recorded three.
A key ingredient in the offensive line's effectiveness is experience. Looking through the Bobcats' two-deep, every first- or second-team lineman has taken a redshirt year. They have redshirt seniors Ryan McGrath and John Prior starting at tackle, redshirt sophomores Mike McQueen and Mike Lucas starting at guard and redshirt sophomore Lucas Powell starting at center.
The group was even more seasoned to start the year, but lost redshirt senior starting guards Jon Lechner and Sam Johnson to injury in the Louisville game. Holliday credited Ohio Coach Frank Solich for his system of developing offensive linemen.
"Coach Solich has been with that program for a long time," Holliday said. "He's developed some guys and there's not much of a drop off from a year ago and what they're playing with now."
Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at email@example.com or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/marshall. Follow him on Twitter @derekredd.