Football: Ohio's defense carries team as offense stalls throughout the game

 

Ohio’s Tarell Basham celebrates after recovering a fumble during a game against Miami at Yager Stadium in Oxford on Oct. 1. (FILE)

For the first time during the season, Ohio quarterback Greg Windham didn’t look comfortable in the pocket.

He was sacked three times in the first half of Saturday’s game against Miami, and again in the second half. Ohio had only two sacks in the season going into Saturday.

Despite Windham and Ohio’s inconsistency on offense, the Bobcats’ defense produced. Ohio (3-2, 1-0 Mid-American Conference) defeated Miami (0-5, 0-1 MAC) 17-7 in Oxford to get the Bobcats first win in the MAC this season.

“It seems like whenever one side of the ball isn’t getting it done, the other side kind of picks up the slack a little bit and produces,” coach Frank Solich said after the game. “What we need to do is get both sides of the ball really hitting on all cylinders.”

The defense masked the offense’s inconsistencies for the entire game, sealing the game with a single play.

After linebacker Blair Brown sacked Miami quarterback Noah Wezensky, defensive lineman Kevin Robbins recovered a fumble for a touchdown with just over a minute to play to seal the win.

Ohio’s defense forced three turnovers in the first half, as safeties Javon Hagan and Toran Davis picked up interceptions, along with Tarell Basham’s recovered fumble after a sack by linebacker Chad Moore.

While the defense was able to make plays, the Bobcats still struggled on the other side of the ball.

The offense had redzone troubles again, only scoring one touchdown on four attempts. Windham ran for a nine-yard rushing touchdown in the second quarter to score Ohio’s first, and only offensive,  touchdown of the game.

Windham also threw a season-low 38 yards in the first half, and he threw a season-low 56 total yards in the game.

Part of that inconsistency on offense was because Windham was pressured in the pocket, as Miami forced an interception and four quarterback hurries.

“I think in general we did not have a good game offensively in terms of execution,” Solich said. “And when that happens to you, you’re going to struggle moving the ball, you’re going to struggle putting points on the board.”

With the lack of an effective passing game keeping the Bobcats from having a balanced offense, they had to look at a position that already lacked depth heading into this game: running back. Running backs A.J. Ouellette, Dorian Brown, Vinny Emanuele and Papi White were out with injuries.

Maleek Irons ran for a team-leading 60 yards, and Bo Hardy and Windham followed him with 50 and 31 yards, respectively.

Despite Ohio’s defense carrying the team, Miami’s offense scored a touchdown in the third quarter. The RedHawks received a large number of penalties, however, picking up nine for 89 yards.

In part, the Ohio defense was saved in the second half because of Miami committing penalties. The secondary had trouble defending passes to the sideline and over the middle.

But with Ohio starting conference play with a win – a hard-fought win at that – it is trying to focus on what it did well in order to get the win.

Ohio has won 10 of its last 11 games against Miami, including the last four matchups. With the Bobcats appearing in six bowl games the past seven seasons, they know they’re capable of being a formidable team in the MAC.

“Our guys I think believe in themselves and we’ve been able to be a team that goes to bowl games and gets on the winning side of the ledger,” Solich said. “That’s critical in terms of having confidence going into a rivalry game.

 

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