Nov. 16, 2006
ATHENS, Ohio - The Ohio football team won its sixth-straight game and its first-ever Mid-American Conference East Division title as the Bobcats defeated Akron 17-7 Thursday at Peden Stadium. Bobcat fans stormed the field at the final gun to celebrate the title, the program's first of any kind since the 1968 season.
Ohio (8-3) will face Miami next Friday in the regular-season finale, but the season will not end then. The Bobcats will represent the MAC East in the MAC Championship Game at Ford Field in Detroit on Nov. 30. Win or lose that contest, Ohio will likely appear in a bowl game in either December or January. It will be the program's first bowl appearance since the 1968 Tangerine Bowl, and the third-ever bowl appearance by Ohio.
As has been the case during Ohio's six-game win streak, the ground game carried the offense to victory. Junior running back Kalvin McRae (Decatur, Ga.) extended his school record with a sixth-straight 100-yard performance. McRae finished with 31 carries for 136 yards and a touchdown as the Bobcats totaled 208 yards on the ground. He now has 2,671 rushing yards in his career to move into fifth-place in the Ohio record book. The 100-yard performance is the seventh of the season for McRae to move him into a tie for second place in single season history. He is fourth all-time in Bobcat history with 13 career 100-yard games.
Quarterback Austen Everson (Brentwood, Tenn.) was not called on to do a lot through the air in the win as he finished 6-for-15 with 49 yards. Everson was big on the ground as he gained 71 yards on nine carries. Senior William Norwood (Racine, Wis.) was the top receiver with two catches for 29 yards while McRae added two receptions for nine yards.
The Bobcat defense loomed large in the win as Ohio held the Zips to negative yardage on the ground. Akron finished with -4 rushing yards on the game, the fewest allowed by a Bobcat defense since holding Central Florida to -6 yards in 2003. Senior Michael Graham (Cincinnati, Ohio) led the way with seven total tackles, including one for a loss. Sophomore Michael Mitchell (Ft. Thomas, Ky.) totaled six tackles, .5 for a loss, while senior Tyler Russ (Stetsonville, Wis.) also recorded six tackles, .5 for a loss, and his third interception of the season. Sophomore Mark Parson (Richmond, Va.) finished with five tackles in the win, one for a loss, and six passes broken up.
Akron quarterback Luke Getsy went 21-for-46 for 227 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions in the Zip loss. Jabari Arthur posted a game-best seven catches for 95 yards and a score while Jermai Lindsay finished with six receptions for 51 yards. David Harvey, who came into the contest 13th in the nation in receiving yards per game and tops among freshman nationally, caught just two passes for 32 yards in the game.
On the very first possession of the game, Akron drove into Ohio territory but Russ ended the Zip drive with an interception, his third of the season. After a scoreless first quarter, the Bobcats got on the board midway through the second with a 10-play, 69-yard drive. McRae capped off the drive with a three-yard touchdown run, his 12th rushing score of the season, to tie him for fourth place in Ohio single season history. The touchdown was the 26th overall for McRae's career, good for sole possession of fifth place in the Bobcat record books. Ohio ran the ball nine times on the 10-play drive and amassed 62 yards rushing on the drive, 35 coming from McRae and 27 from Everson. Senior Matt Lasher (Copley, Ohio) hit the point-after for a 7-0 Bobcat lead.
Ohio extended the lead with just 1:47 remaining in the half due to a special teams miscue from Akron. With the Zips lined up to punt at the 42-yard line, the snap was low and skipped past Akron punter John Stec all the way to the endzone. Stec attempted to fall on the ball inside the five-yard line but was unsuccessful and Ohio senior Matt Muncy (Miamisburg, Ohio) recovered the live ball for a Bobcat touchdown. Lasher's kick was true to give the Bobcats a 14-0 lead. The defensive touchdown was the second of the season for Ohio.
Akron attempted to get on the board as the half dwindled down, as the Zips drove down to the Ohio 20-yard line. With no timeouts remaining and less than 10 seconds on the clock, Akron attempted one more play before a potential field goal attempt, but senior defensive lineman Shane Yates (Martinez, Ga.) got to Getsy behind the line of scrimmage and ultimately pulled him down for a one-yard gain to end the half.
The Bobcats started the second half off with an 18-play, 73-yard drive that took up nearly 10 minutes of the third quarter. After driving down inside the one-yard line, Ohio settled for an 18-yard field goal attempt by Lasher to make it a three-score game. The senior kicker's attempt was good for a 17-0 Ohio lead with 20 minutes remaining in the game.
With Akron driving early in the fourth quarter, senior T.J. Wright (Beaumont, Texas) brought the drive to a halt with his third interception of the season. The interception was the 12th of Wright's career, tying him for fourth place in Ohio history. The pick proved to be important, as Akron scored on their next possession to make the score 17-7. Getsy hooked up with Jabari Arthur from 19 yards out to cap an eight-play, 80-yard drive and put the Zips on the board with 6:56 remaining in the game.
Akron followed the touchdown with an onside kick attempt that was recovered by the Bobcats' Norwood. The Zips challenged the play but the replay crew upheld the call on the field and Ohio retained possession of the ball. From there it was downhill for the Bobcats and the crowd of 15,631 stormed the field as Ohio won its first-ever MAC East title by a score of 17-7.
The Bobcats wrap up regular-season action next Friday, Nov. 24, when they travel to Miami, Ohio to take on the RedHawks. Kickoff is set for noon.