Sprague Makes First Start As Ohio Defeats Eastern Illinois 34-19 [VIDEO]

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On paper, Ohio’s game with Eastern Illinois on Saturday appeared to be the typical FCS-matchup that results in an easy win for Ohio.

But for J.D. Sprague, it was more than just a typical game. It was a day he has waited for since stepping on Ohio’s campus three years ago.

It was his first career start.

With Derrius Vick out with an injury, Sprague got the call to be the starting quarterback for the Bobcats, and helped the ‘Cats to a 34-19 victory over the Panthers.

When all was said and done, Sprague had a very pedestrian game. He completed 15 of his 28 total pass attempts for 143 yards and two interceptions. He used his dual-threat capabilities very well, though, running for 69 yards and two touchdowns.

“[It was] very average,” Sprague said after the game. “I think I made some plays, but I also left a lot out there, but I guess that comes with experience.”

Sprague and the Bobcats (3-2, 1-1 Mid-American Conference) started out well in the first quarter, answering the opening scoring drive by the Panthers (1-4) with a 10-play, 78-yard drive that ended with a one-yard touchdown run by A.J. Ouellette to put Ohio up, 7-3.

After forcing the Panthers to punt on the next drive, Sprague led the ‘Cats back down the field, and found the end zone off a six-yard scramble to put Ohio ahead, 14-3. Sprague was 8-for-9 passing for 94 yards at the end of the first quarter.

It only got better from there.

On Ohio’s next drive, Ouellette took the handoff, cut back through the Panthers’ defense and sprinted away for a 65-yard touchdown run, increasing the Bobcats’ lead to 21-3.

“The defenders I read told me to cut backside,” Ouellette said. “There was a defensive breakdown, and nobody was in the hole.”

Ouellette finished with 87 yards rushing on just 11 carries and the two touchdowns.

The Bobcats forced another EIU punt on the ensuing possession, the ‘Cats appeared poised to run away with the game. But on the first play of the drive, J.D. Sprague’s pass was intercepted, giving EIU a short field.

“I went through my progressions, saw Troy [Mangen], but I didn’t really see the defender,” Sprague said. “They had the right coverage.”

EIU cashed in on the field position when quarterback Jalen Whitlow ran the ball in from a yard out to cut the Bobcats lead to 21-10 midway through the second quarter.

The Bobcats didn’t reach the end zone again until early in the third quarter, when Sprague scrambled his way through the Panther defense for an eight-yard touchdown, making it 34-10 Bobcats.

“I didn’t think I was going to score, honestly,” Sprague said. “I just kept my feet moving. My teammates did a great job holding their blocks, because that’s a long time to hold a block.”

The Panthers gave the Bobcats perhaps the toughest game of Ohio’s recent FCS foes, as the Panthers outgained Ohio 432-387. But Ohio coach Frank Solich isn’t too worried.

“We’re not concerned about yardage, we’re concerned with points on the board,” he said.

Solich was pleased to see the offense continue the success the offense had last week against Idaho carry over to this week.

“We’re getting more big and explosive plays,” Solich said. “Last game we had 12. In the past, were only getting explosive plays in the passing game, and now we’re getting them in the run game, which is good.”