"Everything wasn't the way we like it, but our special teams played well and our defense played extremely well," said Marshall coach Bob Pruett afterwards. "You can win if you play great special teams and defense, and don't turn the ball over."
With Ohio coming off a win over a tepid Kentucky squad last week in Lexington, Ohio coach Bryan Knorr saw the MAC East lead within his grasp if his MAC-leading defensive unit could play up to par against Marshall.
"This team showed a lot of courage," Knorr said after the game. "Unfortunately, we played the champs [Marshall], and they've been in these situations before. I told our players these are the situations we need to get into."
In fact, the entire point production for Marshall laid on the shoulders of just two players: Kicker Ian O'Connor accounted for three field goals, and defensive end Jonathan Goddard returned an interception for a touchdown.
Marshall's defense sacked Ohio quarterbacks Ryan Hawk and Austen Everson a total of 8 times. And all 8 sacks were needed, as the Marshall offensive unit failed to put any points on the board, even though the unit accounted for 279 yards of offense (109 rushing and 170 passing).
"We dropped some balls that would have really helped us, and we fumbled two that really hurt us," Pruett said of the struggles on offense against the Bobcats.
Marshall end Jonathan Goddard dropped Ohio quarterback Ryan Hawk twice in The Herd's 16-13 win over the Bobcats.
After O'Connor's strong 52-yard field goal in the first quarter, Ohio tied the game on a Brooks Rossman 28 yarder with 5:47 to go in the second quarter.
Enter The Dragon, aka Jonathan Goddard. The senior defensive end stepped in front of a Ryan Hawk pass and pulled it down, running untouched 23 yards into the end zone for the go-ahead touchdown with 3:11 left in the first half. "It was a screen play, they've been doing it all season," Goddard said of the interception.
"He made them change their whole game plan," said coach Bob Pruett of Goddard's play against Ohio. "That's two weeks in a row."
Rossman hit another field goal on the last play of the half to pull Ohio within four points at 10-6.
In the second half, it was all Ian O'Connor and his leg, in terms of point production for Marshall. With the MU offense stymied by dropped passes and a stodgy Bobcat defense, O'Connor hit a 29-yarder and a 42-yarder in the third quarter, propelling Marshall out to a 16-6 lead.
O'Connor posed a double threat to the Bobcats, averaging 41.4 yards on 7 punts, including a booming 64-yarder.
"He's the MVP," quipped Pruett of O'Connor. "That's a pretty good day's work."
Ohio starting quarterback Ryan Hawk was replaced by backup Austen Everson in the fourth quarter, and Everson promptly moved the Bobcats on a 7-play, 52-yard drive that ended with a touchdown pass to Rudy Sylvan with 9:02 left in the game.
Ohio had one final shot to win the game late in the fourth quarter, courtesy of a ill-timed Marshall turnover. Marshall quarterback Stan Hill fumbled the ball on a quarterback keeper with 1:51 remaining. The ball was recovered by Ohio's Rob Stover at the Marshall 21 yard line.
"It's hard to win when you turn 'em over," Pruett added.
Jamall Whyce planted Everson for a sack, forcing Ohio to give freshman kicker Brooks Rossman a 32-yard attempt to tie the game with 1:26 remaining. Rossman's kick sailed wide to the right, sealing the close Marshall win.
"I don't think he missed a field goal all week [in practice]," quipped Ohio coach Knorr of Rossman's miss.
Curtis Keyes led the Marshall defense with 12 tackles, and Kevin Atkins racked up 10 of his own. The stat sheet for Goddard spoke volumes: 6 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, two sacks, and the interception. In addition, Jamall Whyce (6 tackles, 2 for loss, two sacks), Reggie Hayes (6 tackles, 3 for loss, 3 sacks) and Floyd Wright added one final sack.
"Being that they had to double-team Goddard, it made it easier for the rest of us," Reggie Hayes said of the defensive effort.
Even though Marshall's offensive unit failed to produce points, it did move the ball against Ohio. Ahmad Bradshaw rushed for 71 yards on 13 carries to lead the ground attack. Josh Davis hauled in 9 catches for 82 yards. Quarterback Stan Hill completed 20-of-35 for 170 yards and no interceptions, but the longest pass of the day only went for 20 yards.
Marshall QB Stan Hill knows what's missing from the big picture, and plans on finding it quickly.
"We're just missing the big play right now," said Stan Hill. "We've just got to make the big plays, convert on third downs."
Marshall jumped to 2-3 overall and a perfect 2-0 in the MAC with the win, while Ohio falls to 3-3 and 1-2 in the MAC with the loss. Next up for The Herd is a roadtrip to Kent State on Saturday, October 16 at 4pm.