By Gary Fauber
Assistant Sports Editor
Everyone knew about Ohio quarterback Tyler Tettleton last season, and as far as the Bobcats’ running game was concerned, defenses had to be ready for a strong dose of wrecking-ball tailback Beau Blankenship.
Blankenship proved difficult to stop. He finished the year with 1,604 yards and 15 touchdowns on 312 carries. That’s exactly 24 rushes per game — a high number of touches, but probably still not enough for a player as physical as the Norman, Okla., native.
Thus far in 2013, Blankenship has seen his carries reduced to 13 per game, but it’s not because of a dropoff in his ability. Rather, fellow senior Ryan Boykin is ready to go after missing about half of 2012 because of injury.
Going into Saturday’s Battle for the Bell against Marshall (2-0) in Athens, Ohio (8 p.m., ESPNews), Blankenship and Boykin each have 26 carries for the Bobcats. And Boykin has the upper hand statistically, averaging 66 yards per game for 1-1 Ohio. He also has the team’s only rushing touchdown.
“They’ve pretty much split the reps,” said Marshall head coach Doc Holliday. “They were very even a week ago against North Texas (a 27-21 win). Both of them are tremendous backs and bring a great 1-2 punch to their running game. They ran the ball extremely well against North Texas.”
Boykin played in just seven games last season, running for 445 yards and four touchdowns.
“It’s just the fact that Ryan is healthy,” Ohio coach Frank Solich said. “Last year, he got banged up early and it limited his playing time, and Beau had to carry the load.
“He’s a tough, physical-minded player and he wanted to get all the carries he could get.”
Solich said having both at full strength is definitely a positive.
“The more depth you have on the offensive line, as well as your backs and receivers, becomes critical to how well you play as you go through the year,” he said.
Blankenship (5-foot-9, 206 pounds) is averaging 52.5 yards per game. Boykin - no slouch at 6-1, 225 - also has one of Ohio’s two touchdown receptions.
“We feel both are strong, physical running backs who also have the ability to make big plays,” Solich said. “We will continue to use both of them.”
— E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org