A well-executed offensive attack and a dominant defensive performance helped the Ohio Bobcats (4-0) cruise to a 44-10 victory over Norfolk State.
Star quarterback Tyler Tettleton was scratched with an undisclosed injury minutes before kickoff. However, not a step was lost with inexperienced (RS) Freshman Derrius Vick at the helm of the offense. The fluidity of the Bobcats on both sides of the ball was evident from the start. Vick threw a beautiful fade to wide receiver Donte Foster for the first touchdown of Vick’s career. The
score was set up courtesy of the Bobcat secondary, safety Xavier Hughes jarred the ball loose out of Spartan running back Brendon Riddick’s hands and captain Gerald Moore was right there to recover.
The Bobcat defense was able to help Vick out early, after the fumble, they forced three-and-outs on the next two possessions. Coach Frank Solich was proud of his young signal caller.
“It was impressive to me that (Vick) was able to go in and operate our no-huddle offense at the pace that he did and the manner that he did,” Solich said. “He’s working with our first-team receivers a lot like Tyler does throughout the course of a week, and I think that’s what enables him to show that kind of efficiency today.”
In the span of three minutes, Ohio had put 14 points on the board. After the fade to Foster, Vick threw a simple dump pass to Beau Blankenship in the flat that Blankenship ran 24 yards in for six. Matt Weller then hit a 49 yard field goal, a season-long, to give Ohio a 17-0 lead all on just 62 yards of total offense.
The Ohio defense spent extra time in the film room this week, leading up to their second home game of the season and it showed. Ohio was able to swallow up nearly all the Spartan rushing attempts and blanketed their wideouts from the onset of the game. Keith Moore, who leads the team with 29 tackles on the season, tallied five takedowns on the day and was repeatedly bullying the Spartan backfield.
“I know from the defensive aspect of it that it’s always nice to get that three-and-out or get that first turnover on the first play,” Moore. “That helps the whole team morale; especially the offense has to feel good when your defense is clicking like that.”
Although one of the most important gears in the machine that is the Ohio offense was missing against Norfolk State, Vick still managed to engineer drives with the same precision that Tettleton has done so far this season. No scoring drive lasted longer than three minutes with running back Beau Blankenship wearing down yet another opposing defense yet again.
The Bobcat bruiser totaled 25 carries on the day and eclipsed the 100-yard mark for the fourth straight game becoming the first Bobcat running back to do that since Kalvin McRae. Blankenship finished with 109 yards on the ground and 24 receiving yards, and in addition to his 24-yard touchdown catch, ran one in from two yards out at the end of the first quarter to put the ‘Cats up 24-0.
“It was good to get a quick start and keep that pace,” Blankenship said. “We just have the mentality that every game we play we want to win, and we feel like we’re going to win.”
After Vick’s third touchdown pass of the half, a 15-yard throw in the second quarter to Jordan Thompson for the captain’s first score of the season, it was evident that Ohio has something special brewing with Vick’s future with the team.
His brightest flash of brilliance came in the first quarter when the redshirt freshman evaded a Spartan rush and stepped up to deliver a 46-yard pass to tight end Derek Robak down the middle of the field. Vick finished the day 14-of-20 with 199 yards and four touchdowns, with that 46-yard completion being his longest on the day.
“At every position I think we’re loaded and just whoever comes in just knows that it’s their time to come in and just do their thing,” Vick said. “What was most important was just no turnovers, I think that was the key for us and will be key for us the whole season.”
Vick’s stellar debut on offense was only matched by an aggressive and relentless attack by the Bobcat defense. In addition to the turnover that started Ohio off on the right foot, the defense wreaked havoc by causing four other turnovers on the day and shutting out Norfolk State for the first 55 minutes of the game.
Spartan quarterbacks Nico Flores and Jake Basmagian split time heading the Norfolk State offense, but a dual-threat meant little to an overbearing Bobcat unit. They recorded one sack, picked off Flores twice and came up with three fumble recoveries en route to their first 4-0 start since 1976.
“I feel good for our football team opening up with four straight wins,”Solich said. “Going in we felt the nonconference schedule would be a challenging schedule for us, so I feel good about being able to come out of it 4-0”
The Bobcats will have little time to reflect on their all-around impressive victory. They travel to Gillette Stadium to open up MAC play versus Massachusetts next Saturday at 3:30 p.m.