Oregon native Eric Herman and his Ohio University football teammates were confident they were going to make history on Sept. 1 when they traveled to State College, Pa., to take on Penn State in the season opener for both teams.
The veteran Bobcats, 10-game winners last year, were picked to win this year’s Mid-American Conference title and weren’t about to be intimidated by Penn State at Beaver Stadium.
“We stayed focused and wanted to play the way we play,” said Herman, a member of Central Catholic’s Division II state championship team in 2005. “We were going to play hard and play fast. We knew if we played that way, we’d see good things happen on the field.”
|Eric Herman, the oregon native and Central Catholic High
School graduate who is a fifth year senior guard at Ohio
University celebrates after the Bobcats beat Penn State in
the season opener.(Photo courtesy of Ohio University)
The Nittany Lions were playing their first game in nearly five decades without the late Joe Paterno, the legendary coach who was fired during the Jerry Sandusky scandal. Ohio U. had the opportunity to be the first team to beat the Nittany Lions in the post-Paterno era.
“As far as the controversy and what was going on, we had a team meeting and we weren’t going to talk about the situations that were happening,” Herman said. “We thought about it, but we tried to keep that to the side. We knew that, yes, they are in a horrible position and they’re going to come after us even more than they would normally.”
After falling behind 14-3 in the first half, the Bobcats outscored Penn State 21-0 in the second half en route to a 24-14 victory.
Herman, a 6-foot-5, 315-pound right guard who is a fifth-year senior at OU, said beating a Big Ten team in its own stadium was “electric.”
“It was eerie,” he said. “It was so quiet — 100,000 people. I really didn’t have a hard time with the crowd noise and all that stuff. I’ve been in those situations in the past. I’ve played at OSU and Tennessee, and it’s incredibly loud at Marshall. We always practice with crowd noise if we’re going to be in a bigger venue.”
Herman, 22, whose sister, Ellen, is a former prep All-Ohio and All-MAC volleyball player – she also starred at Central Catholic and Ohio U. – said losing to Penn State never crossed the minds of the OU players.
“Playing against their defensive linemen, everyone thinks Big Ten players are giants and they’re unstoppable,” Herman said. “They’re players just like us. That’s what our players had to see in the first half. We had to figure out that, yes, we can score on these guys. We knew if we played hard and stuck to our assignments, we could get it done.”
Herman was redshirted his freshman year at OU and became a starter in 2009. He earned second-team All-MAC honors last year and was named to the Lombardi Award Watch List this season.
He said Ohio University, located in Athens, turned out to be the perfect fit for him.
“I love the coaching staff here,” he said. “The atmosphere in Athens is awesome. You drive five minutes and you’re out in the middle of nowhere, and I like that. It’s a really good atmosphere to be in.”
After the win over Penn State, OU garnered several votes in the Associated Press poll. Herman said seeing his school in the “others receiving votes” list at the bottom of the poll was a rush.
“When I came here I wanted to be a part of a growing program and see what’s going to happen if we play well,” he said. “Seeing people pay attention to us is awesome. It’s huge.”
Herman, an engineering, technology and management major, said he is thankful for his career as a Bobcat. He made his 41st consecutive start when OU (2-0) traveled to Marshall Saturday.
“Continuing to play and competing has kept me going,” Herman said. “My dad (Chris) and my family gave me that competitive mindset. It is a blessing. I’ve worked really hard for where I am right now and I just want to reap the benefits, especially this season because we’re doing so well.”
Herman admitted that he hopes his playing career extends past this season.
“I definitely would love to play in the NFL,” he said. “My sister and I have this competition. She gets all-state, I get all-state. She gets All-MAC and I get All-MAC. She’s playing professional volleyball in Switzerland, and now I have to play pro ball. I really, really want to play. I love this game and would love to make a career out of it.”