NCF Nation: AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl 2012

Instant analysis: Ohio 45, La.-Monroe 14

December, 28, 2012

Ohio University bounced back from a three-game losing streak to end the regular season and romped past Louisiana-Monroe for a 45-14 victory in the AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl on Friday in Shreveport, La.

Here’s a quick recap:

It was over when: Ohio got the ball to open the second half and drove 75 yards in seven plays to take a 31-7 lead on Beau Blankenship's 2-yard touchdown run.

Turning point: Louisiana-Monroe, instead of trying a field goal at the end of the first half, went for it on fourth down from the Ohio 10-yard line, and Kolton Browning's pass toward the back of the end zone sailed over the head of Rashon Ceaser as the second quarter ended. The Warhawks had a first-and-goal at the Ohio 1 with 21 seconds remaining in the first half, but Browning was sacked for a 10-yard loss by Tremayne Scott.

Game ball goes to: Ohio quarterback Tyler Tettleton hit his first six passes for 167 yards and two touchdowns to ignite the Bobcats' rout. He finished 13-of-21 for 332 yards with two touchdowns and an interception.

Stat of the game: Browning, who threw seven interceptions all season, was picked off three times in the first half Friday.

Unsung hero: Scott, who missed the last nine games of the regular season with a foot injury, returned in a big way and made two huge plays in the first half to help trigger the Ohio rout.

What it means: After a disappointing close to the regular season, Ohio put together one of its most complete performances of the season to win its second straight bowl game. The Bobcats finished with nine wins and have won 19 games over the past two seasons. Meanwhile, Louisiana-Monroe’s first bowl appearance since becoming an FBS program in 1994 was anything but memorable. The Warhawks turned the ball over three times in the first half and were never in the game.

AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl keys

December, 28, 2012
Breaking down today’s AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl matchup between Ohio and Louisiana-Monroe:

1. Healthy Tettleton: Ohio junior quarterback Tyler Tettleton was slowed by a rib injury that played a role in the Bobcats losing four of their final five games. He’s thrown 16 touchdown passes and only three interceptions and is much healthier now that he's had time to recover. Ohio will use Tettleton on designed running plays. And now that he’s back to full strength, he becomes even more difficult to defend because he won’t be as tempted to try to force things in the passing game.

2. Beating man coverage: Louisiana-Monroe isn’t afraid to play man coverage and leave their cornerbacks one-on-one on the perimeter. The Warhawks have intercepted 15 passes, led by Isaiah Newsome's four picks. They will stack the line of scrimmage and come after Tettleton. Pass protection will be critical for Ohio, not to mention making some big plays down the field when the Warhawks bring the pressure. The Bobcats need to set the tone early in their offensive line.

3. Getting defensive: Ohio was decimated by injuries on defense this season, particularly in its front seven. Some of those defenders are scheduled to return for the bowl game, but it remains to be seen how rusty they might be. Against an offense like Louisiana-Monroe’s that’s continually attacking, the Bobcats could help their cause by forcing some turnovers and not allowing the Warhawks to get into a rhythm early.

Pregame: AdvoCare Independence Bowl

December, 28, 2012
Ohio (8-4, 4-4 MAC) vs. Louisiana-Monroe (8-4, 6-2 Sun Belt)

WHO TO WATCH: Louisiana-Monroe quarterback Kolton Browning. Even though he missed nearly two whole games with a foot injury, Browning passed for 2,830 yards and 27 touchdowns and is also the Warhawks’ leading rusher with 441 yards and seven more touchdowns on the ground. He’s always a threat to take off and run, but is equally effective at scrambling around, buying time and finding open receivers down the field. He's one of the more underrated players in the country.

WHAT TO WATCH: Louisiana-Monroe, making its first postseason appearance since the I-AA playoffs in 1993, is one of the most entertaining teams in college football to watch on offense. The Warhawks spread teams out and chuck the ball all over the field. But they’ve been vulnerable on defense, ranking 71st nationally in total defense and giving up an average of 407.3 yards per game. Ohio possesses the kind of balance on offense that could give Louisiana-Monroe fits. The Bobcats are rushing for more than 200 yards per game (202) and passing for more than 200 yards per game (233.5), and the Warhawks gave up 40 or more points in both of their November losses.

WHY TO WATCH: Both Louisiana-Monroe and Ohio made waves early this season. The Warhawks upset then-No. 8 Arkansas 34-31 in overtime to open the season and then lost close games the next two weeks at Auburn and Baylor. Ohio started out 7-0, including a win at Penn State, and climbed to No. 23 in the polls before losing four of its final five games. Which team can close the season with the kind of momentum it had when it started?

PREDICTION: Louisiana-Monroe 35, Ohio 24. The Warhawks know how to score points. They averaged 35.5 points per game and scored 31 or more points in eight of their 12 games this season. The Bobcats are a good enough running team to keep this one close, but won’t be able to match the Warhawks touchdown for touchdown.