May 24, 2018 | ° F

Solich turns Ohio into MAC?threat

Frank Solich was born a winner. The seventh-year head coach at Ohio became the first player in Nebraska football history to rush for 200 yards in a game and earned the moniker “Fearless Frankie” for his play.

Solich returned to his alma mater in 1998 and led the Cornhuskers to a 58-19 record through six seasons after replacing Nebraska coaching legend Tom Osborne.

Now, the former bruising fullback commandeers an Ohio program that reached a bowl game in two of the past three seasons after suffering through mediocrity before Solich’s arrival.

“We’ve been able to keep our coaching staff pretty much intact,” Solich said. “We’ve averaged about one coaching change per year, which is really good in the MAC. Certainly that continuity played a big role in recruiting and a big role in coaching our players and developing our program.”

Solich received his walking papers from Nebraska after a 9-3 season in 2003, when the Huskers earned a berth in the Alamo Bowl.

The man responsible: former athletic director Steve Pederson, who now serves under the same capacity at Pittsburgh.

Solich took a year off, then began the process of turning around Ohio, a program that failed to rank No. 2 in its own state.

The Bobcats are now 3-0 six years later, and many in Athens, Ohio, tout the current team as possibly its best in program history.

“I see it as motivation,” Solich said. “If we haven’t been 3-0, we haven’t been 4-0, and that’s something that obviously motivates us.”

Ohio enters Piscataway tomorrow with nine interceptions, which ranks second nationally. Four Bobcats carried the ball at least 23 times, and none has a yards-per-carry average less than 4.2.

But Rutgers had two weeks to prepare for Solich’s run-happy attack, and head coach Greg Schiano knows what a Solich-run team brings to the table.

“I’ve known him a long time — an excellent football coach,” Schiano said. “You can see it: a team that never beats themselves. They play sound, fundamental football. I’m glad we have a bye week to look at them. I don’t know if that is going to make a difference.”

The Bobcats run-oriented offense fits Solich’s billing. Ohio runs the ball out of a variety of sets, including the shotgun and pistol formations.

And when Solich wants to return to his old-school Nebraskan roots, the Bobcats run the option.

While Solich certainly has a rich coaching pedigree, he knows college football is about marketing and recruiting.

So he focused on the state of Ohio, where players spurned by the hometown Buckeyes opted for other schools in the Bobcats’ Mid-American Conference.

Solich even expanded the school’s reach. Ohio’s leading rusher hails from Erie, Pa., and Tyler Tettleton, the Bobcats’ dual-threat quarterback, played at Norman North High School (Okla.).

“We have things to offer,” Solich said. “We have a great campus down here, great academic institution. We’re able to not only attract players from the state of Ohio, but around the country. It’s been beneficial for us.”

Ohio even unveiled special all-black uniforms for the team’s 44-7 dismantling last week of Marshall.

“As a head coach, those are the two things you look at first: what’s going to be good for your players, and what’s going to be good for recruiting,” Solich said.

Generally even-keeled, Solich was not a perfect match for Nebraska, whose football-hungry fans related more with his replacement, Bo Pelini.

But in Athens, Solich fits. When Ohio hired him in 2004, the university planned a stadium expansion and hailed Solich as the program’s savior.

He is still part “Fearless Frankie,” but his coaching career taught Solich to plan for the unexpected.

“You try to stay away from the real highs and real lows,” Solich said. “You’re usually better off if that occurs.”

By Tyler Barto

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