KENT, OHIO – Junior Josiah Yazdani kicked a 44-yard field goal as time expired to lift the Ohio University Bobcats to a 17-14 victory over the Kent State Golden Flashes Saturday evening in the Mid-American Conference opener for both school before a near sellout crowd of 22,754 at Dix Stadium.
“We made it difficult (on ourselves).” Bobcats head coach Frank Solich said after the game. “They showed today they were extremely resilient. I could not be more proud of them.”
“It was a tough loss.” Flashes head coach Paul Haynes said afterward Saturday’s setback. “I love the fight in this team. We kept fighting back but just came up short.”
On a warm, humid evening, the first score came from the visitors from Athens. Ohio took over following a KSU punt to the 12. Five plays later, junior quarterback Derrius Vick found senior wide receiver Landon Smith over the middle from 23 yards out and a 7-0 Ohio lead. The key play in the drive was a 59-yard deep pass by Vick to redshirt freshman WR Brandon Cope.
Following the kickoff, Kent State’s offense answered with an eight-play scoring drive to tie the score 7-7 as sophomore quarterback Colin Reardon connected with junior WR Josh Boyle, who beat single coverage by the Bobcats defense from eight yards out.
As the game moved into the second period, a battle of punts and field position ensued. The Bobcats then took the lead as Vick, who was making his first collegiate start after replacing Tyler Tettleton, put together a 12-play, 78 yard drive that culminated with his second touchdown pass of the game. Vick again hit Landon Smith from five yards out in the back of the end zone, making the score 14-7
Vick finished the evening completing 18-of-24 passes for 262 yards and the two scores to Landon Smith, who had seven receptions for 71 yards.
When asked about Vick’s performance, Solich said “He threw the ball well. He kept drives alive and also ran well at times. He executed the option (play) well and, honestly, did a great job of executing our offense tonight.”
The key to the touchdown was a penalty – two players with the same number on the field--called on KSU during a Bobcat punt. That penalty resulted in an Ohio first down, which kept the drive alive and led to the go-ahead score and a seven point lead the ‘Cats would take into intermission.
When asked about the penalty, Haynes said “You can’t beat yourself and penalties kill you. This one was my fault, and I have to make sure that does not happen again.”
At the beginning of the third quarter, the Golden Flashes defense caused the game’s first turnover when fifth year senior LB Nate Vance jarred the ball loose from senior RB Tim Edmond and recovered the ball at the Ohio 34 yard line.
Reardon and the offense moved the ball to the ‘Cats three, where they faced a fourth and goal. Haynes decided to go for the field goal, bringing on junior K Anthony Melchiori. However, he missed from 20-yards out.
Following the errant field goal attempt, Vick and the Ohio offense moved the football from their own 20 to the KSU 27. Sophomore Nick Holley forced junior RB Daz Patterson to fumble and junior NT Nate Terhune recovered at the KSU 25. However the Flashes could not turn it into points.
“The defense gave up three opportunities and we shot ourselves in the foot.” Reardon said.
Even with the pair of fumbles, Ohio still held its seven point lead as the fourth quarter began. The ‘Cats then coughed up the football, which was recovered by Holley on the KSU 26. Yet again, the ‘Cats defense rose up and denied the Flashes any points.
On Ohio’s next possession, the fourth fumble occurred when Holley extracted the ball from redshirt freshman RB Dorian Brown while heading up the middle. Sophomore CB Najee Murray recovered at the KSU 22.
“They (KSU) did not stop us. We stopped ourselves with the fumbles.” Solich said.
This time, the Flashes offense took advantage of the fumble, turning it into a touchdown to tie the game, 14-14. Reardon engineered an 11-play, 78-yard drive using a short passing game and his running backs. The two big plays of the drive were passes to senior WR Chris Humphrey.
The first was a 23-yard reception down the left sideline for a first down. The second was the touchdown as he ran down the right sideline, beat his defender and sprinted 25 yards to tie the game.
Humphrey, who was KSU’s leading receiver a season ago, had six catches for 91 yards and the score while Reardon finished the contest completing 30-of-41 throws for 264 yards and two scores.
If there was one negative about the touchdown by the Flashes, it was that there was still 3:34 remaining in regulation time.
After the kickoff, Ohio took possession on its own 25 and Vick went right to work hitting Smith for a 13-yard completion. The man of the moment in the drive was freshman RB A.J. Ouelette, who carried the ball on six of the next seven plays to gain 28 yards. His biggest run was a 13-yard blast up the middle that moved the ball into KSU territory.
Running the football also ran down the clock. With just three seconds remaining, both teams called time outs. Nothing phased the sophomore as he split the uprights on the final play of the game to give the Bobcats their first win in Kent since 2008.
“A 44 yard field goal is no chip shot.” Solich said. “However, we have an all-MAC kicker (in Yazdani). We have a great deal of confidence in him and he has a lot of confidence in himself. I knew we would win the game.”
Next week, KSU remains home to face South Alabama out of the Sun Belt Conference while Ohio plays meets Kentucky in the second of three straight road games to begin the season.