J.D. Sprague shined in his first start of the season and led Ohio to a 48-31 victory over Ball State. The redshirt junior got the start in place of an injured Derrius Vick (knee) and commanded the Bobcats’ offense to six touchdown drives in its highest-scoring game of the season.
“He played great,” Ohio coach Frank Solich said. “He didn’t try to make plays. He let the plays come to him. When he had opportunities, he took advantage of them.”
Sprague found his target on 15 of 22 passes for 275 yards and three touchdowns and added 46 yards on the ground.
“J.D.’s fast,” A.J. Ouellette said. “He can outrun me. The defense has to respect him. It opens it up for the running back.”
Ouellette led a Bobcat rushing attack that totaled 332 yards, finishing with 121 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries. It was the sophomore’s, and Ohio’s, first game with triple-digit rushing numbers this season after three in his freshman campaign. Daz’ Patterson found the end zone on Ohio’s second drive before leaving with a knee/calf injury.
“It’s easy for me to hand the ball off to these guys and let them go to work,” Sprague said of his running backs. “It makes my job easier.”
Due to the lack of health in Ohio’s linebacking corps., Ouellette was forced to play middle linebacker for multiple games this season. Since permanently returning to the backfield, Ouellette has recorded 195 rushing yards in the last two weeks.
“What a team guy,” Solich said of Ouellette. “He’s as good as they get. It was good to see our offense alive.”
Ohio (7-4, 4-3 MAC) outgained Ball State (3-8, 2-5 MAC) 607-421 and scored on eight of its 13 drives. 10 total touchdowns were scored in the game.
Jordan Reid led the Bobcats with 112 yards and two touchdowns on four catches. Sebastian Smith hauled in seven passes for 89 yards and a fourth quarter touchdown.
The Green & White led 28-3 late in the second quarter, but were unable to put the Cardinals away. Ohio never punted in the second half and scored four times, but three of those drives were answered by Ball State touchdowns.
The Cardinals’ freshman quarterback, Riley Neal, completed 16 of his 34 pass attempts for 247 yards and two touchdowns in addition to 62 rushing yards and a 1-yard score. Junior wideout KeVonn Mabon caught 10 passes for 139 yards and a touchdown.
The performance of Sprague gives Solich a nice problem. Both of his quarterbacks have played well in recent games, but have yet to be healthy at the same time. What happens when they’re both are at full-go?
“It’s whoever is playing the best football,” Solich said. “We don’t let a performance take a position away, but if there’s better performance, then that job gets moved to the other guy.
“There’s not a great deal of discussion on that yet. We’re fortunate right now that we have two quarterbacks playing really well.”
The ‘Cats seventh win seemingly ensures that Ohio will receive a bowl bid following its final game at Northern Illinois next Tuesday. Ohio hasn’t ended the regular season on a winning streak since 2008.
“I feel as though we’ve been placed as a team that starts off good and finishes off not as well,” Reid said. “Players take that to heart and we want to finish strong.”