Bass Becomes Hero As Ohio Defeats Akron 23-20

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The 2014 season hasn’t exactly gone the way Devin Bass would have liked.

Bass has struggled in pass coverage for much of the season, and has become a point of criticism for Ohio fans and the media.

But in Ohio’s 23-20 victory over Akron on Saturday, Bass became a point of celebration.

Bass forced a fumble with just under four minutes remaining in the game that was scooped up by linebacker Jovon Johnson and returned to the Akron 21 yard line.

After a few plays on Ohio’s drive, kicker Josiah Yazdani drilled a 22-yard field goal to give Ohio the 23-20 lead it would never give up.

Aside from the forced fumble, Bass also recorded three tackles, two pass breakups, and an interception in the first half.

“It felt real good,” Bass said after the game. “It’s been somewhat of a difficult season for me and not really the way I wanted it to go.”

In recent games, Ohio (4-4, 2-2 Mid-American Conference) has often had to play from behind as the defense struggled to find consistency, before settling in as the game went on.

But this time, the Bobcats offense was the one to make the opening statement.

Ohio strung together a nice drive, quickly moving the ball into Akron territory before quarterback J.D. Sprague found a wide-open Ian Dixon along the right sideline, who shook a tackle and sprinted 49 yards for a touchdown to give the ‘Cats an early 7-0 lead just 1:50 into the game.

“We came into the game knowing that the past two weeks we had got down early,” Jovon Johnson said. “We wanted to go into the game and make sure that we did what we needed to do so we didn’t go down early and give them a head-start and try to play catch up.”

However, the Zips (4-3, 2-1 MAC) quickly answered the Bobcats’ score with an eight-play, 63-yard drive that was capped off by a 10-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Tommy Woodson to Conor Hundley to tie the game at 7-7.

Then things got a little interesting.

Ohio’s Robbie Walker fielded the kickoff and returned it back to the 37-yard line before fumbling and handing the ball back to Akron. It appeared to be a huge momentum swing for the Zips.

However, just a few plays later Woodson attempted a pass to a receiver on a comeback route to the left, which Bass read perfectly and stepped in front of for an interception.

Ohio and Akron traded field goals early in the second quarter before Akron put together a long drive down to Ohio’s 29-yard line, where the Zips were facing a 4th and 3. The Zips decided to go for it, but the Bobcats defense held the line and forced a turnover on downs with just 49 seconds remaining in the half.

Ohio's defense held the Zips to just 84 rushing yards in the game, marking the third time in four conference games that Ohio has held the opponent to under 100 yards rushing. 

Following the turnover, Sprague then led the ‘Cats down the field and into field goal range, and Yazdani connected from 38-yards out to put Ohio up 13-10 heading into halftime.

“Field position was critical today,” Ohio coach Frank Solich said after the game, “because both defenses weren’t allowing a lot of explosive plays.”

Akron grabbed their first and only lead of the game on their second possession of the second half, as Woodson led them 84 yards on eight plays before tossing a 13-yard touchdown pass to Zach D’Orazio to put the Zips up 17-13.

But the ‘Cats responded with an 87-yard drive which ended in a three-yard touchdown pass from Sprague to A.J. Ouellette to put Ohio up 20-17. Sprague finished the game 17-37 passing for 197 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. 

It was just one of several times in the game that the ‘Cats responded to adversity and came out on top. Sprague described the team as “resilient.”

“We shot ourselves in the foot again, and had some terrible field positioning. We’re still making steps, but we just need to focus on ourselves, not what the other team is doing.”

Ohio sealed the three-point victory when Josh Kristoff intercepted Woodson’s pass in Ohio territory with just 59 seconds left on the clock, sending the Bobcats sideline into a frenzy.

“This one’s special,” Kristoff said after the game. “We’ve been struggling & knew we really had to win this game.”

Even with the celebration of the victory, Ohio once again had a major blemish with 11 penalties for 120 yards, just one week after racking up 16 penalties for 153 yards against Bowling Green.

Solich, who was clearly frustrated with the number of penalties, just hopes it’s not the start of a trend.

“We can’t continue to win games with that many penalties.”