Ohio rings the bell, 27-24
HUNTINGTON — Ohio used a fourth-quarter comeback and a pair of crucial Marshall University turnovers late to take a 27-24 football victory Saturday in the “Battle for the Bell.”
Ohio (3-0) prevailed before a crowd of 33,436 spectators, the sixth-most in Joan C. Edwards Stadium history.
Marshall (1-2) had a pair of chances in Ohio territory in the final four minutes, but miscues allowed the Bobcats to escape with their first win in Huntington since a 49-27 victory on Sept. 10, 1977.
“Unfortunately, we didn’t find a way to get it done at the end,” Marshall coach Doc Holliday said. “It’s the same old story — you can’t turn the football over and win the football game, so we have to learn to take care of it. There’s a lot of hurting guys in that locker room right now.”
Trailing by three points in the final 90 seconds, Marshall quarterback Rakeem Cato drove the Thundering Herd to the Ohio 27. However, his record-breaking night came to a frustrating end when Ohio’s Jelani Woseley climbed the ladder to intercept his final pass inside the 15-yard line.
“That last play was totally on me,” Cato said. “I had a bad ball.”
It was Cato’s lone miscue of the contest as he broke Marshall’s game record for completions in a 44 of 65 performance that netted a career-high 432 yards. He threw three touchdowns with the one interception, which was the second offensive miscue in a matter of four minutes inside the Ohio red zone.
It appeared Marshall was going in to break a 24-24 tie after gaining possession at the Ohio 48 with 5:37 left.
The Herd drove deep into Ohio territory, but Ohio’s Nathan Carpenter scooped up a fumble following a catch by Antavious Wilson and returned it to the Marshall 31 to put the Bobcats in line for the game-winning score.
Wilson’s catch came on a third down and would have given the Herd a first down inside the Ohio 15-yard line, but instead, the Bobcats turned it into a 38-yard field goal by Matt Weller to take the lead with 1:37 remaining.
Marshall took a 21-17 lead late in the third quarter when Cato hit Gator Hoskins on a 14-yard scoring strike in between double coverage at the right pylon.
Justin Haig increased the lead to 24-17 with a 37-yard field goal in the first minute of the fourth period.
However, Ohio quarterback Tyler Tettleton hit Ryan Clark for a 27-yard score on fourth-and-6 to knot the score, 24-24, with 10:43 left.
“We really had a different play called — one to pick up the first down yardage,” Ohio coach Frank Solich said. “(Tettleton) tagged the wide-out to go deep. That’s how much confidence he has in himself and his throwing ability and his teammates.”
The teams traded quarters throughout the contest. Ohio scored all of its points in the second and fourth quarters while Marshall got all but a field goal in the first and third quarters.
After a slow start, Tettleton and Ohio running back Beau Blankenship paced the offense to a 34-play, 17-point output in the second quarter to lead the Bobcats to a 17-14 halftime lead.
Two of the scores came on the same play call — a play-action fake inside the 10-yard line where Tettleton found receivers uncovered in the back of the end zone.
The final score of the half came with 49 seconds left in the half as Tettleton hit Tyler Futrell on a 4-yard toss for a 17-14 lead.
Tettleton completed 20 of 35 pass attempts for 200 yards and three scores while Blankenship rushed 30 times for 102 yards.
While Ohio’s offense got on track, the Herd couldn’t get anything going. Marshall punted on its three second quarter possessions with two of them following failed third-and-1 attempts.
The lack of a running game hurt Marshall, as the Herd had only 59 yards on 22 attempts — topped by Cato with 32 on six rushes.
“As long as we continue to move the ball, I don’t really care if we throw it or run it, but at some point, you have to be able to do both,” Holliday said.
Things looked good for the Herd early on as Cato and the offense orchestrated a 14-0 lead.
In the game’s first nine minutes, Cato was 14 of 17 for 149 yards and two scoring passes — the first a 3-yard toss to Jazz King and the second a 5-yard scoring pass to Aaron Dobson.
His favorite target on the evening was former high school teammate Tommy Shuler, who shattered his career-highs with 13 catches and 121 yards in the contest.
“I felt like we were going back to high school,” Shuler said. “We were finding holes. We watched a lot of film and it felt great for me to go out and make plays.”
Dobson added 94 yards on 11 catches. Overall, the Herd had 11 players catch passes.
Marshall had a chance to go for the jugular early as the defense matched the offense’s intensity and forced Ohio into a pair of punts. However, a third-and-13 screen pass to
Travon Van left the Herd one yard shy of the first down and Ohio switched the momentum.
Blankenship started running downhill, and so too did the Bobcats offense. Ohio ran 34 plays in the second quarter, leading to three scoring drives and 17 consecutive points to take a 17-14 lead into the locker room.
Marshall has no time to sulk about the loss with Conference USA play beginning on the road Saturday at Rice. KIckoff is 3:30 p.m.