BY MIKE SMITH
OXFORD, OH – If the Ohio Bobcats end up in a bowl game this year, more than a few thanks need to go to a defense that provided a” permission slip” through its work Tuesday night at Yager Stadium .
Few might have been singing defensive accolades early as rival Miami rang up 21 unanswered points – albeit one TD off a pick-six – to take a big first half lead. But the Bobcats (6-6, 4-4) got a big special teams play before intermission and the defense pitched a second half shutout as the visitors pulled out a 27-24 victory on Josiah Yazdani’s 28-yard field goal as time expired.
It was a second chance for Yazdani, who hooked a potential game-winning 42-yard attempt wide left with 1:47 left.
The miss gave Miami (2-10, 2-6 MAC) another chance to close its season with Battle of the Bricks win over rival Ohio. It was 75 yards to the OU goal line, but junior placekicker Kaleb Patterson owned a long of 52 yards. Given the cold weather, the farther inside that distance, the better.
Both picks were key plays. His second halted an Ohio third quarter drive at the Miami goal line. Rollins took the first back 27 yards for a touchdown, reading blocks and cutting back all the way across the field for a score that put MU up 14-0 with 10:42 left in the second period.
J’Terius Jones’ sack on third down forced a three and out on Ohio’s next drive, and the MU offense started moving again. Hendrix rushed three times and threw four completions in an eight-play drive that covered 78 yards. His 13-yard toss to David Frazier and Patterson’s PAT left Miami in front, 21-0.
Ohio needed to either stem the tide or start a tide of its own. It did a little of both.
The Bobcats got a little momentum of their own on the RedHawks kickoff. Kylan Nelson returned the boot 84 yards for a touchdown with 4:29 remaining until intermission.
Ohio also made some defensive adjustments, and suddenly the RedHawks offense bogged down. No Miami drive for the remainder of the evening covered more than 30 yards and no MU possession started outside the RedHawks 26-yard line.
Over its last eight possessions, Miami registered six punts, one fumble and an interception. The fumble proved particularly damaging.
A Hendrix pass which would have given Miami another set of downs and moved the RedHawks deeper into Ohio territory was dropped. Two incompletions followed, and Miami’s subsequent punt went into the end zone for a touchback.
Ohio took over at its own 20 with 1:08 left. Junior quarterback Darrius Vick, who split time at the helm with J.D. Sprague, came up big in the winning drive. After rushing for six and seven yards on the first two plays, he found Chas Cockran for 18 yards to the Miami 49. Vick then followed that with a 38-yard completion to Brendan Cope down the left side.
While he was two yards short of the end zone, Cope was close enough to give OU what amounted to an extra point kick with two seconds remaining. Yazdani’s kick was high and true this time, sending Ohio into celebration mode.
Miami scored all 21 of its points in the first half, while Ohio scored 17 of its 24 after intermission.
It looked relatively easy for the RedHawks early s they covered 73 yards on 11 plays to score on their first possession. Hendrix finished that trip by running through a gigantic hole up the middle.
With momentum on its side, Ohio turned up the pressure. The Bobcats defense was now swarming, and it nearly registered a safety on Miami’s final drive of the third quarter. Hendrix was sacked on the first play, with the loss of eight yards leaving MU at its own two. A false start penalty moved it to the one. It was still third and 19 when Hendricks – again under intense pressure – lofted a long pass that was intercepted by Brett Layton in front of the Miami bench.
Starting at the MU 41, Ohio used nine plays to score the tying touchdown on a Vick-to-Jordan five-yard pass with 11:28 remaining in the game. Neither team could put points on the board after that until Yazdani hit the game winner as time expired.
Ohio totaled 353 yards of total offense, with a nearly even balance of 179 rushing yards (40 carries) and 174 passing yards (26 attempts).
Hendrix completed 15-of-38 for 218 yards with one TD and one interception on the night. He was sacked four times but netted 70 of MU’s 99 yards on the ground. Frazier had 5 catches for 48 yards, while Jared Murphy picked up 91 yards on four receptions.
Tony Reid and Heath Harding each had 10 tackles to lead the MU defense. Rollins (2) and Reid (1) registered INTs.
Vick, who was replaced after throwing his pick-six interception to Rollins, finished the night on a high note, completing several key passes in the game-winning drive. Overall, he was 10-of-18 for 121 yards with one interception and two TDs. He was sacked twice. J.D. Sprague completed 4-of-8 for 52 yards and two interceptions.
Ouelette and Vick both carried 18 times for the ‘Cats. The former picked up 96 yards on the ground and led the team in receptions with five for 31 yards with one TD. Vick netted 61 yards rushing.
Ian Wells led Ohio with six tackles, while Layton had five solo tackles and an interception.