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Ohio Defense Shines In 43-3 Win Over Akron

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The Ohio Bobcats entered Saturday’s matchup knowing they needed to play a complete game to hold off an upstart Akron Zips squad. But what the ‘Cats (4-1, 1-0 Mid-American Conference) did much more than that, pummeling the Zips (1-5, 0-2 MAC) 43-3 in their MAC season opener.

From early on Ohio was outplaying the Zips in almost every facet. Akron seemed to be outclassed as it struggled to maintain composure and prevent mental mistakes. Ohio leapt out to an early 2-0 lead when the Zips fumbled a punt return, recovering it in their own endzone.

“We just kind of got them down, and then just kept on pounding,” Ohio head coach Frank Solich said in the post-game press conference.

 The Roos briefly gained a 3-2 lead midway through the first quarter on a 31-yard field goal from kicker Robert Stein as the ‘Cats’ offense took some time to get going. But once the Ohio offense hit its groove, it was all downhill from there for the Zips as the Bobcats played with a level on intensity they hadn’t shown before Saturday.

 “The first part of that game was really frustrating, especially from the offensive side of it. We made some crucial mistakes,” Solich said. “But I think as the game went on, we settled in and played much, much better and played the type of football we think we’re capable of playing.”

Ohio started off sloppy. The offense struggled to put anything together, punting on its first three possessions. But by the end of the first quarter, with the patchwork offensive line providing the ‘Cats with plenty of forward momentum up front, the offense hit the ground running, recapturing the lead and the defense turned out a performance for the Ohio record books.  

Tyler Tettleton hooked up with Donte Foster on a 13-yard touchdown at the end of the first quarter, putting Ohio up 9-3. Midway through the second quarter he marched the team down the field again, this time on a nine-play, 87-yard drive, ending it on a 1-yard touchdown pass to tight end Tory Mangen and increasing Ohio’s lead to 16-3. The senior signal caller finished the game 9-for-21 with 171 yards, a pair of touchdowns and an interception.

Playing from behind, Akron got chippy. The offense struggled with an inspired ‘Cats defense, and the team as a whole began venting their frustration to the tune of 12 penalties for 135 yards.

But the biggest frustration for the Zips was the smothering play of an Ohio defense that turned out its best performance since September of 2011. The ‘Cats held Akron to just 157 yards of total offense, and three points, two weeks after recording their first shutout since 2004. Akron’s offensive line could not keep the Ohio pass rush at bay as the Bobcats sacked Kyle Pohl eight times. With little time to think, and a constant threat of the ‘Cats defensive line in his face, Pohl was unable to make anything happen, and made two key turnovers in the game.

“We’ve had a pretty young defensive line…I thought they did a great job in there today obviously. Against a team that has shown to protect the ball very well,” Solich said.

He threw an interception to Ohio safety Thad Ingol midway through the second quarter, giving the Bobcats the ball at the Akron 13. Six plays later Ryan Boykin scampered into the endzone on a 1-yard touchdown run increasing their lead to 23-3. On the following drive Ohio safety Josh Kristoff hit Pohl in the backfield, forcing the quarterback to cough up the ball. Ingol was ready to pounce, scooping up the fumble and returning it 18 yards for a touchdown and putting Ohio up 30-3 on the final score of the half.

Not to be outdone by the defense, the ‘Cats offense also put up a solid performance, totaling all but seven of the team’s 43 points, and racking up 362 yards of total offense. Ohio’s offensive line, which has been a question mark for much of the season, turned out a stellar performance against an Akron defensive line that entered the game as one of the nation’s best core of pass rushers. Tettleton was only sacked once on the day.

The ‘Cats return to action next week at home, as they welcome the Central Michigan Chippewas (2-4, 1-1 MAC) to Athens for a 2 p.m. kickoff.