Football: Ohio sneaks by Kent State for a 14-10 MAC East win

 

Quarterback Quinton Maxwell shouts to his teammates before a play against Kent State on Saturday. (File)

Heading into its game against Kent State (2-6, 1-3 Mid-American Conference), Ohio (5-3, MAC) had mediocre quarterback play. Greg Windham, who started the team’s first seven games, couldn’t lead the offense.

That was still the case on Saturday, with redshirt freshman quarterback Quinton Maxwell getting his first career start. Ohio defeated Kent State 14-10 on Saturday.

Maxwell was in a game-managing role, handing the ball off to running backs Dorian Brown or Maleek Irons on most plays.

Maxwell wasn’t underwhelming in his first start, but he didn’t play like a seasoned redshirt senior, either. He threw an interception in the third quarter, forcing a throw against the Kent State secondary. He went 11-of-19, completing 57.9 percent of his passes for 127 yards.

“I obviously have a lot of areas to improve on, missed a lot of throws that I know I can make and that I made during the week,” Maxwell said.

If Windham couldn’t produce in the offense, and if Maxwell can’t do much better, then maybe Ohio has a larger problem on its hands.

Ohio’s offense has relied on its downhill rushing attack this season, using its quarterbacks to occasionally take a shot down field.

The offense is predictable, and defenses know the Bobcats are going to run on most plays.

“Offensively, I know we stalled out a lot in the second half,” coach Frank Solich said. “We should have been up 21 to nothing.”

Ohio ran for 208 yards, with running backs Dorian Brown and Maleek Irons leading the way. Brown and Irons rushed for 111 yards and 87 yards, respectively.

Brown scored Ohio’s first touchdown of the game in the first quarter, bursting through the Kent State defense for a 49-yard touchdown. Irons scored during a rush for a four-yard touchdown in the second quarter.

Though Ohio controlled the first half, Kent State’s offense caught fire in the second half. Its defense forced Irons to fumble near the end of the second quarter. Ohio was within goal to go, and it could have scored a third touchdown.

Kent State quarterback Nick Holley scrambled in and around the pocket throughout the game against the Ohio front seven, scoring a touchdown in the third quarter to score Kent State’s first touchdown.

“Our defense really I think grows up and did what they had to do to get us in position to win it at the end,” Solich said.

With Ohio’s offense faltering throughout the second half, its front seven couldn’t contain Holley’s scrambling abilities. Holley was much of Kent State’s offensive output, running for 159 yards and passing for 101 yards.

One defensive lineman compared Holley to Speedy Gonzales, saying he had Holley in his hands, but Holley managed to escape.

“He’s a very mobile guy, he can make a lot happen with his feet,” defensive lineman Tarell Basham said.

This was the second game in a row the Bobcats had difficulty defending a scrambling quarterback. Ohio allowed Eastern Michigan quarterback Brogan Roback to extend plays, as he passed for 347 yards and rushed for 21 yards.

As Kent State surged in the fourth, Ohio almost completely spiraled. Slot receiver Papi White muffed a punt, and Kent State recovered. The Ohio defense didn’t allow the Golden Flashes to score, which ultimately sealed the game for the Bobcats.

“It was a very physical, tough football game,” Solich said. “And you don’t win that game unless you’re a tough football team.”

Going forward, Ohio will need better execution overall. The defense has trouble defending athletic quarterbacks. And with Maxwell in at quarterback, the offense still didn’t significantly improve.

In the past four games, Ohio’s games have had a March Madness, survive and advance feel.

But if Ohio wants to be a premier team in the MAC East, it will need to be more conscious of its weaknesses.

 

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