AKRON — De’Montre Tuggle had to double check when he heard his stat line from Saturday.
“How many?” Tuggle asked when told his yardage.
Tuggle finished with a career-high 201 rushing yards and a touchdown in Ohio’s 34-17 win over Akron on Saturday. Prior to that, the redshirt fifth year had just 164 yards on the season. Tuggle had plenty to be proud of. Ohio played its best game of the season to open up Mid-American Conference play, and it did so led by a near unstoppable run game.
“It starts with the guys up front,“ coach Tim Albin said. “I thought both guys, O’Shaan (Allison) and De’Montre, did a nice job. They’ve done a nice job up to this point, and I think it’s a combination of having Armani (Rogers) in there and his ability to run the ball, and then the guys up front.”
The Bobcats ran for 398 yards against Akron, beating out its previous season-high by 219 yards. The rushing started strong with Tuggle’s longest run of the season, when he went 63 yards into Akron territory in the first quarter. Even still, Ohio’s 163 rushing yards in the first half were more akin to a warm-up after the marathon it ran after halftime.
Ohio was tied with Akron 10-10 at halftime, and needed to break the stalemate. Its solution? Double-down on the run game for 30 minutes.
Quarterback Armani Rogers took the reins for the remainder of the game and picked up two of the Bobcats’ three touchdowns in the second half, with the other being scored by Tuggle. The run game worked so well that Ohio only passed once in the second half.
“We were having trouble protecting Kurtis (Rourke),“ Albin said. “At halftime, our guys, ‘Hey look, this is what we need to do.’ We went out there, and it was run heavy with Armani, and it worked out.”
The runners couldn’t have gotten the wide open holes they saw in front of them without steady play from the offensive line. On Tuggle’s 63-yard run in the first quarter, there was almost nothing but turf in front of him when he turned up on the right side of the line of scrimmage.
Ohio’s offensive line has been battered throughout the season. Multiple starters have gone down due to injury, and younger linemen have been brought up to fill the gaps. The Bobcats often mention the “next man up” mentality that is pervasive throughout the entire roster, and the offensive line delivered on that mindset against Akron.
“Shout out to Parker (Titsworth),“ Tuggle said. “(Nick) Sink went down, and him being a young guy, he came in and he took the challenge, and he obviously excelled with the production that we had. Coach (Allen) Rudolph does a great job with those guys and making sure that they’re in the right spots at the right times. I’m just benefiting off their work.”
For the first time this season, all the gears were turning in Ohio’s run game, and consistency had been brought to its offense. Ohio didn’t punt once in the second half. Instead, it got points on the board and kept its defense off the field.
The numbers speak for themselves. 398 yards rushing resulted in the most points scored by Ohio all season. If the run game can dominate like it did against Akron going forward, Ohio’s struggles during its nonconference schedule will be a thing of the past.