FOXBORO, Mass. - When Saturday dawned, 4-0 Ohio was a 24-point favorite to thrash 0-4 Massachusetts as the Minutemen played their second-ever Mid-American Conference game at Gillette Stadium, home of the New England Patriots.
By the time the game was over, Ohio felt fortunate to still be unbeaten, holding on for a hard-fought 37-34 victory achieve a 5-0 start for the first time since 1968.
Junior running back Beau Blankenship rumbled for 269 yards and two touchdowns on 43 carries, surpassing 100 yards on the ground for the fifth straight game.
Blankenship's 269 yards marked the first time an Ohio running back has rushed for 250 yards or more since Kalvin McRae did it against Ball State in 2005.
Quarterback Tyler Tettleton also had a strong afternoon, completing 15-of-27 passes for 229 yards and two touchdowns. Tettleton spread the ball among his receiving corps, hitting eight different receivers in the win. The junior signal-caller has now cracked into the top three of the school's all-time career completions list with 357.
Massachusetts quarterback Mike Wegzyn completed 27 of his 51 passing attempts for 373 yards and four touchdowns. The Minutemen outgained Ohio, 511 yards to 503 for the 'Cats.
OHIO 37, UMASS 34
Mass-A.Williams 27 pass from Wegzyn (Levengood kick), 9:54.
Ohio-FG Weller 27, 4:26.
Mass-FG Lucas 30, 1:54.
Ohio-FG Weller 24, 11:47.
Ohio-Hill 1 pass from Tettleton (Weller kick), 5:40.
Mass-A.Williams 50 pass from Wegzyn (Levengood kick), 3:13.
Ohio-Cochran 41 pass from Tettleton (Weller kick), 1:16.
Mass-Walker 26 pass from Wegzyn (Levengood kick), 10:54.
Mass-FG Lucas 23, 3:15.
Ohio-Blankenship 5 run (Weller kick), 13:48.
Ohio-FG Weller 26, 9:35.
Ohio-Blankenship 40 run (Weller kick), 6:13.
Mass-A.Williams 11 pass from Wegzyn (Levengood kick), 3:23.
Time of Possession29:5030:10
RUSHING-Ohio, Blankenship 43-269, Patterson 1-7, Team 1-0,
Tettleton 7-(minus 2). UMass, Cox 22-80, Wegzyn 7-36, Broadnax 4-22.
PASSING-Ohio, Tettleton 15-27-0-229. UMass, Wegzyn 27-51-0-373.
RECEIVING-Ohio, D.Foster 4-55, Waters 2-38, Bussey 2-28,
Clark 2-28, Thompson 2-27, Cochran 1-41, Blankenship 1-11, Hill 1-1.
UMass, Walker 11-162, A.Williams 7-127, Blanchflower 5-80, Sharpe 2-0,
Broadnax 1-6, Long 1-(minus 2).
The Minutemen held Ohio to a three-and-out on its opening possession and then worked methodically down the field on their first drive of the day, going 82 yards on 12 plays. Wegzyn opened the scoring with a 27-yard touchdown pass to Alan Williams for a 7-0 UMass lead.
Ohio was able to answer back on its next drive, working 73 yards in 16 plays and scoring its first points via a Matt Weller 27-yard field goal.
Each team's next possession resulted in a field goal with Massachusetts hitting a -yarder with 1:54 left in the first quarter and Weller connecting on a 24-yard attempt 3:13 into the second quarter to cut Ohio's deficit to 10-6.
Blankenship had a terrific first half for the Bobcats, scampering for more than 100 yards in the first 30 minutes. On his 16th carry, he surpassed the 100-yard mark for the fifth straight game, something that hasn't been achieved by an Ohio running back since the 2007 season. Blankenship was instrumental in Ohio's first touchdown drive, which culminated with a 1-yard strike from Tettleton to Troy Hill that gave Ohio a 13-10 lead with 5:40 left until intermission.
UMass didn't take long to regain the lead at 17-13 and appeared to be set to take that four-point lead into the halftime break. But Tettleton hit wide receiver Chase Cochran with a pinpoint touchdown pass down the sideline for 41 yards to give the 'Cats a 20-17 edge at intermission.
Any thoughts the second half would be easier for Ohio were erased on the opening drive as Massachusetts received the kickoff and drove 81 yards in 12 plays, the last one a 26-yard touchdown pass from Wegzyn to Deion Walker. It was 24-20 Minutemen and Ohio knew it was in for a surprising fight.
Things got worse for the Cats when first UMass blocked a Weller field, then made one of its own with 3:15 left in the third quarter for a 27-20 lead and the word upset
was on the minds of those attending the contest.
Ohio tied the game at 27-apiece when Blankenship capped an 11-play drive with a 5-yard TD run early in the fourth quarter.
When Weller made his third field goal of the game from 26 yards out with 9:35 left, Ohio had a 30-27 lead.
Finally, with 6:13 left, the Cats got some breathing room when Blankenship scored on a 40-yard run for a 37-27 lead.
But Massachusetts refused to fold, cutting the deficit to 37-34 on a Wegzyn to Williams 11-yard TD.
That turned out to be the last score of the game and when the gun finally sounded, Ohio breathed a major sigh of relief that it still was unbeaten.
The Cats return home to the friendly confines of Peden Stadium next Saturday for a noon MAC game against Buffalo. The Bulls (1-3) lost on Saturday to Connecticut, 24-17.