Overview: The Ohio Bobcats (8-4, 6-2) held on to defeat the Akron Zips (5-7, 3-5) at Peden Stadium on Tuesday night, 9-3, to win the MAC East. The victory advances the Bobcats to the conference championship game for the first time since 2011 and third time in school history.
You knew it was over when: With Akron facing 4th and 11 from the Ohio 25-yard line with 16 seconds left, quarterback Tyrell Goodman’s pass to Austin Wolf was knocked down by defensive back Brad Ellis in the end zone.
Zervos gets it done: The Bobcats were held out of the end zone for the first time all season, but freshman kicker Louie Zervos nailed all three of his field goal attempts to account for all of Ohio’s nine points. Zervos’s 23-yard field goal with 2:53 left in the game capped off an eight-play, 83-yard drive for Ohio and gave the green & white a 9-3 lead, forcing Akron to drive the length of the field to win the game. Zervos finished the regular season with an 83.3 percent success rate, making 25 of his 30 field goal attempts.
Defense sets tone: The Ohio defense did not record a takeaway, but they allowed a season-low three points, holding Akron to just 226 total yards. The Bobcats had the number one rush defense in the conference coming into the game and it stood strong in the win on Tuesday, holding the Zips to just 95 rushing yards on 32 attempts. Tom O’ Leary provided the only points for Akron with a 35-yard field goal at the 8:57 mark in the third quarter.
Maxwell: Greg Windham was available, but Ohio stuck with starter Quinton Maxwell. The freshman signal-caller failed to throw a touchdown for a fourth straight game, but was safe with the football. He finished 14 of 25 for 169 yards and seven carries for 27 yards. Maxwell’s biggest completion was a 32-yard connection to Papi White that led to a third Zervos’ field goal that made it 9-3 late in the fourth quarter. Maxwell’s overall passer rating of 136.3 this season was a team-high.
Run game earns game balls: The backfield tandem of Maleek Irons and Dorian Brown led Ohio offensively in the win. The duo combined for 101 rushing yards on 25 carries, helping the Bobcats win the time of possession battle by five minutes. Brown finished the regular season averaging just under six yards per attempt.
Cutting it close: Akron regained possession with 2:49 left in the game trailing by six. The Zips drove all the way to the Ohio 24 after a 19-yard run — on fourth down — by Mykel Traylor-Bennett. After a Tarell Basham sack, JoJo Natson dropped what would’ve been a game-winning touchdown. Instead, it was incomplete, and Goodman’s next pass was knocked away by Ellis and the Bobcats clinched the MAC East.
What’s next?: Ohio will now play the waiting game. They will play the winner of the Friday (11/25) matchup between Western Michigan (11-0, 7-0) and Toledo (9-2. 7-1).
Photo: Ohio Athletics