Not too much was asked of any Ohio player in the Kibbie Dome Thursday evening. The Bobcats went about their business and walked out winners by a score of 45-28.
Like these two teams' matchup from early last season, Ohio had what would probably be described as a comfortable lead to most, but couldn't quite strike a death blow to the pesky Vandals. A garbage-time score from Idaho to make things 38-28 was enough to likely make some uneasy, but not a big deal in the grand scheme of things for Ohio football.
Though no one player was forced to carry the bulk of the load offensively for Ohio, several players who have only contributed in bits and pieces in the past were able to find their way onto the box score. Brendan Cope (who made a spectacular grab in the far left corner of the endzone in the first quarter) finished with 129 yards on four receptions. He added another highlight worthy play when he broke two poor tackles on one play and rumbled for a 65-yard gain. Jordan Reid (4 catches for 68 yards and a TD) and Keith Heitzman (4 receptions for 25 yards and a TD) established themselves as opportune targets. Heitzman, the Michigan transfer in his first game as a Bobcat, looked comfortable, and though he dropped what should have been an easy touchdown early, scored on a nice play design that was faked as a speed option with the big tight end leaking out on a crossing route away from the option fake for the easy score to make it 28-10.
Not too much was seen of A.J. Ouellette, who played simply and effectively in his time on the field with 48 yards on nine carries. Daz'mond Patterson, a back who has been hyped in his time in Athens (and lost his starting role in the backfield after a case of the fumbles in week one last year against Kent State) got on the right track to start the 2015 campaign with 84 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries.
At quarterback, Derrius Vick showcased himself to be the better player for this offense (as opposed to JD Sprague) though both put up respectable numbers in the game. Vick finished with 192 yards through the air on 13/16 passing while Sprague completed 7/9 for 92 yards.
Defensively, Quentin Poling played right into what any ESPN announcing crew without knowledge of the teams they're covering would love. And that is being the most hyped defensive player on the team making all the plays. At the half, Poling had 11 tackles (the next highest total for a Bobcats player was three at the half) and forced a fumble and finished with 12 tackles.
Poling's best buddy Jovon Johnson grabbed a tipped pass and returned it for a touchdown for good measure making it 21-0 early. After surrendering 28 points and nearly 400 yards after that, the 'Cats might just have some things to re-evaluate in practice this week.
As far as breakdowns or troubles go, the 'Cats had a few worth mentioning. Several times on the night, Coach Paul Petrino's Vandal offense looked vaunted as it moved the ball consistently on balls over the middle and to the sidelines, most notably to Dezmon Epps, who finished with 14 receptions for 148. His longest catch however, was 23 yards, so maybe the bend but don't break philosophy was being employed when it came to the short but speedy senior who is back after missing all of last season. The 'Cats also racked up some serious penalty yardage and approached the 100-yard marker in losses on penalties.
All-in-all, not a bad first game for the 'Cats. Some things to work on, some things yet to be seen in terms of guys getting primary touches, but it should all pan out just fine for the Hocking hopeful.