The end result wasn’t what he wanted, and there was one play in particular he was hanging his head about, but De’Montre Tuggle embraced the good and the bad during Ohio’s season opener last Wednesday at Mount Pleasant, Mich.
He was playing football again, after all.
“It meant everything,” said Tuggle, Ohio’s senior running back, after the Bobcats dropped a 30-27 decision at Central Michigan. “It felt like my first time playing again.
“I was enjoying every minute of it.”
In a season delayed more than two months because of the complications surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, Tuggle – like the rest of the Bobcats – wasn’t sure he’d have any football at all in 2020. So he’s thankful for the opportunity.
And Ohio head coach Frank Solich is thankful his program brought in the junior college transfer a year ago. Tuggle, from Channelview, Texas, has been an accomplished touchdown-maker in his tenure as a Bobcat.
In 13 career games at Ohio, Tuggle has scored 14 touchdowns.
“I knew De’Montre had great running ability. You can tell that from last year,” Solich said. “If you are a football fan, you can tell it. If you are a football coach, you absolutely know it.
“He’s got some specialness about him.”
That was evident in the opener. Tuggle rushed for a team-high 79 yards, and became the first Bobcat in the modern era – dating back at least 60 seasons – to rush for a touchdown and score a touchdown on a kick-off return in the same game.
Tuggle’s weaving, darting 93-yard kick-off return score opened the second half and gave Ohio a 27-20 lead. It was the play that led to him being named the MAC East Special Teams Player of the Week on Monday by the conference office. It was his first such honorific.
“Great blocks that’s pretty much all I can say. Those guys they make my job look easy,” Tuggle said.
Tuggle finished with a game-high 239 all-purpose yards thanks to a career-high 160 yards on three returns. It was the fifth time, again in just 13 games, where he twice found the end zone. Tuggle totaled 765 yards from scrimmage, with 12 total touchdowns, in 2019.
It was a great start, marred only by the loss and Tuggle’s lost fumble in the third quarter. Like the team, Tuggle gave a glimpse of what’s possible this season and believes the best is yet to come.
“We had a lot of penalties for one … and turnovers. My turnover, of course, was pretty critical,” he said. “Those are two things that can easily be fixed.
“Still really confident in this team, these guys,” Tuggle continued. “They’re some fighters.”
Ohio (0-1) has to rebound quickly. Akron (0-1) comes to Peden Stadium for a 7 p.m. kick-off on Tuesday (Nov. 10) night. It’s the first of five straight games – the last give games of the regular season – against MAC East Division foes.