Who would have thought that A.J. Ouellette would be one of the heroes of the game? I certainly did not, having failed to mention him in either my season preview or game preview. In fact, the first sentence of this article is the first time I've ever written the name A.J. Ouellette. But it was Ouellette, not Derrius Vick or Daz'mond Patterson, who came up big in the final drive of the game, dragging the Bobcats into field goal range and, perhaps more crucially, not fumbling the ball. and setting up the 44-yard field goal that gave the 'Cats a 17-14 win over Kent State, on the road.
That isn't to say Vick or Patterson played terribly- Vick had quite a good game, completing 18 of 24 passes for 262 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Patterson was somewhat less impressive, finishing with only 61 yards on 17 carries while suffering butterfingers at two inopportune moments (although, there never is really an opportune moment to fumble).
The Bobcats scored first on their second drive, thanks to two big receptions from Brendan Cope and Landon Smith. Kent State quarterback Colin Reardon responded by marching down the field and completing four passes, three for first downs and one for a touchdown.
Both teams punted on their drives to start the second quarter, and then the Bobcats slowly ground their way to midfield on the backs of Patterson and Papi White. Forced to punt on fourth and one, an illegal formation by the Golden Flashes breathed new life into the drive, and after a couple of passes from Vick it was 14-7 Ohio.
Neither team got close to scoring for the rest of the first half. Both of the Golden Flash's drives were stopped by an inability to run against Ohio's defensive line. The half ended with Reardon getting sacked by Kendric Smith and Tarell Basham. Kent State had accrued -4 yards rushing by this point, and were getting outplayed. It looked like Ohio would run away with the game in the second half.
It was not to be, however, thanks to sloppy play by both teams. Ohio running back Tim Edmond fumbled on the Ohio 34. Kent State drove to the Bobcats' three, but was unable to score a touchdown. Anthony Melchiori shanked the 20-yard field goal—one of many MAC field goal misses on the week—that would turn out to be especially costly.
Vick led the Bobcats from their three all the way to the KSU 27 before Patterson coughed up the ball. The fumble prevented the Bobcats from scoring, but the Flashes couldn't make anything of it and punted.
The wild fourth quarter opened with the Bobcats driving down the field, only to be stopped by Patterson fumbling again in the same exact spot on the field. Again, the Flashes were unable to do anything with the turnover.
At this point, Ohio head coach Frank Solich decided to replace Patterson with Dorian Brown. Perhaps he should have replaced the football (which was apparently covered with Crisco) because Brown also fumbled. Like the Soviet Union in the 1972 Olympics basketball final, the third time was the charm, and Kent State tied the game on a 25-yard touchdown pass from Reardon to Chris Humphrey.
An exasperated Solich put in A.J. Ouellette—a freshman walk-on turned scholarship player—in the game with just under four minutes remaining. His job: not to fumble the ball. But Ouellette did more than just that, leading the Bobcats 29 yards on six rushes, putting them into field goal range. With three seconds remaining, Josiah Yazdani took the field, and his 44-yard attempt sailed between the posts as time expired, giving the Bobcats the win.
It's easy to overstate the importance of the first game, but this was a crucial win for Ohio, beating a team they were better than. The defense, particularly the line, was outstanding, and Vick demonstrated that he deserved the starter's job. If they can limit the fumbles, they should win plenty more during the season.
For the Golden Flashes, it was a frustrating defeat in which they failed to take advantage of many opportunities to win. Unfortunately for them, their upcoming schedule will only be more difficult, making this loss doubly painful.