With one yard to go, and 11 gold helmets in his way, De’Montre Tuggle knew he was getting the ball.
How could he not? Tuggle had carried the ball eight consecutive plays in a row, and with Akron on its heels late in the fourth quarter, one more carry was all he needed to secure an Ohio victory.
Tuggle was surrounded by Akron defenders as soon as the ball snapped. It didn’t bother him, though. He dipped his helmet down and blindly drove his way through the horde of defenders. With one final push, he was able to force the ball over the pylon, securing Ohio’s 24-10 victory over Akron on Tuesday night at Peden Stadium.
Tuggle’s 139 yards and two touchdowns were a bright spot on a night where Ohio’s offense looked mediocre. The Bobcats’ two-quarterback experiment with Kurtis Rourke (8/14, 92 yards) and Armani Rogers (2-3, 30 yards, 1 rushing touchdown) again fizzled, resulting in only 307 yards of total offense. The Bobcats’ (1-1, 1-1 Mid-American Conference) play calling became predictable late, but the Zips still struggled to stop Tuggle.
“At the end of the day, they have to stop it,” Tuggle said. “They can know what’s coming, but they have to stop it.”
On that last drive, Tuggle was the only person who Ohio trusted with the ball — and for good reason. The Bobcats’ inconsistencies made it tough for coach Frank Solich to send his offense in the right direction.
“I think he showed really well today,” Solich said. “But you could see him really coming on last year, and we knew what kind of back we had, so it’s not surprising he’s showing the way he’s showing.
Like last week, things started off great for the Bobcats offensively. Rourke once again led the Bobcats to a touchdown on their opening drive, and Rogers led a touchdown drive of his own after entering the game in the second quarter.
But then things got tricky.
Akron started to dial up the pressure on Rourke, forcing him to take bad sacks. Rogers started missing his targets. With neither quarterback able to put together a drive, Akron (0-2, 0-2 MAC) kept things tight.
“Offense has got to continue to get drives,” Solich said. “We can’t have short drives and then, all of a sudden, we’re punting and losing field position.”
Luckily for the Bobcats, their defense stepped up tonight to cause turnovers. Both Jett Elad and Keye Thompson’s interceptions set Ohio up with short field position, but misses from 28 yards and 29 yards from kicker Tristian Vandenberg kept Ohio’s lead at one possession for most of the game.
On 4th and 2, Ohio could’ve gone to Tuggle but instead opted for Vandenberg. Once Ohio got another shot to end it, it made the right choice.
Tuggle’s nine carry, 70-yard drive was what Ohio needed to pull away from the Zips in a game too close for comfort. Akron has lost its last 19 games, and a potential upset would’ve been devastating for the Bobcats.
“We celebrate every win,” Solich said. “If we realistically want to battle for a conference championship, we’ve got to get some things brushed up with a really better football team.”