Ohio One Step Closer to MAC Championship Berth

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One. That’s how many wins Ohio now needs to make it to the Mid-American Conference Championship for the first time since 2011 after the Bobcats convincingly beat Buffalo 34-10 at home.

Through nine games, Ohio had not scored more than 20 points while holding an opponent to 10 points or less — until Thursday night’s game against the Bulls.

To top it off, the 24-point win came in Ohio’s 10th straight game of the season.

“I don’t know how many teams I’ve been associated with that have played 10 straight football games without a break,” said Ohio coach Frank Solich who’s been in college football for more than 40 years. “To be able to win this in that manner I thought was great of these guys.”

The Bobcats’ offense wasted no time clicking as Quinton Maxwell connected with Papi White for a 73-yard touchdown on the first play of the game. That gave Ohio (7-3, 5-1) an early lead, which it would not relinquish.

“Early in the year we were going 10-12 play drives all the time,” Maxwell said. “It’s nice to take some of the weight off [with] a quick strike like that.”

All but seven of Ohio’s points came in the first half with the Bobcats holding a 27-10 lead after two quarters despite having fewer yards, first downs and time of possession than the Bulls.

Ohio’s passing attack remained successful the rest of the first half. Maxwell and Bobcats accumulated 221 yards through the air with 196 of those coming in the first two quarters.

As for the rushing attack, Ohio only had five yards on five carries in the first quarter. But Maleek Irons, as well as Maxwell, gave the ground game a spark over the next three quarters with those two players totaling more than 110 yards rushing.

After the 73-yard touchdown, Ohio’s defense kept the momentum going. On Buffalo’s second drive, Tyree Jackson threw an interception to Javon Hagan who returned it 60 yards to the Bulls’ 16-yard line. That set up a 32-yard field goal from from Louie Zervos who later made a career high 51-yard field goal.

The interception, however, was not indicative of the rest of the game with the defense giving up more than 300 yards through the air.

But while the Bobcats gave up plenty of yards passing, they didn’t up many points. Ohio gave up 10 points or less for the third time this year in a game where the offense and defense clicked for all four quarters, something the team has struggled to do throughout the season.

“It feels like we’re finally coming into our own,” senior defensive end Terrell Basham said. “The offense is clicking and the defense is clicking.”

Worth Noting

While Ohio put together a complete game on offense and defense, special teams also played a significant part. Zervos nailed his two field goal attempts while Ohio also blocked a 20-yard field goal to end the first half.

Plus, the Bobcats’ kickoff team recovered a fumble and punter Michael Farkas pinned Buffalo inside the five-yard line twice in the third quarter.

Also worth mentioning is Terrell Basham. The senior picked up a sack and a half against the Bulls giving him nine this season, which tied the single-season school record. Basham has two games left to break the record and has plenty of incentive to do so with the defensive end getting looks from NFL scouts.

“That [the record] was definitely a goal I set out at really the beginning of my college career so it feels great to finally reach it,” Basham said.

Looking Ahead

After 10 straight weeks of games, the Bobcats head into their bye week. The next game for Ohio is 12 days away when it takes on Central Michigan on the road at 7 p.m. The stakes for that game are clear: win and Ohio clinches the MAC East title.

“Getting closer here to the MAC Championship we realize we’ve got a good shot at this thing,” Basham said. “It’s been one of the best teams I’ve ever played with since I’ve been here.”