The Ohio Bobcats are bowling for the fifth time in six years, but are coming into the AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl against the Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks as losers of four of their last five games. They will need to capture the magic that propelled them to a 7-0 start if they hope to bring home a bowl win this season, and the key could be to turn to running back Beau Blankenship.
Blankenship finished the 2012 regular season with 1,500 yards rushing with 11 rushing touchdowns with 177 yards receiving and another touchdown through the air. He ranked 10th in the nation averaging 125.0 yards rushing per game and 15th nationally with 139.8 total yards per game. Blankenship was the driving force to the Bobcats’ strong start and was named second-team All-MAC.
However, down the stretch Ohio started to lose its identity. Blankenship rushed for more than 100 yards in six of the first seven games, but eclipsed the century mark just twice in the final five games. That coincided with the defense falling apart, which allowed 80 points and 965 yards in the final two games of the season. During their end-of-season three-game skid, Ohio has averaged just 15.7 points per game after averaging 35.6 over its first nine.
Ohio needs to return to their winning formula from earlier in the season. That means that Blankenship will need to churn out yards and eat up the clock to keep the Bobcats’ defense rested and off the field. Sustaining drives with the running game will allow the Ohio defense to regroup between Warhawk possessions and try and figure out how to stop an offense averaging 35.5 points per game this season without also having to try and catch their breath.
The best way for Ohio to beat ULM is to keep the ball out of their hands. The best way to do that is to run the ball with the best runner in the Independence Bowl; Beau Blankenship. The junior will be the key for Ohio to turn around their recent struggles and end a season that started with so much promise on a positive note.