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Ohio comes up short against No. 15 Tennessee, 28-19

Bobcats still winless all-time against ranked opponents

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Ohio hung tough with Tennessee, but could not capitalize enough for the program’s first-ever win against a ranked opponent, falling 28-19 on Saturday before a crowd of 101,362 at Neyland Stadium.

The Bobcats (1-2) never led but had multiple opportunities to move in front of the No. 15 Volunteers (3-0). Tennessee’s fourth-quarter touchdown with 11:07 remaining finally gave it a two-possession cushion as it was able to close out the win.

Ohio settled for four field goals in the first half from Louis Zervos – who now is 13 for 14 on the season – and trailed 14-12 at the break. Other missed opportunities were Tennessee’s five fumbles, none of them recovered by the Bobcats.

After missing most of the first two games, Sebastian Smith was huge with nine catches for a career-high 156 yards, but the Bobcats, down to two active running backs in the second half, could not get the ground game going, finishing with just 88 yards on 30 carries.

Ohio’s defense kept it in the game throughout, but Tennessee scored touchdowns on back-to-back possessions in the second half, including answering Ohio’s only touchdown in the second half. Windham threw a 4-yard touchdown pass to Jordan Reid with 1:09 left in the third quarter, making it 21-19, only for the Volunteers to answer with a second 20-yard touchdown pass from Joshua Dobbs to Josh Malone.

The Bobcats’ only touchdown came after Tennessee went up 21-12 on a 13-yard run by Dobbs with 4:57 to go in the third quarter.

Ohio had two possessions in the fourth quarter to try to eliminate its deficit but punted on the first one and then gave up the ball on downs near midfield with just 2:04 remaining.

Tennessee took the lead less than a minute into the game, getting a 35-yard run by Alvin Kamara before Dobbs’ first touchdown pass to Malone.

The Bobcats followed it with an extensive drive, aided by Volunteers mistakes. A personal foul penalty on a punt gave Ohio a first down, and the Bobcats later were stopped on third down but converted when given a second chance due to a penalty. The drive stalled when Dorian Brown came up a yard shy on fourth-and-1, and Zervos kicked a 38-yard field goal.

After Aaron Medley missed a 55-yard field goal try, Ohio had its first chance to take the lead but punted. Randy Stites’ interception, though, on the next play gave possession back to the Bobcats at their opponents’ 23-yard line, with the ball moved to the 12-yard line after a personal foul. But three incompletions later, Ohio settled for a 29-yard field goal to make it 7-6.

Jalen Hurd’s 1-yard touchdown run pushed the Volunteers’ advantage to 14-6 early in the second quarter, and once more, Ohio answered with just a field goal, a 30-yarder by Zervos. After a Tennessee punt, the Bobcats got another 30-yard field goal from Zervos, getting the score to 14-12 with 6:02 left in the half.

It was enough time for the Bobcats to get two more possessions before the half, but neither resulted in points, including the final one, which ended with a punt from the Tennessee 40-yard line. Ohio had three more possessions trailing by just two in the third quarter but failed to pick up a first down each time.

Already without starter A.J. Ouellette, out for the season with an injury, and Maleek Irons, who did not travel because of an injury, the Bobcats lost Dorian Brown to an injury in the second quarter, leaving them with only Papi White and freshman walk-on Vinny Emanuele as the only running backs. The Bobcats also had offensive linemen leave the game without returning.

Windham went 23-of-46 passing for 230 yards and a touchdown and rushed for a team-leading 39 yards on nine carries. Brown had 22 yards on eight carries before he went out.

Dobbs was 19-of-27 passing for 203 yards, with Malone making five catches for 69 yards. Alvin Kamara rushed 11 times for 67 yards, Jalen Hurd rushed 15 times for 61 yards, and Dobbs carried 14 times for 59 yards.

Quentin Poling led Ohio’s defense with 14 tackles, including 1.5 for loss. Blair Brown made nine tackles, including two for loss, and Cleon Aloese had seven tackles with two of them for loss, including one of the team’s three sacks. Javon Hagan had six tackles and forced two fumbles.

Despite the numerous passing attempts, Ohio’s offensive line did not allow a sack and has not given up one yet this season.

The Bobcats close out non-conference play against Gardner-Webb at 2 p.m. Saturday at Peden Stadium.

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