Ohio beats Marshall, 34-31
ATHENS, Ohio — There’s just something about Peden Stadium and Ohio quarterback Tyler Tettleton that Marshall University’s football team simply cannot figure out.
Marshall committed four turnovers — the final coming in the fourth quarter with a chance to tie the game — and Tettleton consistently converted on third down Saturday to lead Ohio to a 34-31 victory in the annual “Battle for the Bell” — Ohio’s third straight win in the series.
“We just didn’t play well enough,” Marshall head coach Doc Holliday said. “We turned it over too many times. Give Ohio credit. They fought their (butt) off. I thought our kids fought, too, but you can’t turn the ball over the number of times we did and expect to win a football game.”
In the two losses to Ohio at Peden Stadium (2011 and 2013) during the three-game losing streak, Marshall has committed 10 turnovers.
The final straw on the evening came after Marshall finally got a defensive stop and had a chance to tie the game, taking possession down 31-24 with 7:12 left.
On the first play of the drive, wide receiver Demetrius Evans slipped on a sit-down route and Ohio’s Devin Bass picked off the pass from Rakeem Cato to give the Bobcats possession inside Thundering Herd territory.
Matt Green’s 29-yard field goal following the turnover made it a 10-point game. The Herd crawled back within three points after a 1-yard run by Cato, but the subsequent onside kick was recovered by Ohio to end the comeback attempt.
The interception with 7:10 remaining was the final mistake on a night filled with them for Marshall, which fell behind early and never could regain momentum.
Cato finished the evening 30 of 44 passing for 367 yards with a touchdown and the costly interception, but the Bobcats used their offense to keep the Herd offense off the field for much of the second half.
It appeared the backbreaker for the Herd came when Ohio — namely Tettleton — salted away an 18-play drive that chewed up 75 yards before Beau Blankenship scored his second touchdown of the second half, a 2-yard run that made it 31-17. Blankenship finished with only 36 yards, but had two important scoring runs.
More importantly, the drive that started with 5:33 left in the third period, took 8:31 of game-time off the clock with Marshall trying to mount a comeback.
The Bobcats converted five third and fourth downs on the drive to keep the clock churning.
Marshall defensive lineman Jeremiah Taylor, who missed the second half because of an injury, said he could see the drive and Ohio’s third-down conversion rate took a lot out of the defense. The Bobcats finished 11 of 19 on third-down conversions.
“If you can’t get a team off on third down, you’re going to have issues,” Taylor said. “You can see, we had issues tonight.”
Tettleton finished the night 25 of 38 for 266 yards and a touchdown while orchestrating the Bobcats efficiently. Ohio had zero turnovers and finished plus-4 in takeaways.
Despite the difficulties, Marshall was not finished until the final few seconds as the Herd fought to stay in the contest.
Gator Hoskins was lost in coverage on the ensuing possession and Cato hit him on a 38-yard scoring pass less than two minutes later to make it 31-24 before a Herd defensive stop preceded the interception after Evans fell down.
Cato said the slip on the route and subsequent interception typified the night.
“It’s very frustrating, but at the same time, we can’t do anything but learn from it,” Cato said.
The teams alternated scores for much of the second half with each scoring on sustained drives in the third quarter.
Ohio took the opening drive of the second half 79 yards in nine plays as Tettleton went 6-for-6 on the drive before Blankenship scored on a 3-yard run to make it a two-touchdown lead.
The Herd answered right back with a 14-play, 68-yard drive that saw Essray Taliaferro score on a 3-yard run. Cato converted a fourth-down pass with a 19-yard toss to Tommy Shuler.
Just about everything that could go wrong for Marshall in the first half did, but the Herd only went into the locker room trailing 17-10 after a late nine-play, 93-yard drive that ended with Justin Haig’s 22-yard field goal.
The key play on the drive was a 33-yard pass from Cato to Devon Smith with just :06 left that set up the field goal. On the play, Cato kept the play alive and Smith got in behind the defense.
It was about the lone bright spot over the first 30 minutes as the Herd continuously gave the Bobcats opportunities with a short field.
The game was tied 7-7 in the second quarter when Ohio’s Travis Carrie returned a punt from Marshall’s Tyler Williams 48 yards to set up Green’s 32-yard field goal to make it 10-7. On the punt return, the Herd coverage team stopped as though thinking Carrie had signaled fair catch. He sprinted down the sideline before being tackled at the Herd 33.
Following Green’s field goal, a kickoff from Ohio’s Josiah Yazdani hit the turf in front of Marshall’s Steward Butler, who bobbled the ball in an attempt to pick it up before kicking it backward into the end zone.
Toran Davis fell on the football for the Bobcats just before it crossed the end line, resulting in a big swing that left Ohio with a 17-7 lead and 10 points in a matter of seven seconds of game clock.
The miscue was Butler’s second turnover of the game. In the first quarter, he fumbled on the first snap of Marshall’s second series, giving Ohio possession at the Herd 32 with a 7-0 lead.
However, the Herd defense held and Green’s 45-yard attempt sailed wide left.
Marshall used the momentum and Cato’s arm to notch a nine-play, 72-yard drive, capped by a 1-yard touchdown run by Kevin Grooms, who made his return after being sidelined by an injury.
The Herd wanted to use Grooms sparingly in the contest, but he was forced into action early as Butler and starter Taliaferro had trouble holding onto the football.
On Marshall’s first drive, the Herd was moving into Ohio territory, and Taliaferro’s fumble gave the Bobcats possession near midfield.
Tettleton cashed in on the turnover, hitting Troy Hill for a 4-yard touchdown on third-and-goal to open the game’s scoring.
Coming into the game, the Bobcats had struggled in converted third downs, but Tettleton used his arm to keep all three opportunities on the drive alive and move the first down sticks. The big play on the drive was a 30-yard pass to Hill.
The win is Ohio’s third-consecutive in the series against Marshall — the first time that feat has been accomplished since the Bobcats won three in consecutive years from 1973-75.
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