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Ohio uses fast start for bounce-back win

Bobcats race out to 25-0 lead, dominate running game

LAWRENCE, Kan. – Ohio ran out to a 25-0 lead in the first half on the way to a 37-21 victory against Kansas on Saturday at Memorial Stadium.

The Bobcats (1-1) dominated on the ground, especially in the first half, finishing with a 329-26 advantage in rushing yards. Ohio had a first-half total yards advantage of 359-21, giving up just one first down before the break, and outgained the Jayhawks (1-1) 496-232 in the game.

Quarterback Greg Windham rushed for 146 yards on 16 attempts, and Dorian Browns, getting the majority of the workload with A.J. Ouellette injured, carried 20 times for 122 yards. It was the first time since 2005 the Bobcats had two 100-yard rushers in the same game.

“I’m proud of our guys, the way we came back after last week’s loss,” Ohio coach Frank Solich said. “I think they have showed a lot of resolve and they practiced well this past week. I think the signs were there that we were going to have an opportunity to play well – to play to the most of our potential.”

Ohio scored touchdowns on three of its first four possessions and not again, staying in control with five Louis Zervos field goals. He is now 9 of 10 on the year, though he missed an extra point on the Bobcats’ first touchdown, an 11-yard Papi White run set up by a 53-yard run by Windham.

The Bobcats second possession resulted in a punt downed at the 1-yard line, and Kansas’ inability to run the ball showed. After a rush for no gain, Chad Moore tackled Ke-aun Kinner in the end zone for a safety that made it 8-0.

Windham had completions of 14 and 21 yards to Kyle Belack on Ohio’s third possession and back-to-back 11-yard runs before Brown’s 21-yard run set up a 4-yard touchdown pass from Windham to Mason Morgan. Then after another Kansas punt, Brown had a 41-yard run that led to a Windham 23-yard touchdown run on the second play of the second quarter, making it 22-0.

Kansas’ only first down of the first half came on the ensuing possession. The Jayhawks were stopped short on third down but Kylan Nelson was called for a horse collar tackle. Ohio’s defense stopped Kansas on downs anyway, and the offense produced Zervos’ first field goal, a 26-yarder with 6:32 left in the half, pushing the lead to 25-0.

LaQuvionte Gonzalez provided for Kansas on special teams what the offense could not, returning the kickoff that followed 99 yards to put his team on the scoreboard, but just when momentum seemed to be turning with the Jayhawks defense getting its first stop of the game, Gonzalez muffed the punt, and Toran Davis recovered to set up a 22-yard Zervos field goal, making it 28-7 before halftime.

Despite Ohio’s extreme dominance in the first half, Kansas quickly made it a game in the opening minutes of the second half. Steven Sims beat the defense deep for a 74-yard touchdown pass from Montell Cozart.

Once again, though, the Jayhawks failed to take advantage of the apparent momentum shift when Gonzalez muffed a punt again. This time Javon Hagan recovered, and Zervos connected from 25 yards to make it 31-14.

After throwing for just 15 yards in the first half, Cozart came to life in the third quarter. He completed passes of 16, 10 and 27 yards before throwing a 22-yard touchdown to Sims, who held on after bobbling the ball while making a diving catch.

“There were times in the second quarter where I didn’t think we played all that well and I think there were times in the second half where we didn’t play as well as I had hoped,” Solich said. “But you’ve got to give Kansas credit; they did a great job of adjusting some things at halftime. They came back and found a way to put points on the board and get back into the game. It basically became a dog fight at the end.”

Kansas trailed just 31-21 with still 10:59 left in the third quarter, and it had two possessions with a chance to get closer. Cleon Aloese batted a third-down pass to stop the first drive, and after Windham was intercepted in the end zone, the Jayhawks had another disaster play.

Facing fourth down, punter Cole Moos had to chase down an errant snap. He tried to get off a punt, but then he was surrounded, and the attempt was blocked and caught by Quentin Poling at the Kansas 29-yard line. Once again, Ohio settled for a field goal, this one a career-long 46-yarder by Zervos early in the fourth quarter.

Randy Stites had an interception nullified by a Blair Brown hands to the face penalty, but the Bobcats forced a punt and then put the game away with a more than 10-minute long drive. Zervos’ 22-yard field goal made it 37-21 with 3:24 remaining. Mayne Williams ended Kansas’ final drive with an interception.

Ohio dominated time of possession with 43:38 compared to 16:22 for Kansas. It had more first downs, 27-9.

After throwing for 380 yards in Ohio’s season-opening 56-54 triple-overtime loss to Texas State, Windham finished 19-of-36 passing for just 167 yards, one touchdown and one interception, though he was hurt by a few receiver drops. Belack had four catches for 60 yards, and Jordan Reid finished with four for 59.

Sims had four receptions for 114 yards. Cozart was 17-of-24 passing for 198 yards, and Ryan Willis, who also saw time at quarterback, was 1 of 5 for 8 yards and an interception.

Tarell Basham had his 20th career sack, making him Ohio’s all-time leader. Poling and Moore both had seven tackles, with two of Moore’s for losses.

“Last week, we didn’t execute very well,” Moore said. “We basically took all this week to work on execution and getting back to our basics. That’s basically what we did. We just went back to the drawing board and said, ‘Boys, we’ve got to play our football.’ At the end of the day, we had two basic calls, and that’s what we did.”

Bazie Bates IV led Kansas’ defense with 11 tackles. Four of Daniel Wise’s tackles were for loss.

The victory was Ohio’s first against a Big 12 team since the league began play in 1996 and it was the first time the Bobcats beat a current member of the Big 12 since they beat Kansas in 1967.

Ohio gets a shot at a Southeastern Conference opponent when it takes on Tennessee at noon Saturday at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville. The game will be shown on the SEC Network.

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