FOLLOW OHIO FOOTBALL: Facebook | Twitter
Game Book (PDF) | Postgame Quotes | Postgame Notes
ATHENS, Ohio -- Redshirt senior wide receiver Papi White (Seminole, Okla.) racked up a career-high 154 receiving yards on a career-high eight receptions and hauled in a touchdown, and redshirt junior quarterback Quinton Maxwell (Rayville, Mo.) threw for two scores and ran for two more as the Ohio football team (1-0) held off Howard (0-1), 38-32, to open the 2018 season with a victory.
"Well I'm pleased with the win," said 14th-year head coach Frank Solich. "Wins don't come easy. They're a program that has shown they're able to get some things done at a higher level. They have some good personnel. We did not play very well. I don't think we played especially well on either side of the ball. When you give up as many yards as we did, you don't win football games that way. We have a lot of work to do defensively, no question about it."
Trailing the Bison 22-17 at halftime, the Bobcats scored two touchdowns in the opening 1:37 of the second half to turn the tide of the game.
Howard opened the new season with sophomore quarterback Caylin Newton finding junior wide receiver Jequez Ezzard for a gain of 59 yards. Ohio redshirt senior safety Kylan Nelson (Lexington, Ky.) came up with the first big play of the year for the Ohio defense, though, forcing Ezzard to cough up the ball, with redshirt senior cornerback Jalen Fox (Cincinnati, Ohio) recovering it to give Ohio possession at its own 18-yard line.
After the Bobcats' offense went three-and-out, redshirt junior wide receiver Jason Collins connected with Ezzard on a double pass for a gain of 45 yards. Three plays later, Newton kept it himself and scored from four yards out to put the Bison on top.
Rushes of 13 yards by redshirt senior running back A.J. Ouellette (Covington, Ohio) and 11 yards by redshirt junior quarterback Nathan Rourke (Oakville, Ontario, Canada) set up a 45-yard field goal attempt by redshirt junior kicker Louie Zervos (Tarpon Springs, Fla.), but his try hit off the right upright.
The Bison extended their lead to 10-0 on their next drive, going 63 yards in 14 plays and capping it off with a 26-yard field goal by freshman kicker Faraji Joseph.
The Bobcats got on the board with a minute left to play in the first quarter. Ouellette produced 22 yards on the ground while redshirt senior running back Maleek Irons (Chilliwack, British Columbia, Canada) ripped off a run of 12 yards to put the ball in Howard territory. Rourke kept the Ohio drive alive by extending himself on fourth-and-inches to give the Bobcats a first-and-goal at the four. Ohio's offense stalled, but Zervos gave the Bobcats their first points of the season by hitting a 22-yard field goal.
The Howard lead grew to 13 points with just over nine minutes left in the first half after Newton hit Collins for a 38-yard touchdown.
Ohio pulled to within six points when Maxwell connected with White for a 24-yard gain on the first down, then found him again five plays later for an 11-yard touchdown.
The Bison went up 22-10 with just under two minutes to go in the half when Newton threw a six-yard touchdown pass to junior wide receiver Kyle Anthony.
Maxwell and the Ohio offense responded by putting together a seven-play, 75-yard drive that ended in a 13-yard touchdown pass to redshirt sophomore wide receiver Cameron Odom (Bedford, Ohio), sending the Bobcats into halftime trailing Howard, 22-17.
The second half opened with a flurry of scoring for the Bobcats that swung the momentum of the contest. Redshirt junior wide receiver DL Knock (Springboro, Ohio) took the second-half kickoff back 99 yards for a touchdown, tying for the third-longest return in school history and marking the longest since Daz' Patterson went 100 yards to the house against Buffalo on Oct. 6, 2012.
On Howard's ensuing drive, senior linebacker Evan Croutch (Youngstown, Ohio) picked off Newton for his first career interception, setting up shop for the Ohio offense at the Howard 33-yard line. Maxwell completed passes of 11 yards to Odom and 19 to Ouellette, then kept it himself for a one-yard touchdown run, helping to give the Bobcats a 31-22 lead over the Bison.
Howard shaved Ohio's lead down to two points with just under five minutes to go in the third quarter, converting on 3rd-and-18 with a 55-yard touchdown pass from Newton to Ezzard.
The Bobcats went right back down the field on the ensuing drive, with Maxwell taking it himself on third down for a 10-yard touchdown scamper to finish off a 10-play, 75-yard march and extend Ohio's advantage to 38-29. His two rushing touchdowns on the day marked a career high.
The Bison cut Ohio's lead back down to six with 7:46 to go when Lebofsky knocked home a 40-yard field goal.
Howard got the ball back with 1:56 left and no timeouts at its own 19-yard line. Newton converted a third-and-eight with a 13-yard completion to Anthony, then found Ezzard for seven more yards on second-and-three to move the ball to the 48. Newton connected with sophomore wide receiver Justin Dooley for a gain of 12 on the first down, but the play was nulified by a holding call. With a fourth-and-nine at the 49 with 18 seconds remaining, redshirt sophomore cornerback Ilyaas Motley (Centerville, Ohio) intercepted Newton for his first career pick, sealing the victory for Ohio.
Maxwell finished 17-of-25 with 233 yards passing and matched his career high with two passing touchdowns. Ouellette led the Bobcats on the ground with 65 yards while Irons tallied 55 more. White, who caught a team-high eight passes, recorded his second career game with at least 100 yards receiving. Nelson set a career-high with eight total tackles and also broke up three passes. His forced fumble on the first play from scrimmage marked the first of his career. Fox piled up 7.5 tackles -- including one for a loss -- and both forced and recovered his first career fumble. Croutch matched Fox for second on the team with 7.5 total tackles -- including 1.5 for loss.
"It was kind of a feeling of, that's what we've done as an offense all camp," said Maxwell. "That was the expectation for us coming in. We know we've got some things to improve on but for me personally it was kind of reassuring, saying, "alright, I'm settled in, I'm into the flow of the game" and it felt good just to kind of get that out of the way and we can get on and get rolling."
Newton finished as Howard's leading passer and rusher, going 26-of-52 for 439 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. He also ran for 110 yards and scored a touchdown. Ezzard hauled in eight catches for 223 yards and a score while Anthony caught nine balls for 97 yards and a touchdown. Junior linebacker Marcellus Allison racked up a game-high 10.5 total tackles to lead the Bison defense.
Following a bye in week two, Ohio visits Atlantic Coast Conference opponent Virginia on Sept. 15. Kickoff is scheduled for 3 p.m. from Scott Stadium in Charlottesville, Va. The contest can be seen on ACC Network Extra.