Oct. 14, 2006
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Senior kicker Matt Lasher (Copley, Ohio) hit a game-winning, 32-yard field goal with just five seconds remaining in the game as the Bobcats became the first Mid-American Conference team this season to take down a Big Ten opponent, defeating Illinois 20-17 Saturday at Memorial Stadium.
"It was a great win for our players, our fans and our university," Head Coach Frank Solich said. "I couldn't be any prouder of our players and our coaches tonight."
Ohio (4-3, 2-1) matched its win total from last season when the Bobcats went 4-7 on the year. With the victory, the Bobcats start the season 4-2 for the first time since the 2000 season. The win is the first over a Big Ten team for Ohio since a win over Minnesota during the 2000 campaign. Ohio has now defeated a team from a BCS conference in each of the last three seasons with a win over Big East member Pittsburg last season and SEC member Kentucky in 2004.
Lasher's kick was set up by a forced fumble by T.J. Wright and the ensuing recovery by senior Tyler Russ (Stetsonville, Wis.). The fumble came with just 1:03 remaining in the game and gave Ohio the ball at the Illinois 16-yard-line. Lasher hit his second 32-yard field goal of the night to give Ohio the three-point victory.
"Special teams played big in this win tonight," Solich said. "Lasher had a great game and we had the blocked punt. Special teams were huge in the win."
Senior running back Kalvin McRae (Decatur, Ga.) led the Bobcat offense with 108 yards on 25 carries and two touchdowns. McRae went over 100 yards for the ninth time in his career, which gives him sole possession of sixth place in Ohio history for 100-yard games. McRae now has 20 career touchdowns in a Bobcat uniform and is tied for seventh on Ohio's all-time touchdown list. McRae scored multiple touchdowns in a game for the fifth time in his career.
Quarterback Austen Everson (Brentwood, Tenn.) finished the game 7-for-15 for 106 yards and one interception. McRae caught three passes for 17 yards while senior Scott Mayle (Philippi, Va.) recorded two receptions for 64 yards. Mayle moved into third place in the Ohio record books with 1,658 career receiving yards.
Senior Matt Muncy (Miamisburg, Ohio) led the Bobcat defense with 10 total tackles, one for a loss, and also finished with one forced fumble and one quarterback hurry. Russ recorded nine tackles, one for a loss, and the fumble recovery to set up the game-winning score.
Illinois quarterback Juice Williams finished 16-for-34 for 186 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. He also ran the ball 17 times for a team-best 96 yards in the Illini loss. DaJuan Warren led the team with three receptions.
On the opening possession of the game, Illinois drove down to the Ohio 25-yard-line but senior Shane Yates (Martinez, Ga.) came up with a big sack, his first of the season, for a nine-yard loss to force an Illini punt. The Bobcat defense stalled another first quarter drive by Illinois as sophomore Mark Parson (Richmond, Va.) recorded his first career interception to end the drive. Illinois drove into Ohio territory again early in the second quarter and had a first-and-goal from the nine-yard-line, but again the Bobcat defense stood firm on third down. Illinois was able to come away with points this time, however, as Jason Reda hit a 25-yard field goal for a 3-0 Illinois lead.
Ohio took just over one minute to answer the Illini score as the Bobcats found the endzone in just four plays. McRae crossed the stripe from two yards out for the touchdown but the big play was a 58-yard pass completion from Everson to Mayle. Mayle added a nine-yard run on the drive and McRae reeled off an 11-yard rush prior to the big pass play. Lasher (Copley, Ohio) hit the extra point to give Ohio a 7-3 lead.
Bobcat special teams came up huge on the following Illini drive after the defense forced an Illinois punt. Junior Josh Abrams (Dunwoody, Ga.) blocked the punt and senior Ahmona Maxwell (Paducah, Ky.) picked it up and ran 10 yards down to the Illinois 19-yard-line. The block was the second of Abrams' career and his second this season. On the second play of the resulting drive, McRae found pay dirt from 17 yards out for his second rushing touchdown of the day. Lasher's kick was good and the Bobcats took a 14-3 lead.
Illinois was able to answer with just 24 second remaining in the first half on a 15-yard touchdown pass from Williams to Jeff Cumberland. A 15-yard punt return set up a short field for the Illini before the score. Reda hit the point-after and Ohio held a 14-10 lead at the half.
The Bobcats tacked a field goal onto their lead with six minutes remaining in the third quarter to make it a one touchdown game at 17-10. Lasher split the uprights from 32 yards out for the score. McRae ran for 16 yards on the drive after a 13-yard punt return by Parson gave Ohio the ball in Illinois territory.
The Illini tied the game with 10 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter as they showed big-strike ability. After freshman Ernie Hodge (Dublin. Va.) sacked Williams for a 24-yard loss on first down, Williams connected with Jody Ellis on third-and-28 for a 44-yard completion to keep the drive alive. On the very next play, Williams matched his 44-yard completion as he hooked up with Frank Lenti Jr. for a 44-yard touchdown to tie the game, 17-17.
Neither team got on the scoreboard the rest of the way until Lasher's game-winning kick with just five seconds remaining and the Bobcats left Memorial Stadium with a 20-17 win. Ohio returns to Peden Stadium and MAC action next Saturday with a 2:00 p.m. match up with Buffalo for homecoming weekend in Athens.