The Ohio Bobcats had redemption on their mind tonight as they battled Marshall for the first time since suffering a 44-14 drubbing at the hands of the Thundering Herd in 2014. The Bobcats should consider themselves redeemed. Ohio led throughout and defeated Marshall for the third consecutive time in Athens with a 21-10 victory on Saturday night. The win came as the two teams were meeting in the final "Battle for the Bell" until 2019.
The Bobcats began the game with a swift seven-play, 62-yard scoring drive. Facing a 3rd-and-5 on the edge of field goal range, J.D. Sprague handed off to Daz'mond Patterson, and Patterson raced up the middle for a 33-yard touchdown and an early 7-0 lead.
Ohio's offense struggled for much of the remainder of the first half, but their defense did not let Marshall establish any consistency. The Herd ran nine plays in the first quarter and punted three times while not earning a single first down. In fact, Marshall's longest drive of the first half was just four plays.
Unfortunately for Frank Solich's crew, Marshall's longest drive was capped by their offense's best play of the game. Devon Johnson took a handoff and burst through the middle for a 73-yard touchdown run. That tied the game at 7 midway through the second quarter.
The Bobcat defense re-asserted itself on the following Marshall possession when Ian Wells picked off a Michael Birdsong pass. Four plays later, Sprague sent a sweet spiral down the right sideline, and Sebastian Smith pulled it down for a 38-yard touchdown and a 14-7 lead. That margin stuck through halftime.
In the second half, both defenses refused to allow any offensive production. Twelve of the first 13 possessions after halftime ended in punts (9) or fumbles (3). The only score until late in the fourth quarter came on a Marshall field goal that was handed to them when Papi White muffed a punt at the Ohio 17.
Clinging to a 14-10 lead midway through the fourth quarter, Sprague finally got Ohio's offense going and guided the Bobcats on a 19-play, 85-yard touchdown drive. A.J. Ouelette finished it with a one-yard touchdown run for an insurmountable 21-10 lead with just 2:00 to play. Nathan Carpenter sealed the win with another Birdsong interception.
Ohio's defense held Marshall to just eight first downs and a 2-for-14 effort on third downs. The Herd gained just 241 yards, including 84 yards passing. Of their 157 rushing yards, 73 came on one play. Ohio also forced four turnovers.
On offense, the Bobcats amassed 363 yards, including 229 on the ground. Sprague was 11-for-21 with 127 yards and one touchdown pass. He also rushed for 44 yards. Ouelette carried 21 times for 77 yards, while Patterson added 11 carries and 69 yards. Both scored a touchdown. Smith led all receivers with six catches for 86 yards and a touchdown.
This was also a penalty-filled game. The two teams combined for 27 penalties for 319 yards. Marshall alone accounted for 16 penalties and 198 yards.
With the victory, Ohio improves to 2-0 on the season. They'll get a break next week when they host Southeast Louisiana from the FCS before traveling to play Big Ten opponent Minnesota in two weeks.