The Ohio Bobcats (9-3, 7-1 MAC East) thoroughly dispatched its seventh-straight opponent on Tuesday night, dominating in all phases in the middle of the game to crush Bowling Green (6-6, 5-3 MAC East) by a final score of 38-14.
The game began competitive, with both defenses looking electric to start the contest.
Ohio’s defense forced a three-and-out on the opening drive with two plays for loss. Safety Alvin Floyd snuffed out a screen to Bowling Green’s star wideout Odieu Hilare for a loss, while defensive tackle captain Kai Caesar sacked the Falcons quarterback Matt McDonald to force the punt.
The Bobcats went to the run game early with CJ Harris at the helm for the injured Kurtis Rourke, but Bowling Green was ready for the adjustment, with some dominant play in the front seven, attacking Ohio with tackles-for-loss on multiple plays including one by linebacker DJ Taylor.
It was Bowling Green who would get the scoring started with an impressive nine-play, 89-yard drive, mixing run and pass to stretch the field horizontally and vertically, capping it off with a 44-yard bomb from McDonald to Tyrone Broden for the touchdown.
Ohio’s offense responded in kind, mixing in more pass with the run on a 12-play, 77-yard drive. The Bobcats converted three third downs running up the middle on the series, including the touchdown on third-and-five inside the 10-yard line, a designed draw by CJ Harris for his first career touchdown.
Both offenses stayed hot early into the second quarter, with an explosive play from McDonald to fab freshman tight end Harold Fannin Jr. for 42 yards. Ohio’s defense stiffened though, with Zack Sanders intercepting a ball in Ohio territory on fourth-and-six to kill the drive.
The interception seemed to spark something in the Bobcats, as Ohio would go on to score 31 points in a row from there, 28 of which woudl come in the second quarter.
The Bobcats wasted little time converting their defensive stop into six points with a five-play, 79-yard drive. With Harris’ confidence seemingly growing by the minute, the Ohio signal caller distributed the ball effectively to his star receivers. Wideout Jacoby Jones had the key play, a 48-yard catch and run. Jones had 76 yards of run-after-catch in the first half.
Harris finished off the drive with his first career touchdown pass, a 20-yard lob to Sam Wiglusz along the sideline. Wiglusz’s touchdown grab was his 11th of the season, which leads the MAC.
The locomtoive was at full steam as the half wound down, as ‘Cats defense shut the Falcons down on a three-and-out with a loss of ten yards, then Ohio’s offense took over near midfield, scoring on its third-straight touchdown by working the run to near perfection. Effective interior blocking and championship-level effort by running back Sieh Bangura was ultimately rewarded with a three-yard touchdown run on an option pitch from Harris.
As championship contenders do, Bowling Green’s offense came out swinging, looking to seize the momentum late in the first half. The Falcons initially found some success when McDonald threw a strike to Broden down the seam for a quick 37 yards.
Unfortunately for the Falcons, the success was short-lived as the Bobcats’ defense rose up twice to put the visitor in a deep halftime hole, 28-7.
First, Ohio stopped BGSU in Bobcat territory on a fourth-down interception by 2021 All-MAC safety Tariq Drake.
Then, with 39 seconds left in the half, disaster struck once again for the visiting team when Drake intercepted the BGSU signal caller for the second time in as many offensive plays, returning it 25 yards to the BGSU 14-yard line. Ohio’s rushing attack quickly covered the short field, with Bangura scoring a touchdown on a five-yard run.
As it has in the second half for the last three weeks, the Bobcats’ offense dominated the clock at times while building on its lead.
Ohio’s second drive of the third quarter was a 15-play, 71-yard odyssey, chewing up almost eight minutes of game clock. Bobcat wideout James Bostic was key on the drive, starting things out with two catches for 37 yards. Ohio weaved tunnel screens together with the running game extending the lead to 31-7 with a Nathaniel Vakos 32-yard field goal.
As the deficit grew and the need to pass became obvious, Ohio’s defense pinned its ears back, hounding McDonald with a relentless pass rush. The Bobcats broke the Falcons’ back late in the third quarter on back-to-back defensive plays, first a sack by linebacker Keye Thompson followed by a strip sack by defensive lineman Bryce Dugan, which was recovered by Thompson.
The game wound down in the fourth with both squads emptying the benches for reserve players. Camden Orth, the Falcons reserve QB, would scramble for a short run for a touchdown in the waning minutes to make the scoreboard more respectable at the end.
CJ Harris’ put in an early-week nomination for MAC East Player of The Week in his starting debut with 261 all-purpose yards and four touchdowns. Perhaps most importantly, Harris committed no turnovers and got the ball in the hands of his playmakers to get things done. As it has the last few weeks,
Ohio established the running game with 50 carries this week for 188 yards, losing some yards on kneel downs. Bangura led all rushers with 96 hard-earned yards.
Ohio played championship-level team defense with the starters holding the Falcons to a paltry seven points while swarming BGSU under an avalanche of explosive plays. In a little over three quarters, the ‘Cats registered four turnovers, nine quarterback hits, eight tackles-for-loss, and three sacks.
The Bobcats head to Detroit for battle against MAC West Champs Toledo for the MAC title on Dec, 3, 2022. For Ohio, it's a chance to win its first title since 1968.
For the Falcons, they await their bowl destination with a chance for a winning record for the first time since 2015.