Nathan Carpenter celebrates in the end zone after returning an interception for a touchdown in the final minutes of Bobcats home opener at Peden Stadium. (Mark Clavin/WOUB)

Bobcats Win Back Bell, Beat Marshall 21-10

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The Bobcat defense’s new image came to full realization against The Marshall Thundering Herd.

After giving up 705 yards to Marshall last year, the Ohio (2-0) defense shut the Herd down. Many of the players are the same, but the unit is different.

“I don’t they’re looking back on last year much right now,” Ohio head coach Frank Solich said about is team. “They think they’re a different breed this year.”

Ohio’s defense made momentum-shifting plays and held the Herd to 241 yards. The Bobcat’s beat the Herd 21-10 and won the Battle of the Bell, taking the seven-year series, 4-3.

On the outside, Bobcat defenders were quick to the ball. The defensive backs eliminated the deep threat that hurt Ohio last year. When Marshall quarterback Michael Birdsong completed passes, defensive backs limited yards after the catch by attacking the receiver and stopping the play.

“Its very encouraging after giving up so many passing yards last year,” cornerback Ian Wells said, who intercepted Birdsong in the first half. “We knew they would try to do that again, but we had it in our mindset to shut them down. We were one step ahead tonight.”

Nathan Carpenter had the second interception for the Bobcats. Six yards into his return, he fumbled the ball and fell down. Carpenter recovered the ball and continued his run to the end zone. Though he was ruled down after the play went under review, the emotions still ran high.

“You don’t find guys more instinctive than he is,” Solich said of Carpenter, who is in his sixth year of eligibility. “To see him have a special game, especially against Marshall, was great.”

The second best performance of the night may have come from sophomore Quentin Poling.

On Marshall’s first drive, Poling jumped the snap count and sacked Birdsong. That drive, along with the next two for Marshall, resulted in a three and out.

When Marshall gained momentum towards the end of the third quarter, Poling took it away. The ball and the momentum, that is. He forced a fumble on Devon Johnson and Nathan Carpenter recovered.

Poling is clearly not having a sophomore slump, and neither is running back AJ Oullette.

The statistics may not show it so much as the Bobcats are running by committee this year. Because of this, Oullette got two drives to rest before coming in for the final offensive drive.

The 15-play, 85-yard drive ended in a one-yard, direct-snap touchdown run by Oullette.

But the snaps went to JD Sprague for most of the game. Derrius Vick gave the Bobcats an early lead, but never returned to the field after throwing an interception late in the first quarter.

Vick spent the rest of his game icing his elbow. Solich said there was a large bump and that it will take a while for the swelling to go down.

Sprague left the game in the fourth quarter after a late hit resulting in an upper body injury.

Solich hopes that neither injury is serious, but both could be extensive.

Sprague showed flashes of brightness, but struggled to find consistencey. He completed just over 50 percent of his passes and couldn’t make many big plays.

Even though the offense couldn’t find momentum often, the victory over Marshall gives the Bobcats a good outlook compared to last year after the Battle of the Bell, which Wells described as a dagger to the season.

“This one right now, it gives us a lot of momentum,” Carpenter said.

The ‘Cats will look to carry that momentum into their next home game against Southeastern Louisiana. Ohio kicks off with the Lions at 2 p.m. on Saturday.