ATHENS, Ohio — So it was a few days after Halloween, but these black cats finally crossed paths with some good fortune.
The Ohio University football team built a 28-0 cushion early in the third quarter and ultimately held off a late Miami (OH) surge Tuesday night while claiming a 35-33 victory in a Mid-American Conference East Division matchup at Peden Stadium.
The Bobcats (2-7, 2-3 MAC East) — who wore their all-black uniforms for the ‘Blackout’ contest — notched their first home win of the 2021 campaign in a somewhat spooky manner, as the hosts stormed out to a near-flawless 4-possession advantage with 10:30 remaining in the third stanza.
The RedHawks (4-5, 3-2) — who mustered only 104 yards of total offense in the first half — suddenly came to life at that point as quarterback Brett Gabbert threw for over 400 yards and five touchdown passes the rest of the way, allowing the guests to twice close within two points late in the fourth quarter.
Leading 28-26, De’Montre Tuggle rumbled 46 yards to paydirt for his second rushing touchdown and third score overall with 1:35 left in regulation — giving OU a 35-26 advantage.
MU, however, needed just six plays and 40 seconds to cover 56 yards as Gabbert found Mac Hippenhammer with a 5-yard scoring pass with 55 seconds left, making it a mere 2-point contest again.
Tuggle — who had a 2-yard TD run and caught a 48-yard TD pass from Kurtis Rourke in the first half — recovered the ensuing onsides kick attempt. Ohio simply took a pair of knees to run out the remaining 55 seconds to complete the 2-point triumph.
Tuggle’s first TD run came with 5:06 left in the opening canto, then the 48-yard TD reception allowed Ohio to secure a 14-point cushion with 12:12 remaining in the half. The Bobcats also took that 14-0 advantage into halftime.
Miami (OH) was forced to punt on its opening drive of the second half, then Rourke found Isiah Cox with a 25-yard TD pass at the 13:27 mark for a 21-0 edge.
MU followed by turning the ball over on downs during its next drive, and the hosts used the Rourke to Cox connection again — this time from 33 yards out — to establish its largest lead of the night at 28-0 with 10:30 showing in the third.
The RedHawks answered two minutes later with a 51-yard Gabbert pass to Jalen Walker for a 28-7 contest. Ohio punted the ball back on its ensuing drive, and the guests used a 15-yard Gabbert to Jack Sorenson TD pass to close back to within 28-13 with 5:13 remaining.
Still trailing by 15 points headed into the fourth, the RedHawks whittled the deficit down to 28-19 after Gabbert found Hippenhammer with a 9-yard pass with 5:18 left in regulation. MU elected to go for two and the PAT conversion failed, keeping the contest at a 2-possession margin.
Miami (OH), however, retained possession with just over four minutes left, then covered 95 yards in five plays and 59 seconds as Sorenson hauled in an 82-yard TD pass from Gabbert for a 28-26 contest with 3:17 to go.
The Bobcats surrendered a season-high 569 yards of total offense, but ultimately claimed a 125-77 advantage in rushing yards en route to a final tally of 413 yards of total offense. Both teams committed a single turnover and Miami (OH) claimed a 24-19 edge in first downs.
Ohio was a perfect 5-for-5 on PAT kicks and also missed a pair of field goal attempts, while the guests went 3-of-4 on PAT tries and missed their lone field goal attempt.
Both Ohio field goal tries were from 46 yards or longer, while the 33-yarder attempted by MU was blocked by OU defender Kai Caesar.
Tuggle led the Bobcats with 69 rushing yards on 11 carries, followed by Rourke with 44 yards on 12 totes. Rourke also completed 23-of-32 passes for 288 yards and three scores.
Cox led the hosts with six catches for 106 yards. Ohio had nine different receivers catch at least one pass.
John Gregory paced the Ohio defense with eight tackles and Bryce Houston followed with seven stops. Roman Parodie came with an interception and Michael Taylor recorded the lone Bobcat sack.
Gabbert led MU with 23 rushing yards on seven attempts and completed 32-of-55 passes for 492 yards that included five scores and one pick. Sorenson led the Miami (OH) receivers with 14 catches for 283 yards.
Ivan Pace led the RedHawks with 18 tackles and accumulated half of the guests’ four sacks. Lonnie Phelps and Dominique Robinson had a sack apiece as well, while Mike Brown recovered a fumble.
The Bobcats snapped a 2-game losing skid against the RedHawks and are now 23-28-1 alltime in the series. Ohio also ended their current 3-game losing skid with the victory.
The Bobcats return to action on Tuesday when they travel to Ypsilanti to face Eastern Michigan in a MAC East contest.
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Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.