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Ohio Earns 36-14 Victory Against Gardner-Webb in Opener

Sept. 1, 2007

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ATHENS, Ohio - Behind three rushing touchdowns and three blocked punts, Ohio came away victorious Friday night with a 36-14 win against Gardner-Webb.

Senior running back Kalvin McRae (Decatur, Ga.) ran in a pair of touchdowns and Josh Abrams (Dunwoody, Ga.) also touched paydirt on the ground.

But it was Abrams' play on special teams that made the biggest impact.

The senior blocked three punts, the last of which rolled out of the back of end zone for a safety in the fourth quarter.

McRae led all rushers with 142 yards on 24 attempts. Three Bobcat quarterbacks saw action in the first game of the 2007 season, but Brad Bower (Burr Ridge, Ill.) took the vast majority of the snaps. The senior completed 15-of-25 passes for 180 yards, including a 34-yard touchdown strike to Chido Nwokocha (Elk Grove, Calif.) in the second quarter.

Nwokocha led all Ohio receivers with 52 yards on three catches.

The balanced Bobcat attack netted 432 yards of total offense, 206 on the ground and 226 via the pass.

The Bobcats could have had even more yards but a penalty negated what would have been a 14-yard McRae run on the first play from scrimmage, and the Bobcats were unable to record a first down on their opening drive of the season.

A similar fate befell Gardner-Webb on its first offensive possession of the 2007 season as well, as it failed to earn a first down. The Runnin' Bulldogs' second possession ended even more abrupt as Ohio senior Mark Parson (Richmond, Va.) picked off a Stan Doolittle pass at the Bobcat 48 yard line.

With the benefit of the ball at midfield and Bower under center, McRae was able to convert two fourth-down situations via the run. Thanks to key downfield blocks from Nwokocha and David Carter (Waynesboro, Pa.), McRae's second fourth-down conversion went for 20 yards and the first Ohio score of the game and the 2007 campaign. Michael Braunstein (Gilbert, Ariz.) converted the point-after to put the Bobcats ahead 7-0 with 3:19 remaining in the first quarter.

Following the subsequent kick-off, Gardner-Webb put together a 12-play, 65-yard drive that stretched into the second quarter and reached the Ohio 23, but Evan Key's 40-yard field goal attempt went just wide left and the score remained in the `Cats favor, 7-0.

After Ohio went four-and-out, Bobcat senior safety Ervin Jackson (Kiln, Miss.) recorded his first-career interception as he picked off Doolittle on Gardner-Webb's second play and set up Ohio at its own 28. But the Bobcats failed to move the ball in Theo Scott's (Long Beach, Calif.) first series at quarterback and a punt put the ball back in the Bulldogs' hands.

Ohio's defense stood up Gardner-Webb and set up Abrams first blocked punt of the game. After accomplishing the feat three times all last season, Abrams broke through the left side of the Bulldogs' line and the ricocheted ball ended up in Idris Lawrence's (Columbus, Ohio) hands at the G-W 13-yard line. But the Bobcats could not capitalize on the prime field position as McRae mishandled a pitch from Bower on the first play from scrimmage and the Bulldogs fell on the fumble.

Following a series of punts, Ohio was able to put together its most-sustained drive of the first half. Thanks to six completed passes on seven attempts by Bower, including a 23-yard toss to Matt Donahue (Fremont, Neb.) that got the ball to the one yard line. Abrams took the ball over right tackle into the endzone for his first-career rushing touchdown with 16 seconds remaining in the half to put Ohio up 14-0 heading into the locker room.

At the break, Ohio held a slim 149-104 edge in total offense and had a time of possession advantage of 17:08 to 12:52. Neither team was efficient on third-down conversions as Ohio was just 3-of-10 while Gardner-Webb was 0-for-6.

Gardner-Webb had the ball to start the second half, and after earning two first downs, Ohio forced a punt that Abrams once again was able to block.

With the ball on the Ohio 47, Bower needed just five plays and 1:44 to put the Bobcats ahead 21-0. His second completion of the drive gave Nwokocha the first receiving touchdown of his career.

But the Bulldogs were able to answer, however, as they marched 62 yards in just six plays for their first score of the game, a 33-yard touchdown pass from Devin Campbell to Tyson Petty with 7:59 left in the period.

With the Bobcats lead now at 21-7, Ohio reeled off a long scoring march of their own, a 14-play drive that consumed 6:14 on the game clock, and ended with Braunstein's first field goal for the green and white, a 21-yarder that put Ohio ahead 24-7 with 1:38 remaining in the third quarter.

Gardner-Webb once again had an answer as it recorded another touchdown drive in nearly identical fashion. The Bulldogs were able to put together a six-play, 65-yard drive in just 1:43 to cut the Bobcat lead to 10 at 24-14.

The Bobcats then ground out 46 yards on seven plays on their subsequent possession to set-up Braunstein's second field goal - a 43-yard boot from the left hash, which gave Ohio a 27-14 lead.

The final touchdown of the game came with McRae bouncing outside to the left of the Bobcats' offensive line for his second score of the contest. McRae's two touchdowns bumped him up to third all-time in program history with 28, surpassing Chad Brinker's mark of 27 set in 2002.

McRae also broke the 3,000 yard mark for his career, pushing his prodigious total to 3,106 career yards on the ground.

The Bobcats were not quite done putting points on the board as Abrams' third blocked punt rolled out of the back of the Gardner-Webb endzone for a safety, which pushed the Bobcat lead to its final mark of 36-14.

A crowd of 19,823 was in attendance for the first game of the 2007 season. That marked the highest attendance for an Ohio home game since Nov. 24, 2005 when more than 21,000 fans were in the house for the Bobcats' contest against Toledo on ESPN2.