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Defense Leads Bobcats to 29-3 Win

Sept. 2, 2006

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ATHENS, Ohio - The Ohio defense held Tennessee-Martin to just 123 yards of total offense in its season-opening, 29-3 victory Saturday night in front of 15,010 fans at Peden Stadium. It was the lowest yardage total allowed by the Bobcats since giving Central Florida 98 yards in 2003.

The Bobcats held UT Martin to an average of just 2.3 yards per play. Senior linebacker Matt Muncy (Miamisburg, Ohio) led the way with seven tackles, six of which were solo, while also breaking up one pass. Senior Tyler Russ (Stensonville, Wis.) also recorded seven tackles while freshman Ernie Hodge (Dublin, Va.) and sophomore Jameson Hartke (Centerville, Ohio) each recorded sacks in the Ohio victory.

The defense also accounted for a pair of scores in the game. The Bobcats forced a fumble near the goal line and earned a safety when the Skyhawks recovered in the end zone. The unit scored its first touchdown of the season when senior Michael Graham (Cincinnati, Ohio) forced another UT Martin fumble, and senior T.J. Wright (Beaumont, Texas) scooped it up and ran 35 yards untouched for his second career touchdown.

While Ohio mounted only 144 yards of offense, the Bobcats made the yards count as they scored on four of their five trips into the red zone. Senior quarterback Austen Everson (Brentwood, Tenn.) finished 8-of-17 for 49 yards, and also ran eight times for 16 yards and a touchdown. Junior running back Kalvin McRae (Decatur, Ga.) led the Bobcats with 28 yards on the ground and a three-yard TD plunge. Senior wide receiver Scott Mayle (Philippi, W.Va.) tallied five receptions for 38 yards, including four of the five Ohio receptions in the first half.

Senior Matt Lasher (Copley, Ohio) led the special teams, performing all three kicking duties. Lasher was 2-for-2 on field goal attempts, the first of his career, hitting from 29 and 20 yards. He also connected on all three of his point-after attempts. In the punting game, Lasher averaged 42.8 yards on six kicks, including putting Tennessee-Martin inside the 20-yard line four times.

Don Chapman paced the Skyhawks with 56 yards rushing on 23 attempts. Quarterback Dexter Anoka finished 11-of-18 for 72 yards while Jamaal Akbar led the team in receiving with 48 yards. David Gilmore and Brandon Cooper paced the Skyhawks defensively with eight tackles apiece.

After 10 minutes of scoreless football, the Bobcats got on the board first when McRae scored on a three-yard touchdown run. The Ohio drive started after an 18-yard Skyhawk punt, setting up the eight-play, 26-yard drive. McRae also posted runs of four and five yards on the drive. Lasher added the point-after and the Bobcats took a 7-0 lead.

Ohio extended the lead to 9-0 early in the second quarter with its first team safety since 2004. With the Skyhawks on their own two-yard-line, Hodge and senior Shane Yates (Martinez, Ga.) forced a UT Martin fumble, which the Skyhawks recovered in the end-zone for the two points. The sack and forced fumble was the first of Hodge's career.

The Bobcats added three more points to their lead just before the half when Lasher nailed his first career field goal attempt. The drive started after junior Josh Abrams (Dunwoody, Ga.) blocked a Skyhawk punt to give Ohio the ball at the UT Martin six-yard-line. Lasher hit the field goal from 29 yards out with just seven seconds left in the half.

After a stalled Bobcat drive to open that second half, the Ohio defense made it 19 unanswered Bobcat points. Graham forced a fumble, and Wright went in for the score.. Lasher added the extra point and the Bobcats held a 19-0 advantage.

The Skyhawks finally got on the board with five minutes remaining in the third quarter, hitting an 18-yard field goal to make the score 19-3. The Bobcats answered on the following drive, posting a 10-play, 49-yard drive capped off by a one-yard touchdown score from Everson. Everson chipped away at the Skyhawk defense on the drive, completing passes of nine and eight yards, and also rushing for six yards and the one-yard touchdown. Lasher was good on his third straight point after and the Bobcats took a 26-3 lead. Lasher finished the scoring with a 20-yard field goal late in the fourth quarter to make the score the final of 29-3.

The Bobcats start the season 1-0 for the 60th time in school history. The win marked the third consecutive win over a Division I-AA opponent and also snaps a three-game losing streak dating back to last season. It was the second straight home opener in which the Bobcats did not allow an offensive touchdown (Pittsburgh, 2005).

Ohio will hit the road next week for its MAC opener against Northern Illinois. The game is schedule for a 3:05 p.m. ET kickoff.