MUNCIE, Ind. — And then there were none.
On a rainy Saturday afternoon at Scheumann Stadium in the Hoosier State, the Ohio football team picked up a 34-21 win over host Ball State, which was the only remaining Mid-American Conference team without a league loss headed into Week 9.
Ohio (4-4, 3-1 MAC) forced a turnover on the game’s first play from scrimmage, with Keye Thompson forcing a fumble and Marlin Brooks recovering. The Bobcats covered the 36 yards in front of them in 10 plays, with Nathan Rourke plunging in from one yard out. Louie Zervos made his first of four extra-point kicks to make the Bobcat lead 7-0 with 9:10 left in the first quarter.
Ball State (4-4, 3-1) answered the score with 3:01 left in the opening quarter, on a one-yard touchdown run from Drew Plitt and the first of three point-after kicks by Ryan Rimmler.
Ohio reestablished the edge with a 20-yard field goal by Zervos at the 10:20 mark of the second quarter. A 23-yard field goal by Zervos with 5:00 left in the half gave the Bobcats a 13-7 lead.
The Green and White began the second half with a nine-play, 75-yard drive and went up 20-7 with an 11-yard touchdown run by De’Montre Tuggle.
Ball State got the touchdown back on its next play from scrimmage, with a 73-yard run by Walter Fletcher.
Ohio went up 27-14 on the ensuing possession, with Tuggle scoring on a one-yard run with 4:33 left in the third quarter.
The hosts missed a field goal on their final drive of the third, and after a punt by each team, OU took a 34-14 lead on a 12-yard touchdown run by Rourke with 4:12 to play.
A 14-yard touchdown pass from Plitt to Riley Miller with 2:45 left brought the hosts within 13, but Ohio recovered the on-side kick. The Bobcats were forced to punt back to the Cardinals, but stopped the hosts on fourth-and-13 to seal the 34-21 win.
Ohio earned a 21-to-16 edge in first downs over the MAC West Division leader, with an advantage of 447-to-351 in total offense, including 316-to-242 on the ground. Each team turned the ball over once, and Ohio held an advantage of over 19 minutes in time of possession. The Bobcats were penalized five times for 45 yards, while Ball State was sent back 25 yards on a trio of flags.
Rourke — who was 8-of-16 passing for 131 yards — led the Bobcat ground attack with 127 yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries. O’Shaan Allison picked up 104 yards on 18 carries, while Tuggle finished with 50 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries, to go with one seven-yard reception.
Ja’Vahri Portis claimed 36 yards on five carries for Ohio, Isiah Cox caught a team-best five passes for 92 yards, while Cameron Odom had two catches for 32 yards.
Javon Hagan led the Ohio defense with eight tackles. Tariq Drake and Austin Conrad had a sack a apiece for OU, with Thompson, Dylan Conner, Marcus Coleman and Jake McCrory each claiming half of a sack.
Fletcher led the hosts on the ground with 156 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries. Plitt — who was 11-of-20 passing for 109 yards and a score — carried the ball 11 times for a net gain of 23 yards. Justin Hall caught a team-best four passes for 26 yards, while Yo’Heinz Tyler had three grabs for 44 yards.
Jaylin Thomas claimed a game-best 13 tackles for Ball State, while Antonio Phillips intercepted a pass.
Ohio has now won three straight against the Cardinals, who still lead the all-time series by a 15-11 count.
Next, the Bobcats return to Peden Stadium against rival Miami at 8 p.m. on Nov. 6, with the winner taking the outright lead in the MAC East standings.
Alex Hawley can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2100.