Tuesday, December 14, 2010
Ohio's Frank Solich is no stranger to bowl games, having won two as a coach and playing for a national championship in his time with Nebraska.
Now, Solich will try again to deliver the first postseason victory in Bobcats history in his third attempt.
Ohio makes its fifth postseason appearance when it takes on Sun Belt Conference champion Troy in the New Orleans Bowl on Saturday night.
Solich, who led the Cornhuskers to a 58-19 record from 1998-2003 before arriving at Troy in 2005, guided the Bobcats to their first bowl appearance in 38 years in 2006. Ohio, though, lost 28-7 to Southern Miss in the GMAC Bowl.
Solich had his team back in the postseason last year, but the Bobcats fell to 0-4 in bowl games with a 21-17 loss to Marshall in the Little Caesar's Pizza Bowl on Dec. 26.
Now they'll look to earn the elusive first postseason victory in the Big Easy.
"The opportunity to play a bowl game there makes the experience even more memorable," safety Donovan Fletcher told the school's official website. "Troy is an exceptional team and competing against them will be a challenge that I know our team is looking forward to."
Ohio (8-4) finished second in the East Division of the Mid-American Conference and earned a second straight bowl berth for the first time.
"Coach Solich is a high-caliber man," Troy coach Larry Blakeney said. "You never heard a peep out of him when he was fired from his alma mater when he went (9-3 in 2003). He just went on and got himself another job and went to work."
The Bobcats had their seven-game winning streak snapped in a season-ending 28-6 loss to Kent State on Nov. 26. Senior Boo Jackson threw his school-record 35th career touchdown pass for Ohio, breaking a mark that had stood for 41 years.
Senior wide receiver Terrence McCrae also set a school record with his 19th career TD catch.
Troy (7-5) hopes to slow down that duo, and it could help that Blakeney has seen Solich's offensive schemes before. Solich went 3-0 against the Trojans from 2001-03.
"There's no question that we'll have to defend across the board," Blakeney said.
Troy defensive end Jonathan Massaquoi led the MAC with 17½ tackles for loss.
Troy won at least a share of its conference championship for the fifth straight season, joining BYU, Southern California, Ohio State, Alabama and Florida State as the only programs to accomplish the feat.
The Trojans are making their third straight bowl appearance and fifth in seven seasons. They lost 44-41 in double overtime to then-No. 25 Central Michigan in the GMAC Bowl last season.
Troy, first in the Sun Belt with 32.9 points per game, will be facing an Ohio defense that is yielding 21.8. The Trojans also topped the conference with 441.1 yards per contest, but the Bobcats are giving up 332.7.
Troy's Corey Robinson threw for a conference-leading 3,320 yards with 24 touchdowns, but also was intercepted 15 times.
"Hopefully we can give them some problems too from our offense to their defense and in the kicking game," Blakeney said. "We've got a little time, but not a whole lot, to prepare."
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. The Trojans are 1-4 in bowl games.