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Vonnie Watkins (17) DE and Bralen Henderson (81) DT on Ohio Univeristy's football team celebrate after a big stop in Peden Stadium in Athens, OH on Sept. 16, 2023.

Football: Ohio forces four turnovers in 38-7 win over Bowling Green

Five games through the 2023 season, Ohio has made its mark as a top-25 defense. Despite grabbing signature performances from the defense in virtually every game, the stellar unit still found a way to make an even greater effect. Not only did Ohio's defense shut down Bowling Green in its 38-7 win, but it also forced four turnovers, sacked quarterback Connor Bazelak three times and forced Bowling Green's offense into five tackles for loss.

As always, Ohio's defense was spearheaded by star linebackers Bryce Houston and Keye Thompson. On Bowling Green's first series, Thompson intercepted a batted ball to put Ohio's offense in prime position to score.

Only a drive later, Ohio defenders Bryce Houston and Torrie Cox Jr. forced a fumble on Jaison Patterson, and luckily for Ohio, Thompson was ready to make a play as the ball floated into his arms.

"Bryce Houston made a great play (on the fumble)", Thompson said. "We've been repping counter all week, he came down crashing hard, caused the fumble I got it, I just knew to take off and get in the end zone for the boys."

The Bobcats also made play after play to put the Falcons behind the sticks. On the Falcons' next drive, Shane Bonner came up with a sack to force third-and-long and an eventual punt.

A couple of drives later, Houston was there to make yet another play. Houston landed a big hit on running back Ta'ron Keith who spilled the ball, Roman Parodie was there to return the fumble for yet another defensive touchdown.

In one half of football, Thompson and Houston together forced multiple fumbles, intercepted a pass, and were both involved in plays that led to defensive touchdowns. 

Ohio Coach Tim Albin couldn't have been more impressed with the plays his defense was able to make.

"I think it speaks volumes to those guys on defense, Coach (Spence) Nowinsky has those guys flying around," Albin said. "...I thought Bryce and Keye as a tandem were dynamic. I was very proud of those guys."

With the game already decided and some rotational secondary players in the game, Ohio's defense still didn't relent in the second half. Ohio Defensive Back Walter Reynolds came up with his first interception as a Bobcats to end Bowling Green's first second-half drive with a fourth turnover.

Even after an Ohio turnover, Ohio's defense forced two more negative Bowling Green plays to get off the field. On second down, Vonnie Watkins came off the edge to force a fumble on Bazelak, (this one was recovered by Bowling Green), and on fourth down, Defensive Back Tank Pearson made a two-yard tackle for loss to force a turnover on downs.

As they've been all season, Thompson and Houston were the ring leaders against Bowling Green. However, perhaps the most impressive part of Ohio's win was the relentless nature and playmaking abilities of all the Ohio defenders who saw playing time.

According to Thompson, the buy-in from the entire Ohio defense means one thing: Ohio has one of the best defenses in the country.

"It should be a statement, it should be a wake-up call," Thompson said. "We're not the same Ohio Bobcats, we're coming in with a goal and an ambition to win that championship, and to finish as one of the best defenses in the country."


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