Updated Sun, Sep 15, 2013 8:16 am
While many would argue whether the Miami RedHawks or the Marshall Thundering Herd are Ohio’s biggest rivals, not many are able to dispute that there is just something special about the Battle for the Bell. Ohio has owned The Bell for the past two years and the 2013 installment granted the Bobcats possession of the coveted bell once more as they defeated Marshall by a score of 34-31.
Ohio’s victory was mostly credited to its ability to take advantage of a plethora of Marshall miscues. The Bobcats forced four Marshall turnovers and cashed in on three of them for a combined 17 points. The game’s momentum swayed heavily in Ohio’s favor early in the first quarter with the defense’s ability to force two Steward Butler fumbles.
Butler also struggled on special teams, fumbling a kickoff and allowing Bobcat Torian Davis to fall on it in the end zone for a touchdown late in the first half.
Aside from the muffed kickoff, Ohio excelled on special teams throughout the game, pinning Marshall’s offense deep in its own territory for the majority of its possessions.
“We made them drive the length of the field and sometimes they did it,” Ohio head coach Frank Solich said. “But the whole thing came together at the end and we gave ourselves a chance to win.”
Quarterback Tyler Tettleton and the Bobcat offense picked up where they left off last week against North Texas and used an efficient passing game to burn the Herd for big gains. Tettleton was only 6-for-15 for 75 yards in the first half, but used quick slant routes to Donte Foster and Matt Waters in the second half to compile 191 yards on 19 completions.
“It came down to feeling more comfortable about what they were doing,” Tettleton said. “A lot of guys stepped up tonight.”
Tettleton also commented on the effectiveness of the slant route that helped the Bobcats pick up crucial third downs in the second half.
“We saw that they were playing a lot of outside leverage,” Tettleton said. “We felt like we could take advantage of it.”
While Tettleton played well, Solich once again deferred to quarterback Darius Vick in the second quarter to provide a change of pace in the game. On his single series in the game, Vick completed one pass for nine yards, reeled off a 37-yard run, and dropped a pooch punt at the end of the drive that pinned Marshall inside its own five-yard line.
“There’s a change-of-pace factor where you can utilize him,” Solich said. “He’s continuing to get better.”
Running back Beau Blankenship and the offensive line were unable to create much of a stable running game, but Blankenship recorded two short-yardage touchdowns to go along with his 36 yards for the game.
Marshall’s Rakeem Cato recorded his highest completion percentage of the season against the Bobcats at 68.2 percent, but a key interception late sealed the fate of the game, turning the ball over to the Bobcats. Cato finished with 366 yards and a touchdown through the air as well as 30 yards and a touchdown on the ground.
As Ohio took a knee to drain the final seconds off of the clock, the Bobcats stormed to the north end zone to claim The Bell for the third straight time. Until this win, the Bobcats had not beaten the Herd in three consecutive contests since the 1978, ‘79 and ‘80 seasons. Solich and his players continually referred back to what it meant to beat Marshall for three straight years and what it means to keep the bell in Athens.
“As I go to my radio show and go to different places on campus, I just seem to hear people talk about Marshall and Marshall week,” Solich said. “I’ve gained a lot of respect for this rivalry in terms of the kind of football games that have been played.”
“It’s such a fun and such a cool rivalry,” Tettleton said. “I’m so glad that we get to keep The Bell here.”
Ohio returns to Peden Stadium next Saturday for a matchup with the Austin Peay Governors at 2 p.m. The Governors are 0-3 on the season and their opponents have averaged a 37.3-point margin of victory.