When Todd Koenig left Nanty Glo to play football at Ohio University, he didn’t expect to be in the national spotlight.

After all, the Bobcats have had only two winning seasons in the past two decades and have not won a conference championship since 1968.

But that was before the Bobcats “Got Frank.”

That’s the school’s marketing campaign, which is centered around Frank Solich. The former Nebraska coach, who was born in Johnstown and lived Robindale, Indiana County, before moving to Cleveland as a teenager, has renewed hope at the Mid-American Conference school.

Solich and Koenig will look to begin the school’s turnaround tonight when they host Pitt in a nationally televised game on ESPN2.

“It’s crazy,” Koenig said of the atmosphere in Athens, Ohio, on Thursday. “It’s a lot more excitement than normal. It’s the first time that ESPN has ever been here. I think it’s going to be packed.”

It might be the first time that the cable giant has been to Athens, but it certainly will not be the last. The Bobcats’ final two home games – against Toledo on Nov. 4 and Miami (Ohio) on Nov. 21 – are also scheduled to be televised nationally. The Toledo game will be on ESPN2, while the Monday night matchup with Miami will be on ESPNU. The Miami game will be the fourth time Ohio appears on ESPNU, a station dedicated to college sports that is not available on Atlantic Broadband but can be seen by some Adelphia subscribers.

“He’s helping us to get our name out there nationally, to get us publicity,” Koenig said of Solich. “I knew coming in that he was a fantastic coach and a great person to be around. When you’re that kind of coach, you’ll attract other people.”

Tonight’s game is attracting plenty of attention in the Laurel Highlands Athletic Conference, as Koenig could go up against Pitt’s LaRod Stephens-Howling, a Greater Johnstown graduate.

The Tribune-Democrat’s defensive player of the year in 2003, Koenig has stepped into a starting role as a sophomore safety at Ohio. He made eight tackles – including five solo stops – in last week’s 38-14 loss at Northwestern.

Stephens-Howling, a freshman running back and two-time T-D offensive player of the year, carried two times for 17 yards in Pitt’s 42-21 loss to Notre Dame.

“I think it’s great to be able to play against someone that you actually know and is from your area,” Koenig said. “I hope he’s on the field and I get to play against him.”

Koenig expected to redshirt last season, but injuries forced him into the lineup.

The 6-foot-2, 208-pound Koenig will start at strong safety tonight after starting at the free safety spot last week.

“He’s doing real well,” Solich said of Koenig prior to the Northwestern game. “We’ve been real pleased with Todd. Right now, he’s able to play either safety spot. We have three players that have come on and will get playing time. Todd is one of those guys. He’s a guy that runs well, has excellent strength and good size.”

Tony Ward will start opposite Koenig, and Mike Brown will join the safety rotation.

“I know both positions and wherever I can help the team, that’s where I start,” Koenig said. “That’s up to the coaches. A lot has to do with injuries and the team that we’re going against.”

The Ohio defense, which gave up 550 yards of offense to Northwestern, should have its hands full again with Pitt quarterback Tyler Palko and wide receiver Greg Lee.

“You have to be aware and know what they are going to run,” said Koenig who grew up rooting for both Pitt and Penn State.

“It’s great to go against the big hometown school,” he said. “It’s a great opportunity to go against your best and see what happens.”

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