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Vick throws 4 TD passes as Ohio rolls, 44-10

Redshirt freshman fills in nicely for Tettleton

Lonnie McMillan Photo
ATHENS, Ohio – Filling in for an injured Tyler Tettleton, Derrius Vick threw four touchdown passes and led Ohio to an easy 44-10 victory against Norfolk State on Saturday at Peden Stadium, giving the Bobcats their first 4-0 start since 1976.

It was decided right before game time that Vick would start in place of Tettleton, suffering from an upper side injury, and he did not disappoint, completing 14 of 20 passes for 199 yards while helping Ohio open up a 34-0 halftime edge.

“I thought he had an excellent game,” Ohio coach Frank Solich said. “I don’t know that anybody knows quite what to expect. I don’t think Derrius did. But we do know he’s got one of those personalities where he handles things well.”

Vick threw touchdown passes on his first two possessions, connecting on a 10-yard fade route to Donte Foster on third-and-goal and then completing a 24-yard screen pass to Beau Blankenship.

He later added a 15-yard strike to Jordan Thompson in the second quarter and a 13-yard scoring pass to Foster in the third quarter.

“I thought I did all right,” Vick said. “Coach was telling me just to manage the offense. The key was no turnovers and it will be key for us all season.”

Turnovers were important for the Bobcats, who forced five of them, while committing none of their own. Ohio benefitted from a Gerald Moore fumble recovery on Norfolk State’s first play from scrimmage, giving the Bobcats a Vick a short field at the Spartans 22-yard line to start the game.

Ryan Clark’s 35-yard punt return set up another short field for Ohio’s second possession at the Norfolk State 30-yard line and it took only three plays for the Bobcats to go up 14-0 at the 9:32 mark of the first quarter.

The Bobcats got a 49-yard Matt Weller field goal on their next possession and then a 2-yard Blankenship touchdown run to take a 24-0 lead before the end of the first quarter.

“(Field position) and the fact that we were able to run the ball so well early helped,” Solich said. “If we weren’t able to run the ball, they would have started pinning their ears back and started getting more pressure …. But this allowed us to break Derrius into the game at a very easy pace.”

Thompson’s touchdown grab with 7:32 remaining in the first half made it 31-0 and Weller added a 40-yard field goal just before halftime.

Clark recovered a fumble on a punt return that led to Foster’s second touchdown catch, and less than two minutes later, Weller kicked a 31-yard field goal for a 44-0 lead after Octavius Leftwich recovered a fumble.

But as the Bobcats started getting deeper into their bench, the offensive pace halted and the Spartans scored 10 points in the final five minutes of the game.

“I feel good for our football team opening up with four straight wins,” Solich said. “Going in we felt the non-conference schedule would be a challenging schedule for us. I feel good coming out of it 4-0. This game was kind of a tale of two halves. I thought we executed and played well the first half, and the second half, we really substituted early and was hoping for a little better results in the second half than we got. Sometimes I’m a little too much of an optimist because half those guys are running the opposing team’s offense and the opposing team’s defense.”

In addition, while Weller made three field goals, he also missed three – from 33, 35 and 30 yards.

Blankenship became the first Ohio running back since Kalvin McRae in 2007 to rush for more than 100 yards in four straight games, totaling 109 yards on 25 carries against the Spartans.

Tettleton missed practice all week but Solich said he still hoped he might be able to play. But when he could not do certain things before the game, it became apparent that he was not going to be able to go.

Foster, who had a team-best five catches for 69 yards, said the offense operated no differently with Vick filling in.

“He got to the line and he executed,” Foster said. “He made the right calls at the line for our double plays. It really didn’t matter. He threw the ball great.”

The defense did too, limiting the Spartans to only 241 yards of offense. Norfolk State completed just 16 of 31 passes and averaged just 3.1 yards per carry.

Mose Denton had seven tackles to lead Ohio. Devin Bass and Thad Ingol had interceptions.

“It is great being 4-0 and having that start,” Blankenship said. “We just want to keep it going.”

Ohio opens up Mid-American Conference play at 3:30 p.m. Saturday against Massachusetts at Gillette Stadium.

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 Ohio vs. Norfolk State

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