By JUSTIN HOLBROCK
The kryptonite for the Ohio Bobcats’ defense all season long has been stopping opponents in the first half, but this was not the case on Wednesday night’s showdown with Buffalo (3-6, 1-4 MAC) as Ohio rolled the Bulls, 37-14.
Ohio (5-5, 3-3 MAC) shut out the Bulls offense in the first half, marking the first time it has accomplished this feat since defeating Austin Peay 38-0 back on Sept. 21, 2013. Things would only get better from there for the ‘Cats defense, which held Buffalo to just 134 yards of total offense.
“We just felt like we had a better defense and a better line and just went out there and proved it,” cornerback Ian Wells said.
After handling Ohio 30-3 last year, the tables were turned on the Bulls. who remain winless on the road. Ohio, meanwhile, improves its home record to an impressive 4-1.
Wednesday night’s win also moves Ohio to a .500 record on the year, and it is now just one win away from being bowl eligible for the sixth straight year.
“I feel like we came together and realized what’s at stake,” Wells said. “We just want to keep it [Ohio’s five-game bowl streak] going, and tonight was a good start.”
A major reason for the lopsided MAC East game was the difference in these teams’ rushing attacks.
Ohio picked up 233 yards on the ground behind a strong outing by true freshman A.J. Ouellette. Despite dealing with a nagging high ankle sprain all week -- and really all season -- Ouellette rushed for 155 yards and two touchdowns, both in the first half.
“I thought A.J. came back and played really well. He is not 100 percent,” Solich said. “I thought he had an excellent game for being a guy that had limited practice this past week.”
Compare Ouellette’s performance to the Bulls, who had a dismal day on the ground,
and it’s not hard to see why the ‘Cats picked up their largest margin of victory this season. Ohio held UB to a season-low 28 yards on 25 carries. It’s the fifth time this season that OU has held an opponent to under 150 yards rushing, which places the Bobcats inside the top three in the MAC in rushing defense.
Rain also played a factor in the game. Buffalo fumbled four times, including two on special teams.
The first came when Jacob Martinez’ muffed punt was recovered by Ohio’s Brett Layton as the Bulls’ 22-yard line. Ohio capitalized four plays later with a two-yard touchdown run by Ouellette, putting the ‘Cats up 10-0 with just over six minutes left in the first quarter.
Buffalo’s next two turnovers came on back-to-back plays for the Bulls, which translated into another 10 points for Ohio.
When all was said and done, Buffalo’s four turnovers resulted in 20 points for the Bobcats, who have now forced at least three turnovers a game in their last three games.
However, turnovers were also problematic for Ohio, which lost two fumbles on the night. One was a fumble by senior Tim Edmond. That was returned 75 yards by Boise Ross for a touchdown with just over a minute remaining in the game, but by then it was too little, too late for the Bulls.
A big area of improvement for Ohio was its pass defense, which ranked a lowly 11th in the MAC before this game.
After giving up nearly 300 yards passing a game, all signs pointed toward a big night for Buffalo quarterback Joe Licata. The junior came in averaging 265 yards a game, third best in the conference. Licata, however, threw for just 74 yards on nine completions with one interception.
Buffalo returns home next week for a Tuesday night bout against the Akron Zips (4-5, 2-3 MAC). Ohio enters a bye week before hosting Northern Illinois (7-2, 4-1 MAC) on Nov. 18.