AKRON, OHIO – The Ohio University Bobcats scored two first half touchdowns and then made it stand up -- barely -- in defeating the Akron Zips 14-12 on a rainy, chilly homecoming Saturday at InfoCision Stadium.
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“It was not going to be an easy game to begin with.” head coach Frank Solich said. “Akron is a good football team. It was a hard fought game and the win was huge.”
Akron (2-1, 0-1 MAC) saw its two-game winning streak come to an end after failing to reach the end zone for the second time this season. The Zips were held to just three points in their opening game loss at nationally ranked Oklahoma.
“I told our players after the game how proud I was of them and the way they fought today.” Zips head coach Terry Bowden said. “I told them to keep their heads up. If we play like we did today defensively, we can win a lot of football games.”
On a rain-chlled afternoon, the name of the game was defense.
After holding the Cats three-and-out on the game’s first possession, sophomore quarterback Thomas Woodson moved the Zips offense from their own 30-yard line to the Ohio 18. The drive stalled there after a delay of game and then a five-yard loss on a running play.
Senior PK Robert Stein came on and kicked a 40-yard field goal to give UA a 3-0 lead. For Stein, it was a confidence booster as he came into the contest just two-of-five on field goals so far this season.
The Bobcat offense, led by fifth year senior QB Derrius Vick, found its legs after the field goal. Ohio marched 70 yards in eight plays, capping the drive with a 24-yard touchdown pass. Senior TE Keith Heitzman was all alone on the right sideline and walked into the end zone to give Ohio a 7-3 advantage.
Key plays on the drive were a pair of Vick completions -- one each to redshirt freshman RB Papi White sophomore WR Brendan Cope -- along with a 14 yard run by sophomore RB AJ Ouellette. It was the longest run by Ohio the entire game.
Later, after the Cats defense forced a three-and out, Vick and the Bobcats used 11 plays to reach the Zips end zone for a second time. Senior RB Daz’Mond Patterson carried the ball off left guard four yards for the score and a 14-3 lead.
There would be no further scoring until the end of the half when the Zips got the ball on the Ohio 46 yard line after a short punt. Woodson and the offense reached the Bobcat 22 in the final minute of the half. He passed into the end zone twice, but both were incomplete as the first was overthrown -- intended for junior WR Tyrell Goodman. The second was a fade to the right side for senior WR Andrew Pratt, who caught the ball out of bounds.
With time on the wain, Stein came on and made his second field goal. This one was a 33-yarder, and the teams went into halftime with the Bobcats holding a 14-6 lead.
At the start of the third quarter, it appeared the 'Cats would add to their lead.
UA got the ball to begin the third quarter, on the sixth play of the drive, Woodson was intercepted by fifth year senior linebacker Quentin Poling, his first of the season, and he returned the ball to the UA 26.
When asked about the defensive effort on the afternoon, Poling said “I am happy with the defense’s effort… Any day you don’t let them (the opposition) into the end zone, it’s a great day for the Bobcats.” It was also a pretty good day for Poling who had 11 total tackles (eight solo), with a sack and an interception.
When the 'Cats offense came onto the field, it was redshirt junior Greg Windham at quarterback and not Vick. Windham moved the ball to the Zips 16, where the Zips defense came up with the big play. Junior CB DeAndre Scott intercepted a pass in the end zone for his team-high fourth of the season.
The home team could not convert the turnover into points. However after forcing a Bobcats punt, Akron gain possession, albeit on its own nine yard line.
Woodson and the offense moved down the field thanks to the running of senior RB Conor Hundley and three Woodson completions. The last was a 19-yarder to junior Michael Means Jr., moving the ball to the Ohio 19.
From there, the Ohio defense stiffened, and the Zips drew a offensive holding penalty, pushed the ball back to the 24. Stein came on and made hs longest field goal of the game, a 41-yarder making the score 14-12.
The fourth quarter started as a battle of punts and field position until UA got the ball at midfield with 7:11 remaining, Woodson had two big completions on the drive. The biggest was a 22-yarder to senior WR Imani Davis that got the ball to the Cats 14. Woodson, given the conditions, moved the offense well, completing 18-of-38 passes for 231 yards.
However, for the fourth time in the game, when the Zips got into the red zone, the Ohio defense denied Akron entry to the end zone. Stein came on for his fourth three-pointer, this a 30-yarder, to make the score 14-12. The four field goals were a career high for Stein, who kicked three in his freshman year during a narrow loss at Tennessee.
“Give Ohio credit. They did the things they had to do to win the football game.” Bowden said. “Our offense had some great drives. We just could not get the ball into the end zone.”
The Zips defense forced a three and out, getting the ball on their own 27 yard line with 2:17 remaining. Ohio, however, rose to the occasion with a pair of big plays. The first was a sack of eight yards by Poling. Then on fourth down at the UA 33, fifth year senior CB Ian Wells broke up a pass that would have been a first down. That gave the ball back to Ohio's offense with 1:09 remaining and the visitors soon left with a win.
Statisically, the game belonged to the Zips as they outgained Ohio 319-227, the UA defense held the 'Cats rushing attack to just 98 yards. However, OU was 7-of-15 on third down while holding UA to 5-of-17.