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What We Learned: Takeaways from Ohio’s 34-17 victory over Akron

The Bobcats pulled away from the Zips with a strong second half for their first win of 2021.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 04 Syracuse at Ohio Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The ‘Cats (1-4, 1-0 MAC) turned in its most complete game of season, showing resiliency coming back from two deficits to ultimately overwhelm the Zips in the second half to get the win.

Here are some things that stood out:

Eliminating Mistakes

Many of the issues that hampered the Bobcats early-season performance were not a factor in this game.

With special teams hitting on both short field goal attempts, the ‘Cats went a perfect 4-4 in the red zone. The number of missed tackles was drastically reduced. Costly penalties contributing heavily to the losses like the one versus Duquesne were reduced to an almost harmless two for 20 yards.

In the second half, the offense found two quarters of consistent play, scoring 24 points.

Due to the effectiveness of the running game, the ‘Cats were able to finish a solid 5-of-11 on third down, well above their average of less than 30 percent coming into the contest.

The fact Ohio managed to improve on all of these numbers should be encouraging for Bobcat fans moving forward.

The Big Guys Paved the Way

The big guys on the defensive and offensive lines did the dirty work throughout the day, spearheading the charge to victory.

The defensive line contributed four of the seven sacks, with a sack and pressure by DT Kai Caesar early and a sack late by Denzel Daxon for his first career Bobcat sack.

Supersenior DE Will Evans was named MAC East Defensive Player of the Week for his performance against Akron. The Zips had no answer for Evans in large stretches of the contest, as Evans finished with two sacks, six tackles, and a forced fumble.

Maybe more impressive was how the d-line (and linebackers) on the whole played with discipline and good tackling to prevent Akron’s dangerous QB DJ Irons from doing explosive damage in the running game. Irons rushed for 100 yards on the day, but it took 19 attempts and, with a long of 15 yards, Irons didn’t hit home runs.

The offensive line paved the way for Bobcat ball carriers to have some special days running the football. The Bobcats rushed for almost 400 yards, a complete offensive line effort, but led by right guard Hagen Meservy, who’s return to the lineup for the first time this season made a noticeable difference early, where his block helped spring running back De’Montre Tuggle for a 43-yard first quarter run.

Behind the line, RB De’Montre Tuggle scorched the Zips for 201 yards and a score in route to MAC East Offensive Player of the Week honors. Reserve QB Armani Rogers, in his first sustained game action as a Bobcat, played most or all of the second half and rang up 108 yards on just 14 attempts, with two scores on the day. RB O’Shaan Allison contributed with 54 yards, 6.8 yards per carry.

Linebackers won the day

Ohio has started three talented but inexperienced linebackers this season and they turned in easily their best performances versus Akron, looking explosive at times, executing blitzes well, and tackling consistently.

First-year captain Bryce Houston led the squad with eight tackles while middle linebacker Cannon Blauser had two sacks. Strong side LB Ben Johnson made a few nice tackles in space, one against Zips QB Irons in the open field to prevent an explosive run for first down.

Coaching adjustments impacted the game

The coaches took stock of what was happening in the first half and made adjustments for the second half that paid dividends, with the Bobcats winning the second half 24-7.

Offensively, the Bobcats were running the ball with more success than passing in the first half so in the second half Ohio went almost exclusively to the run, with 29 runs and two passes, scoring on every second half drive.

Defensively, Ohio played well for big stretches of the game, allowing 125 rushing yards less than their season average and no explosive plays with a long run of only 15 yards.

The ‘Cats dialed up the aggressiveness in the second half, cooking up a couple of blitzes which were well executed, resulting in some big losses.

Our Bobcat coverage continues later this week with a preview and game notes for the Homecoming contest versus Central Michigan.