"It was probably as complete of a ballgame as we've played in some time," Solich said. "I think our guys played with great intensity and a great deal of heart. We showed we can play a great game against a really good team like Louisiana-Monroe."
Louisiana-Monroe came into Friday's game with the better story and basically a home-field advantage. The Warhawks were playing in their first bowl game after joining college football's highest level in 1994 and secured a bid in Shreveport, which is about 100 miles from their campus.
But that emotional lift didn't help ULM's defense, which was torched by Tettleton's deep ball accuracy early and Blankenship's hard running late.
Louisiana-Monroe briefly showed some life early in the second quarter when Browning's 14-yard touchdown pass to Tavarese Maye cut Ohio's margin to 14-7.
But Ohio came right back, using Matt Weller's 38-yard field goal and Blankenship's 2-yard touchdown run to push ahead 24-7 with 4:50 left in the second quarter. Blankenship's touchdown run was set up by Browning's third interception of the first half.
Louisiana-Monroe had a chance to cut into the deficit just before halftime, but coach Todd Berry's gamble to go for a touchdown instead of a short field goal backfired when Browning's final pass of the half sailed harmlessly out the back of the end zone.
Berry's gamble wasn't a surprise — the Warhawks had gained a reputation for unorthodox play-calling during their record-setting season. But nothing seemed to work against the Bobcats, and the large ULM fan contingent had mostly disappeared from the stands by the end of the third quarter.
It was a disappointing ending for the Warhawks, who started the season with a stunning overtime victory over Arkansas in Fayetteville, Ark., and still finished with the best season in school history since moving up to the Football Bowl Subdivision.
"This will get us back to work," Berry said. "I would have liked it to have been a little cleaner. But I also recognize the opportunities for this football team next year. This will add fuel to the fire. We will have a great offseason because of what happened today and that's what we're going to use. This group will rally."
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