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Bobcats Run Through Kent State for MAC-Opening Win, 35-32

Sept. 24, 2005

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ATHENS, Ohio - ATHENS, Ohio - The two-headed backfield of Kalvin McRae and Voncarie Owens combined for 339 yards and four touchdowns Saturday to lift the Ohio football team to a 35-32 victory over Kent State in the Mid-American Conference opener in front of 16,721 at Peden Stadium.

McRae (Decatur, Ga.) rushed for 200 yards with two scores and Owens (Taylorsville, Miss.) pushed for 139 yards and two touchdowns to lead Ohio (2-2 overall, 1-0 MAC) to its highest scoring output of the season. The Bobcat defense tied a program record with six interceptions and the win marked the first in the MAC for Ohio Head Coach Frank Solich.

"I'm pretty happy and pleased for the players and the staff to have them open up with a win in the MAC with what I think was a hard-fought contest," Solich said. "We're moving in the right direction but we still have to be a team that learns how to win and not make it so difficult on ourselves."

After surrendering a first-quarter safety, Ohio scored 21 unanswered points to take a lead it would never relinquish. Four first-half interceptions for the Bobcats kept the Kent State (1-3, 0-2 MAC) offense quiet and Ohio's ground attack provided the lead.

Ohio's big-play defense got an early start Saturday, turning away a pair of Kent State drives. On the first Golden Flash possession of the game, Kent State quarterback Michael Machen faced 3rd-and-21 from the Bobcat 46. Machen dropped back to pass but Ohio cornerback Dion Byrum (Matthews, N.C.) snatched the attempt with one hand, marking his third interception of the season and giving the ball to the Bobcats for the first time on the afternoon.

Both Ohio and Kent State were forced to punt on their next possessions but it was the Golden Flash special teams that turned the punt into points. Kent State punter Joshua Brazen pinned Ohio returner Mark Parson (Richmond, Va.) inside his own five and Parson lost the handle during the return, eventually picking up the football before being tackled in the end zone for a safety.

On the ensuing possession, Bobcat safety Tony Ward (Beaumont, Texas) froze another Golden Flash drive, picking off a Machen pass and returning 25 yards near midfield.

Following suit, an Ohio interception was followed by a pair of punts. The second punt pinned the Bobcats down to their own one-yard line with 1:22 remaining in the first frame.

The Bobcat offense responded, though, with a heavy dose of the run. McRae ran six times on the drive--including a 50-yard carry and a four-yard rush to the end zone--to put Ohio on the board and in the lead. The point-after attempt was true and Ohio jumped on top 7-2.

Now playing with a lead, the Ohio defense struck again. This time it was linebacker Matt Muncy's (Miamisburg, Ohio) turn to step in front of a Machen pass. With the ball tipped at the line, Muncy picked off the pass and returned it to the Kent State 11. Three plays later, Austen Everson (Brentwood, Tenn.) hooked up with Scott Mayle (Philippi, W.Va.) in the corner of the end zone for the Bobcat score. Brooks Rossman's (Seal Beach, Calif.) point-after attempt was good and the Bobcats took a 14-2 advantage.

After another Kent State punt, the Ohio offense lit up the scoreboard again. Everson anchored a seven-play, 88-yard scoring drive that finished up with a 21-yard touchdown run for McRae and a 21-2 advantage for the Bobcats with just more than three minutes left in the half.

On the ensuing Kent State possession, Ohio's Tyler Russ (Stetsonville, Wis.) picked off a Machen pass at the Golden Flashes' 24-yard line and put the ball back in the Bobcats' hands.

Ohio could not take advantage, though. Kent State linebacker Jon Sessler pulled in an Everson pass at the line of scrimmage and ran it back 73 yards for the score and pulled the Flashes to within 12.

The 12-point margin stood into intermission but the lead would fluctuate often after the break.

Kent State's defense provided a spark to open up the second half and put the Golden Flashes in a position to cut the deficit. Rico Murray picked off an Everson pass and Kent State managed to get three out of it after Travis Mayle connected on a 33-yard field goal attempt to make the score 21-12 with 12:35 left in the third quarter.

Midway through the third, Owens rushed eight times on an 11-play drive--including a four-yard scoring play--to put the Bobcat lead back to double digits at 28-12.

On Kent State's ensuing drive, the Flashes traveled 91 yards on three plays in 77 seconds--highlighted by an 84-yard strike from Machen to Najah Pruden--and clawed back, pushing the score to 28-18 after a two-point conversion attempt.

The Bobcat offense responded once again, though, with Owens behind the wheel. It took six plays for Ohio to find the end zone, thanks to a 75-yard run down the left sideline by the junior college transfer for the Bobcat score. Rossman's point-after try was good and the Bobcats led 35-18.

With a 17-point deficit in the fourth quarter, the Golden Flashes moved quickly to carve into the Ohio lead. A 60-yard Machen touchdown pass put an exclamation point on a four-play drive at the beginning of the quarter to put the score at 35-25.

After Byrum picked off a Kent State pass in the end zone to quell another drive, the Golden Flashes went 63 yards in just more than a minute later in the quarter to find the end zone and pull to within three under the two-minute mark.

The Golden Flashes attempted an on-side kick but the try was unsuccessful and Ohio took over at the Kent State 42. The Bobcats traveled 22 yards over the next five plays and ran the clock out on their first MAC victory in as many chances this season.

For the game, Everson completed 13-of-19 passes for 145 yards with a touchdown and two picks. His counterpart Machen completed 15-of-19 passes for 282 yards with five interceptions and back-up signal caller Jon Brown completed 15-of-19 with a touchdown and an interception.

"Kent State has got a good defensive personnel," Solich said. "It wasn't automatic to line up and move the ball on them and put points on the board. I thought Tim Albin and the offensive staff did a good job putting together a game plan that we were able to utilize."

With 12 tackles, an interception and a pair of pass break-ups, Muncy led the Bobcats' defensive effort. Byrum notched two interceptions to complement six solo tackles. Russ, Ward and Michael Brown (Cincinnati, Ohio) accounted for the remaining Bobcat picks.

"It's an instinctive group," Solich said. "They do a very good job of breaking on the ball and being around the ball. Those six turnovers--seven if you count the interception on the two-point conversion--were needed today."

Ohio will now enjoy its bye week before returning to the field Oct. 8 in a match-up with Bowling Green. The Bobcats and Falcons are set to tangle at 6 p.m. at Perry Stadium.