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Local products helping Ohio U.

August 28, 2012
By Michael Boytim ( , The Altoona Mirror

The moment Penn State players and fans have been waiting for is nearly here, the chance to escape questions about the scandal and play football.

At least four players playing for Penn State's opponent Saturday, though, have been waiting for this game even longer.

"It would mean a lot to me and this program to get the job done against Penn State this upcoming weekend," Ohio University linebacker Alphonso Lewis said. "Now that the game is almost here, I can say I have been waiting for this one game for the last five years."

Lewis, a 2008 graduate of Altoona, will be starting for the Bobcats alongside fellow '08 Mountain Lion graduates Neal Huynh and Tyler Futrell Saturday.

The trio of fifth-year seniors will be joined by Hollidaysburg graduate Ryan McGrath, who will be starting on the offensive line as a redshirt junior.

"All four of them are starters on our football team, and three from one school," Ohio coach Frank Solich said. "So that has been huge for us to have gone 4-for-4 with those guys.

"They're great guys. They work hard in the classroom, do a good job and they've done a great job on the football field."

All four have played in at least 26 games.

So far, Lewis has had the best career, logging 122 tackles, an interception, four fumble recoveries and a sack of former Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor while playing in 40 games.

"I am glad that I attend Ohio U.," Lewis said. "I wouldn't change it for anything in this world.

"When I look back at when I left high school, I didn't know how it would go, being away from home and all my friends and family, but when it is all said and done, I am truly grateful that Coach Solich and his staff gave me the opportunity to play at Ohio University."

Lewis has also thought about what he would have done if he was at Penn State instead of Ohio.

"I probably would have left PSU [following the scandal]," Lewis said. "But I felt bad for Joe Paterno, because he wasn't around to tell his side of the story."

Huynh is a defensive lineman who has accumulated 73 tackles, a sack, a forced fumble and recovered a fumble in 37 games. McGrath has been in and out of the starting unit on the offensive line and has played in 26 games.

Futrell didn't catch his first collegiate pass until last year, hauling in six for 90 yards, but figures to see much more time this season after the graduation of several wideouts on last year's 10-4 squad.

"As a football team, we have accomplished more than ever in our school's history, and we hope to continue that legacy going into this year," Futrell said. "We hope to put ourselves in a position to win a conference championship, the one thing that has eluded us the past few years."

The Bobcats qualified for the MAC title game a year ago but fell to Northern Illinois, 23-20. Ohio rebounded to win its first-ever bowl game with a triumph over Utah State in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.

Quarterback Tyler Tettleton was a big part of that, throwing for 3,302 yards, rushing for 658 more and accounting for 38 touchdowns (28 passing, 10 rushing).

"I believe we will accomplish big things this year," Lewis said. "We just have to take one game at a time."

For Ohio, that first game happens to be Penn State.

"It's an honor to be able to start out our season against Penn State in front of many of our hometown friends and family," Futrell said. "The atmosphere is going to be electric as it always has been with over 100,000 screaming fans.

"It will be a challenge for our team, and we must remain mentally strong and focused in order to overcome the emotions Penn State will be riding Saturday."

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