Here’s a look at highlights of Ohio senior tailback Donte’ Harden, a fifth-year senior out of Strong Vincent High School in Erie, Pa., who will play in tonight’s Mid-American Conference title game against Northern Illinois (9-3) at Ford Field in Detroit.
Leading the Bobcats (9-3) in rushing with 866 yards, Harden has four total touchdowns. Check out his 81-yard touchdown run against Temple.
Pregame rant: Doesn’t get any better than this. 1 vs. 2. The winner will put itself in great position to play in the BCS title game, but because both teams are in the SEC West, the loser may wind up in the title game, too, if it doesn’t lose again. Alabama has the smash-mouth style and home crowd to beat LSU, but the Tigers have the look a national championship team. Who to watch: Tailback Trent Richardson of Alabama. So strong. So tough. Tigers better buckle up their chinstraps. Tightly.
Postgame commentary: The Tigers were pushed to the brink, but pulled out an overtime win, 9-6. It wasn’t the game of the century, but it was a great defensive battle. Although Richardson had 89 yards rushing and 80 yards receiving, LSU kept him out the end zone. The Tigers got it done.
Pregame rant: Got two future NFL quarterbacks – Stanford’s Andrew Luck and USC’s Matt Barkley – going head to head. USC is coming off a big win at Notre Dame. The Trojans are at home. Hard to sleep on this one, but Luck is so so good that he’ll make it look too easy against the Trojans. USC has got some talent, but Luck will show how good he really is.
Postgame commentary: Luck needed three overtimes to push Stanford past USC, 56-48. He was 29-of-40 for 330 yards, three touchdowns, but being able to shake off a fourth-quarter interception USC returned for a score to take a 34-27 lead and lead the Cardinal to game-tying touchdown drive to force overtime shows why he’ll be the top pick in the 2012 NFL Draft.
“We’re counting on Donte to step up this season since he’s been seeing action since his freshman season,” Tim Albin, assistant head coach and offensive coordinator, said after a practice last week.“We’re looking for him to be an every-down type of back and stay in the ball game. He had a good summer and he’s as strong as ever, if not stronger.”
Harden, a redshirt senior, looked like a star in the making in 2008, when he started three games and rushed for 454 yards in seven games before going down with an injury — a concern that has plagued him ever since. As a junior in 2010, he rushed for 244 yards and stood out with 473 kick-return yards in seven games. He also picked up 25 yards on six carries in the Bobcats’ 48-21 loss to Troy in the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl.
“There’s not too much pressure,” Harden said recently. “I just have to do what I’m supposed to do on a daily basis. I just have to come out here and keep trying, day after day, to improve. I’m eager for the season to start just because I know we have a team capable of achieving great things this season.”
Ohio opens Sept. 3 at New Mexico State. The Bobcats also play in Buffalo Oct. 8. Games against Marshall Sept. 17 and Rutgers Sept. 24 will be broadcast at www.espn3.com. Sports Time Ohio will broadcast the Oct. 15 homecoming game against Ball State and Oct. 22 game against Akron. The final four games of the regular season — Nov. 2 vs. Temple, Nov. 10 at Central Michigan, Nov. 16 at Bowling Green and Nov. 22 vs. MAC East favorite Miami (Ohio) — will be televised on one of the ESPN channels.
Here’s a gallery of photos of Harden’s Ohio career. And to follow Harden and the Bobcats through training camp, check out “Relentless: An Inside Look at Ohio Football” on STO and www.ohiobobcats.com. Here’s the debut episode: