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2023 Myrtle Beach Bowl Game Recap: Ohio Bobcats 41, Georgia Southern Eagles 21

Ohio’s all-around dominant effort secures the first back-to-back 10-win seasons in program history.

NCAA Football: Myrtle Beach Bowl-Georgia Southern at Ohio David Yeazell-USA TODAY Sports

The Ohio Bobcats (10-3, 6-2 Mid-American Conference) picked up their 10th win this year on Saturday afternoon, downing the Georgia Southern Eagles (6-7, 3-5 Sun Belt Conference) by a final score of 41-21 in the 2023 edition of the Myrtle Beach Bowl thanks to a stifling first-half defense and an offense that had significant success despite the losses to the transfer portal including starting QB Kurtis Rourke.

The Eagles’ first drive came to an abrupt end after one first down when Ohio’s safety Jeremiah Wood made a diving snare of a tipped pass for the first interception of his Bobcat career.

With great field position near midfield, the Bobcats offense went to work, mixing the run and pass and moving the ball deep into GASO territory. With their backs against the goaline, however, the Eagles stopped three straight runs inside the five but Ohio got the first points on a 27-yard field goal by Gianni Spetic.

GASO’s second drive did not go much better as linebacker Shay Taylor, in his first career start, recorded his first career sack to force a punt. Key on the play was defensive end Vonnie Watkins who dropped into the flats to deny QB Davis Brin’s first read, allowing Taylor additional time to get home.

Held to three points in the first quarter, the Bobcats’ offense began rolling in the second, scoring 17 points to end the half with a commanding 20-0 lead. Ohio scored its first touchdown of the contest on a 13-play, 59 yard drive capped on a two-yard run by Ricky Hunt, the first touchdown of his Ohio career.

Disaster struck for the Eagles on the third play of the next drive as Ohio’s safety Adonis Williams Jr.’s first career interception thwarted another Eagles drive.

Yet the Eagles red zone defense— one of the few bright spots in the first half for Georgia Southern— rose up again to deny Ohio points when a fourth-down pass to Ohio’s wideout Same Wiglusz was knocked away in the corner of the end zone by Shemar Bartholomew.

Ohio QB Parker Navarro was impressive in his first start of the season, hitting some short throws in the first half while gashing the Eagles with timely runs. Navarro was key in extending the lead late in the second quarter on a 24-yard run which drew an additional personal foul, putting the ‘Cats in the red zone. This time, the Eagles were not able to stop the ‘Cats when on the next play Navarro’s run threat sucked in the defense and Rickey Hunt was wide open for the 18-yard touchdown reception, his first career touchdown reception. The catch was an impressive athletic feat by Hunt, who turned his body around and made a one-handed stab of the Navarro floater for the score.

Ohio’s defense flummoxed the Eagles in the first half, surrendering only 35 yards including -3 yards rushing, while creating three takeaways. The Eagles did not enter Ohio territory at any point during the first half.

The ‘Cats defense picked up in the second half where it left off in the first, bewildering GASO into its fourth turnover on a pass rush pressure that forced an errant throw which was intercepted by safety Walter Reynolds.

Ohio quickly took advantage of great field position, scoring on its first offensive play, a six-yard option pitch to Hunt for the touchdown to extend the lead to 27-0.

As the third quarter wound on, GASO got its first explosive play of the game on a fourth-and-two pass from Brin to Dalen Cobb for a 39-yard gain. The play sparked a nine-play, 69-yard drive for GASO’s first points, a three-yard touchdown run by David Mbandinga.

A brouhaha erupted following the extra point, when GASO took umbrage at a running into the kicker call on a block attempt by Bobcat defensive back Torrie Cox Jr.

When the smoke cleared and after an Ohio punt, the Eagles got the ball back and appeared to be gaining momentum based on the previous score and two Ohio 15-yard penalties. Unfortunately for GASO, the advantage was short lived as Ohio’s Jeremiah Wood stripped a receiver on the next play which was recovered by corner Roman Parodie for GASO’s fifth turnover.

Ohio RB Rickey Hunt put the nail in the Eagle’s coffin on a 40-yard touchdown run, extending the score to 34-7.

To the Eagles credit, they continued to fight and added a few scores in the second half to bring the contest to the final score of 41-21. During that span closing out the game, Brin hit Derwin Burgess Jr. on a 65-yard touchdown pass. That drive was followed up by an onside kick recovery culminating in a score on a 15-yard pass from Brin to tight end Jjay Mcafee.

Rickey Hunt’s emergence was part of a domineering effort by the ‘Cats, as his five touchdowns from scrimmage tied the FBS bowl game record while also complimenting the team’s five takeaways (three interceptions, two fumble recoveries.)

For Ohio, the win gives them five straight bowl victories, and secured their first back-to-back 10-win seasons in program history. Georgia Southern, meanwhile, finishes its third season in a row with losing record, the first such stretch for the program since 1936-38.


Notes

Georgia Southern:

  • WR Khaleb Hood caught his 100th pass of the year, becoming the first wideout in program history to reach that milestone. Prior to the hiring of Clay Helton, the Eagles were traditionally known for their use of the triple option offense.
  • WR Dalen Cobb was clutch with two fourth-down catches that led to two touchdowns.

Ohio:

  • A star is born for Athens, as true freshman back Rickey Hunt was stellar in replacing portal transfers Sieh Bangura and O’Shaan Allison, showing good strength, athleticism, and vision. Coming into the contest with six rushing attempts on the season, Hunt set a program record with five touchdowns (four rush, one pass) and eclipsed the century mark with 115 yards rushing.
  • LB Shay Taylor had a notable starting debut with six tackles, a sack, and a fumble recovery.
  • Safety Jeremiah Wood had an impactful game with an interception, forced fumble, and a pass breakup on fourth down.
  • WR Rodney Harris II had his first career reception.