Ohio (1-4, 1-0 MAC) collected its first win of 2021 with a dominant running game and vastly improved defense over the homestanding Akron Zips (1-4, 0-1 MAC) on Saturday afternoon, taking the victory by a final score of 34-17.
Offensively, the ‘Cats finished the day with 402 yards on the ground behind the trio of RB De’Montre Tuggle, RB O’Shaan Allison, and QB Armani Rogers, who were unstoppable in the second half.
The Bobcats’ defensive counterparts had a strong game too, keyed by super senior DE Will Evans, who may have turned in one of the best games of his career. Evans was a disruptive force against the pass, for which the Zips had no answer, holding him on multiple plays and allowing sacks or pressures on others.
Akron showed a lot of fight but was just unable to get a stop in the running game as the game progressed. LB Bubba Arslanian, who did not play due to a hand injury, was missed on run defense.
The game was an even match in the first half before the Bobcats pulled away in the fourth quarter.
Both teams moved the ball in the first quarter, with Akron squandering a golden opportunity for points when Ohio punched the ball out of receiver Michael Mathison’s hands and fell on the ball to end a drive in the red zone.
After the teams traded punts, Ohio got a FG on a six-play, 79-yard drive keyed by a 63 yard run by De’Montre Tuggle, who ran behind right guard Hagen Meservy, in what was the o-linemen’s first game of the season. Tuggle ran very hard throughout the contest and had a monster day, finishing with 203 yards on 18 carries and a touchdown.
Akron seized momentum for much of the second quarter, with stout defense and effective offense orchestrated by Zips’ QB DJ Irons. The first-year Akron QB gained key yards on the ground on designed runs or scrambles, in route to ten points, with the big play a 45-yard TD pass from Irons to freshman phenom Konata Mumpfield.
Outside of a few explosive runs, the Bobcats offense struggled most of the first half, but evened the score at ten just before half-time on a four-play, 62-drive capped on a two-yard touchdown pass from Kurtis Rourke to Isiah Cox.
DJ Irons picked up in the third quarter where he left off in the second, orchestrating an 11-play, 70-yard touchdown drive keyed by some nifty read-option runs by Irons. The drive was capped on a nine-yard pass from Irons to freshman tight end Tristian Brank, who made a great catch on the goal line on a ball thrown behind him.
Down 17-10, Ohio then dominated the rest of the game in all phases as the ‘Cats scored 24 unanswered points to close the contest.
The ‘Cats called on QB Armani Rogers to start the second half and went with the hot hand for the rest of the game, as Rogers led the Bobcats to scores on all second-half possessions, even without completing a pass.
Rogers finished the day with 101 yards rushing and two scores.
The combination of Rogers, Tuggle, and Allison was too much for the Zips’ defense.
For Ohio defensively, all the issues that plagued the Bobcats in the first four games disappeared in the final quarter and a half against the Zips, where the Bobcats were making tackles and playing aggressively but with discipline.
Captain and first-year starter LB Bryce Houston was noticeable in the number of plays he made and the linebacking corp on the whole played its best game of the season.
DJ Irons left late in the fourth quarter with what looked to be an arm or shoulder injury and was replaced by Kato Nelson. Irons’ status for next week is unknown.
The Bobcats hope their good play continues when they return home next Saturday to take on Central Michigan at 3:30 p.m. Eastern time. The Zips look to regroup before heading to Bowling Green next Saturday to take on the Falcons at noon p.m. Eastern.