A storied rivalry game played in primetime on the opening night of MACtion has the potential for great things to happen and this game delivered.
After last year’s game was canceled due to COVID, the Battle of the Bricks returned with a bang, as many v eteran players had career or season-best performances and some up and coming players on both sides showed that this rivalry will continue to be competitive for years to come.
We take a look at some notables from a great game.
The MAC has a bevy of talented wideouts
The MAC is loaded with wide receivers with big-time talent, as performances in this one confirmed.
Miami’s Jack Sorenson torched the ‘Cats for a single game career-best 14 catches for 283 yards and two scores. (His 283 yards receiving was the best in the FBS this season, a record Sorenson held for about 24 hours until NIU’s Trayvon Rudolph gashed Kent State for 309 receiving the next night.)
Sorenson has been on fire in MAC play, turning in his fourth straight 100-yard game. Miami is going to need him to continue his lights-out play to get that MAC East title against a talented Kent State squad.
Ohio had primarily been a rushing-based offense since the second half of the Akron game in week six, but when the offense struggled in the first quarter of the Kent State game last week, Ohio has gone to an air attack to open the running game and Bobcat WR Isiah Cox has flourished. Versus Miami, Cox had six grabs for 106 yards and two scores and 13 catches over the past two weeks.
Emphasizing all phases
The Bobcats missed opportunities in the last 20 minutes to salt the game away and gave up a lot of passing yards, but played perhaps its best game of the season overall.
The defense held Miami to 119 first-half yards and the front seven looked really good doing it. Ohio’s defensive line probably played its best game of the year spearheaded by DTs Kai Caesar and Rodney Mathews. The line didn’t pile up the individual stats but showed big improvement against the run, helping to limit Miami to 77 total rushing yards, and also harassed Miami QB Brett Gabbert throughout the contest on passing plays.
Offensively, veterans like Cam Odom and De’Montre Tuggle played key roles in the win. Odom finished with four catches for 50 yards but the catches were critical maintaining possession.
Tuggle showed he is a home run hitter on par with any RB in the MAC, scoring three times with just 13 offensive touches, including a 48-yard reception and 46-yard run against a Miami squad that entered the contest first in the MAC in rushing defense.
Bobcat special teams got a lot done as well, recovering multiple Miami onside kick attempts and blocking a field goal (blocked by Kai Caesar).
This game featured great performances from underclassmen on both squads, ensuring the rivalry will be competitive for years to come.
Several linebackers on both sides are just sophomores or freshmen in terms of eligibility due to COVID, but played lights out in this game.
Miami’s Ivan Pace Jr. had a career game with 18 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, two sacks, and a pass defensed. Pace Jr. is currently second in the conference in tackles behind Bowling Green’s Darren Anders. Teammate Matthew Salopek, a converted defensive back, had 10 stops and is 4th in the MAC in tackles this year.
Ohio’s Bryce Houston and Cannon Blauser seem to improve on a weekly basis and, in tandem with the defensive line, flowed like a river and hit like a hammer to limit Miami’s rushing attack to under 100 yards.
Houston is fifth in the conference in tackles and came up big in key situations versus Miami. In one sequence, Houston caused a turnover on downs by stopping a Miami running back in his tracks short of the first down marker on third down then making the stop in the backfield on fourth down.
The young quarterbacks in this one also showed they have bright futures in this league.
After Miami’s offense was stymied by Ohio’s defense for the majority of the contest, Miami’s sophomore QB Brett Gabbert caught fire, finishing the contest with a career-best 492 yards passing and 5 touchdown passes.
Over the past two weeks, Ohio’s QB Kurtis Rourke has 690 yards combined rushing and passing and has accounted for five touchdowns in games against two teams that were tied for first place in the MAC East. A notable change has been in the area of decision making, where Rourke has made good decisions to pass or scramble and is also executing without hesitation.
While Ohio’s pass defense imploded in large part in the second half, Ohio’s freshman CB Roman Parodie continued to make some big plays as he has done in recent weeks. Parodie’s first half pick was the result of incredible man coverage on a deep pass (see video here, 5:39 mark). Also, on fourth and one with ten minutes left in the fourth quarter, Parodie batted a pass away from Sorenson in single coverage on a deep pass, resulting in a turnover on downs.
We’ll be watching to see if these young players continue to shine over the remaining weeks of MAC play.
Ohio returns to action Tuesday, Nov. 9 at 8:00pm ET on ESPN 2 against MAC West contender Eastern Michigan, while Miami hosts Buffalo the same night on ESPNU at 7:00pm ET.