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Ohio University Cornerback Roman Parodie (4) celebrates after tackeling Northern Illinois Running Back Antario Brown (1) during the Ohio University vs Northern Illinois Huskies football game on Oct. 22, 2022 in Athens, Ohio.

Football: Clean game pays off in Ohio's 24-17 win

Going into its game against the defending Mid-American Conference Champions Saturday, Ohio knew it couldn't make careless mistakes if it wanted to win. Although Northern Illinois isn't playing at the same level as last season, it's still a good team and one of Ohio's top competitors in the MAC. 

Every win is important, especially for Ohio. Its ultimate goal: winning a MAC Championship. 

Fortunately for the Bobcats, almost everything went right in their 24-17 win over the Huskies at home. The Bobcats played a clean game, which paid off in the neck-and-neck matchup. 

Ohio and Northern Illinois' offenses played very similar games Saturday. Ohio had 354 total yards, while Northern Illinois had 377. Ohio totaled 59 plays throughout the game, and Northern Illinois had just seven more with 66. Each team had a similar number of yards per play as well, with 5.7 for Northern Illinois and six for Ohio. 

The game-changer, however, was Ohio's ability to hold onto the ball. It had zero turnovers or fumbles against Northern Illinois, marking its third time this season. Meanwhile, Northern Illinois had four fumbles. Although none of them were recovered by Ohio, some of the fumbles still cost it valuable yards. 

At the beginning of the second quarter, the Huskies drove downfield all the way to the Bobcats' 10-yard line with a perfect opportunity to tie the game at seven. However, they fumbled and lost 10 yards, pushing them all the way back to the 20-yard line. 

The fumble brought up third down, and after gaining zero yards on the next play, Northern Illinois had to settle for a field goal. Had it scored a touchdown and tied the game early, Northern Illinois could have shifted the course of the game. 

"If we just do our job and not lose the ball, we're going to win the turnover battle a lot of the time," leading receiver Sam Wiglusz said. "That's been huge, and a lot of these games have been real close down at the end, so you know that's a difference maker."

In addition to having zero turnovers Saturday, the Bobcats also had zero penalties for the first time all season. The lack of penalties kept them from giving up or losing unnecessary yards. 

The Huskies had six penalties that cost them 50 yards, including a defensive pass interference penalty in the second quarter that propelled Ohio downfield and set it up to attempt a field goal. 

"No penalties, no turnovers, (that's the) difference in the game," head coach Tim Albin said. "We found a way to win, we've got a scrappy bunch here."

The key to Ohio's clean game against Northern Illinois is the way it's been practicing and its strong mentality. Ohio takes things one game at a time, focusing on each and every play ahead. 

Albin asked his players for more Saturday, especially with the dedication of Frank Solich Field, and it ended well for the Bobcats. 

"We asked them for a little bit more the last few weeks," Albin said. "I challenged them Friday … now until game time, let's give a little bit more mentally."


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