ATHENS, Ohio — Ball-hawking defense and a dynamic run game, a winning combination for the Bobcats.
The Ohio University football team picked up its first win of the season, defeating Mid-American Conference guest Akron 24-10 on Tuesday inside Peden Stadium, with three takeaways from the Bobcat defense, and three rushing touchdowns by the OU offense.
Ohio (1-1, 1-1 MAC) — which has now won 12 of its last 13 matchups with Akron (0-2, 0-2) — needed just 2:50 to break the scoreless tie, going 62 yards in six plays, capped off by a nine-yard run by De’Montre Tuggle. Tristian Vanderburg made his first of two point-after kicks, giving the hosts’ a 7-0 lead.
Defense controlled the remainder of the opening period, and 38 seconds into the second, Jarren Hampton recovered a fumble for the hosts at the Akron 41.
OU redshirt-senior Armani Rogers started the drive with a 16-yard run, and then found Isiah Cox for a 24-yard pass on the next play. Rogers then found the end zone for the first time as a Bobcat, rolling right for a one-yard scoring run at the 12:27 mark of the second quarter.
After a punt by each side, the Zips got on the board with a 14-yard touchdown pass from Zach Gibson to Nate Stewart, capping off a nine-play, 97-yard drive. Cory Smigel made his lone extra point kick of the game, cutting Ohio’s lead to 14-7 with 4:25 left in the half.
Smigel got the guests to within four points with a 34-yard field goal 5:13 into the second half, but Ohio was back up by seven after a 44-yard Vanderburg field goal with 6:27 left in the third quarter.
Each team punted on their final drive of the third quarter, and the Ohio defense came up with another takeaway on Akron’s first possession of the finale, as redshirt-freshman Jett Elad claimed his first interception as a Bobcat.
Ohio came up empty on a 28-yard field goal attempt, but got the ball back with Keye Thompson’s first career interception at the 9:47 mark of the fourth quarter.
Next, the Green and White missed a 29-yard field goal try, but forced Akron into a three-and-out with just under seven minutes remaining.
The Bobcats put the finishing touches on the 24-10 win with a nine-play, 70 yard drive, capped off by a one-yard Tuggle touchdown run and a Jonah Fortkamp point-after kick.
For the game, Akron outgained Ohio 435-to-307 in total offense, including 217-to-185 on the ground. UA also claimed a 20-to-15 edge in first downs, allowing the Bobcats to convert just 2-of-10 third down tries. Both teams were penalized four times, with OU losing 30 yards and Akron giving up 40.
Leading the victors, Tuggle finished with a 139 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries, to go with a two-yard reception.
Rogers — who was 2-of-3 passing for 30 yards — carried the ball four times for 17 yards and a score, while Kurtis Rourke completed 8-of-14 pass attempts for 92 yards in the win.
Shane Hooks hauled in a team-high four passes for 73 yards, while Isiah Cox grabbed two passes for 27 yards and ran once for 28 yards.
O’Shaan Allison picked up eight yards on a trio of carries, while Cameron Odom, Jerome Buckner, and Alec Burton had a catch apiece, gaining nine, six and five yards respectively.
Defensively, Jamison Collier led Ohio with seven tackles, including six solo. Thompson, Austin Conrad, and Jared Dorsa each had six tackles, with Thompson and Conrad earning a sack apiece. Jeremiah Burton also claimed a sack in the win.
For Akron, Gibson completed 18-of-30 passes for 218 yards and a score, while rushing for 26 yards on 11 totes.
Teon Dollard led the guests on the ground with 165 yards on 22 carries, to go with 12 yards on two receptions. Tony Grimes and Nate Stewart hauled in five passes apiece for UA, earning 60 and 59 yards respectively, with a touchdown by Stewart. George Qualls grabbed three passes for 64 yards in the setback.
Leading the Zips on defense, Bubba Arslanian recorded game-highs of eight tackles and two sacks.
Next, the Bobcats visit archrival Miami at 8 p.m. on Tuesday. Akron travels to Kent State on Tuesday, trying to avoid a 20th consecutive loss.
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Alex Hawley can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2100.