The MAC East was a wide open race when the day started on Saturday, but the picture is starting to look a little bit clearer after two divisional matches that caused a lot of consternation.
Ohio managed to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat on the road by a final score of 14-10 over Kent State, but not for lack of trying. Here’s five things we learned about that game:
Nick Holley is literally the only good thing going for Kent State.
I’m gonna start this point off with a tweet:
Nick Holley had 98.5% (260/264) of Kent State's total offense today. My bet is that's darn close to an NCAA record @HustleBelt— Anthony Allocco (@alloccOU) October 22, 2016
That’s LITERALLY unbelievable. Let’s review how improbable this is: before the season, Holley was a backup running back/wide receiver. Antwan Dixon was ruled out for the year with an illness and Raekwon James was injured early in the season. This left Holley as the starting running back.
Then, the Alabama game. Mylik Mitchell sustained an injury to his arm, forcing Myles Washington, George Bollas and Colin Reardon into game action at QB. During the week after the game, Holley took snaps with the first-team and eventually started.
In a matter of weeks, Holley had gone from role player to the most important person on the offensive side of the ball.
Holley led all rushers with 159 yards on the ground and scored a rushing touchdown, and also added 101 yards through the air, with only Kavious Price contributing 6 yards responsible for. That stat was ultimately lowered due to a -2 yard day for Justin Rankin.
Last week, I wrote that this team will have to live with whatever Holley does. This week shows that even when he does it all, it might not count for anything.
The Kent playcall was concerning down the stretch.
I’m thinking of one play in particular here for Kent: the Nick Holley punt. Ohio had just taken a 14-10 lead and the Flashes had the ball in their own territory. It was fourth down and seven and that usually calls for a punt. Kent put out their offense to try and gain seven yards and then... had the quarterback punt.
The decision was extremely confusing. Derek Adams was having a decent day punting and there was still 10 minutes to go in the game. Nothing could be gained by being cute. Holley’s punt went for 18 yards. Luckily, Ohio did not score on the next play or at any point throughout the game.
Kent’s woes didn’t stop there. The defense recovered a muffed punt with under four minutes to go in the game and ran the clock down with three runs by Nick Holley resulting in a total of four yards, only calling a timeout before the pivotal fourth down. The pass, which had proven to be inefficient throughout the game, was incomplete on fourth-and-seven.
This doesn’t even go into Kent’s decision to go for it on fourth-and-one at the Ohio 49 on its first series of the game. That decision led to Ohio’s first touchdown on a short field. Kent’s offense had plenty of opportunities to win, but leaned too much on Holley at the end of the day.
It’s too early to tell if Quentin Maxwell will be good.
Ohio made a surprise announcement hours before the game and said that Quentin Maxwell, not Greg Windham, would be the starter at quarterback for the Bobcats against Kent.
When asked why the change was made, head coach Frank Solich noted that there had to be consistency in the passing game. Maxwell, a redshirt freshman, is known as the better passer, so it figured he would help the ‘Cats in that aspect.
This was a bad week to try and figure that out.
Kent State’s defense is one of the best in the MAC and showed it once again, holding Maxwell to no touchdowns and only 127 yards while allowing only two rushing touchdowns to Papi White and Dorian Brown. Kent State also recovered two fumbles that could have potentially turned into points, virtually neutralizing the offense.
Maxwell has a lot of potential yet, but this game was definitely a baptism by fire, especially with many key missing pieces. Perhaps a game against a little less stout of an opponent could show that.
Ohio’s defense kept them in the game in key moments.
Ohio had two fumbles (both recovered by Kent State) in the game that could have cost them the game, including one with less than five minutes to go in the game. The Bobcats defense only gave up 3 points of of those fumbles, a testament to its fortitude.
The Bobcats went up to a quick 14-0 lead and had to hold off Kent State near the end, but placed pressure on Nick Holley at the right times, sacking him three times on the day and limiting his options in both the run game and the pass game. This is shown, as the leading receiver, Justin Rankin, had a grand total of 13 yards on three receptions.
The Bobcats registered 82 tackles as a team, with 8 tackles-for-loss and the before-mentioned 3 sacks. Tarell Basham once again had a banner day, with 9 tackles (7 solo), a sack, two tackles for loss and a quarterback hurry.
This is a great sign moving forward, as the team with the best defense will probably end up winning the East division.
The MAC East race got a little more clear.
Well, what I mean by clear is that teams were likely eliminated. Bowling Green lost, which means they’re likely out. Buffalo also lost and therefore probably aren’t in contention. Kent State really badly needed a win here in order to stay in contention, but will also most likely fall short.
This leaves a three-way race in the MAC East. Miami is in a solid third-place and is hoping for a collapse from either Akron or Ohio, who both sit tied for first. Akron and Ohio have two common opponents coming up in Buffalo and Toledo over the next two weeks. If both teams come out with similar records after their buffer game, their season-ending tilt suddenly becomes a de facto championship game.