Story and photo courtesy of Ohio Dominican Athletics
COLUMBUS, Ohio – Ohio Dominican's football team broke free from a scoreless first quarter with a 24-point second frame, rolling to 501 total yards of offense in defeating Northern Michigan 47-7 in GLIAC play Saturday at Panther Field.
With the victory, ODU improved to 2-1 (1-1 GLIAC) in advance of its showdown with nationally ranked Grand Valley next Saturday. The Wildcats fell to 1-2 (0-2 GLIAC).
The Panthers scored three touchdowns in the final 3:22 of the first half, and tacked on the first 16 points of the third quarter to race to a 40-0 lead.
After generating just two first downs and 61 yards of offense in the first quarter, the Panthers would outgain NMU 501-242 for the contest, throwing for 341 yards while running for 160. ODU's defense came up with five takeaways, had three sacks and limited the Wildcats to 62 yards rushing on 38 carries.
Sophomore Mark Miller (Cincinnati, Ohio) shined in his third start at quarterback completing 18-of-23 passes for 292 yards and four touchdowns. He also ran for 36 yards.
Miller's top target, freshman Ronald McCloud (Cleveland, Ohio), hauled in five passes for 177 yards and three scores. All are career-highs, and the receiving yards are the third-most in a game in school history. Meanwhile, sophomore Abe Johnson (Cincinnati, Ohio) had also had five catches, and classmate Casey Williams (Nashport, Ohio) had two catches for 84 yards and a TD.
The defense was sparked by the harassment of the line and big plays in the secondary. Junior Justin Bell (Columbus, Ohio) made 12 tackles and freshman Billy Eakins (Pickerington, Ohio), in his first collegiate start, had seven tackles, two interceptions and a sack that resulted in a fumble that he recovered.
Also chipping in was freshman Warren Shields (Richwood, Ohio) with six tackles, a sack and two tackles for loss, while sophomore Martavius Lewis (Wellington, Fla.) had six stops and his first career interception.
Freshman Brent Wahle (Pataskala, Ohio) started the second quarter with a 32-yard field goal to begin the scoring for ODU. Later in the quarter, the Panther defense stopped a Wildcat drive at the ODU 39, but the ensuing punt backed the Panthers up to inside their 10.
On the first play, Miller was flushed out of the pocket, scrambled outside and lofted a pass from his end zone that found McCloud – who was behind two defenders – near midfield. McCloud outraced both down the far sideline to paydirt for a 93-yard touchdown, the longest play in ODU history, to give the Panthers a 10-0 lead with 3:22 left.
Two plays later, senior Eli Kovach (Eastlake, Ohio) deflected a pass at the line that wound up in Lewis' hands, and Lewis returned the pick 23 yards to the Wildcat two-yard line. Freshman Tajuan Green (Columbus, Ohio) took the next snap and plunged forward for the score to bump the lead to 17-0.
The Panthers weren't done before the break, though. ODU's defense forced a turnover on downs on its own 36 with 53 seconds left, and two plays later, Miller and McCloud hooked up again, this time on a 53-yard strike with nine seconds left, to give Ohio Dominican a 24-0 lead at the break.
ODU started the second half with the football and embarked on a 10-play, 65-yard scoring drive. A defensive pass interference kept the drive alive in Wildcat territory, and on third-and-eight from the 28, Miller flipped a quick screen to Johnson, who weaved his way in and out of traffic before finding the end zone for the touchdown.
Wahle tacked on another field goal, this one from 39, and Green lofted a pass to Williams that he took in from 49 yards out to extend the lead to 40-0 with five minutes left in the third.
NMU would score its lone touchdown in the third on a short field after an ODU interception, and Miller and McCloud capped off the scoring with their touchdown of the afternoon, this one from 14 yards out.
McCloud was the first receiver since Justin Campbell in 2009 to have more than 150 yards receiving and was also the first receiver since Jared Stace in 2007 to finish with three TDs in a game. Meanwhile, it had been four years since a Panther quarterback threw four TDs in a game, as current assistant coach Cris Reisert did it in 2008, before Miller's effort today. It was also the most passing yards by a Panther QB since Billy Griffin threw for 307 yards at New Haven in 2009.
The 501 yards of offense was the most since ODU picked up 569 at Tiffin in 2010, and this was the second time in three games ODU forced at least five turnovers in a game, after coming away with six against Virginia-Lynchburg.
Leading ODU's rushing attack was freshman Kobi Cook (Indianapolis, Ind.) with 58 yards on nine carries, while junior Ronnel Spates (Cleveland, Ohio) had 53 yards.
Ohio Dominican and Grand Valley square off for the first time at 7 p.m. Saturday from Lubbers Stadium. The Lakers scored a 28-0 win over Tiffin today and are ranked No. 4 in the AFCA poll and No. 3 in the D2Football.com poll.