By Sam Weiderhaft

The Ohio Bobcats (10-3) used a well-rounded performance to defeat the Georgia Southern Eagles (6-7) 41-21 in the fourth edition of the Myrtle Beach Bowl on Saturday. The win pushed Ohio to 10 wins for the second year in a row as the Bobcats won their fifth consecutive bowl game in seven seasons. Georgia Southern finished 6-7 for the second straight year.

Defense was the key to the game for the Bobcats, as it has been all season.  They forced a Myrtle Beach Bowl record-setting five turnovers and held the Eagles to just 33 rushing yards. Three different players collected interceptions with a pair of forced fumbles, led by sixth-year safety Jeremiah Wood with one interception and a forced fumble in the victory.

“That might have been one of the best defensive games we’ve played in my time here,” Wood said.

With five total touchdowns in his first bowl game, Ohio freshman running back Rickey Hunt was named Myrtle Beach Bowl MVP with 115 yards through 17 carries on the ground, and one touchdown catch for 17 yards. The five touchdowns tied a Myrtle Beach Bowl record.

“I did not see this performance coming at all,” Hunt said, reflecting on his day. “The O-line was clicking. None of this would have happened without the O-line.”

After seeing limited action throughout the season, graduate student quarterback Parker Navarro commanded the offense with 11 completions on 16 attempts for 120 yards and one touchdown. The Bobcats’ offense did not turn the ball over throughout the game.

“I couldn’t be prouder of a bunch of young men and staff,” said Ohio head coach Tim Albin. “It was a lot of things, for us go out and have all three phases clicking like it was, I’m very proud.”

This was Albin’s second bowl victory in his third season with Ohio after defeating Wyoming in last year’s Barstool Sports Arizona Bowl.

In his second Myrtle Beach Bowl performance, Eagles’ quarterback Davis Brin broke his own bowl game record with 350 passing yards, eclipsing the previous record he set with Tulsa in the 2021 game. Brin completed 32 of 42 passes with two touchdowns and three interceptions.

Georgia Southern picked up more yards offensively than Ohio, with 383 for the game to the Bobcats’ 352.

It was a defense-heavy first quarter as Ohio quickly picked off Brin on just the fourth play of the game. Wood caught a deflected pass at the Ohio 48-yard line to give the ball to the Bobcats in solid field position.

The Bobcats drove down to the Eagles’ five-yard line, before Navarro was stopped for a loss on a 3rd-and-5 play. Gianni Spetic knocked in a 27-yard field goal to give Ohio an early 3-0 lead with 6:27 left in the first.

Ohio got the ball back following a Georgia Southern punt with four and a half minutes left in the opening quarter. Using a 13-play, 59-yard drive that lasted just over seven minutes, the Bobcats punched in their first touchdown on a two-yard run by Hunt to lengthen the lead to 10-0 with 12:22 left in the half.

It was quick rest for the Ohio offense as Adonis Williams Jr. intercepted Brin on the second play of the Eagles’ next drive to give the ball back to the Bobcats in prime field position at the Georgia Southern 21. The Eagles stepped up on defense and stopped the Bobcats on fourth down to get the ball back.

Following the second Georgia Southern punt, Ohio used a four-play drive to take control, highlighted by a Navarro 24-yard run and an 18-yard touchdown pass to Hunt with 3:16 left in the second as the Bobcats pushed ahead to a 17-0 advantage.

Just before the end of the half, Ohio forced their third turnover on a strip-sack forced by Bradley Weaver and recovered on the Georgia Southern 33-yard line by Shay Taylor. The half ended with a 26-yard field goal by Gianni as the home team entered the locker room with a 20-0 lead.

Following a stalled offensive drive for Ohio out of halftime, Brin ran into more trouble with his third interception on the Eagles’ second offensive play of the second half. Walter Reynolds picked off Brin and returned it 40 yards to land the Bobcats at the Georgia Southern six-yard line. Hunt took the first play and ran it in for his third touchdown of the day for a 27-0 lead.

Georgia Southern ended their scoreless drought by putting together a nine-play, 69-yard drive lasting just three-minutes and 44 seconds. It was capped off by a three-yard rushing touchdown by David Mbadinga to put the Eagles on the board with 7:54 left in the third.

The Eagles saw new energy in the second half, forcing a three-and-out and getting the ball back down 27-7. On the third play of the new drive, Brin connected with Derwin Burgess Jr. at the Ohio 15, only to see another turnover as Wood forced a fumble on the 10-yard line. Roman Parodie returned the ball 30 yards as the Bobcats took back over.

Hunt recorded his longest run of the day and found the end zone for the fourth time on a 40-yard carry to put the Bobcats up 34-7 with just over two minutes remaining in the third quarter.

It was a quick response from the Eagles as Brin found Burgess Jr. on the second play of the drive for a 65-yard touchdown pass just before the quarter ended. Ohio held a 34-14 lead heading to the fourth.

After an onside kick to keep possession, the Eagles turned the lights back on with a 15-yard touchdown pass by Brin to Jjay Mcafee with 12:27 left to slice Ohio’s lead to 34-21.

The momentum continued as Ohio was quickly stopped, giving Georgia Southern the ball back with nine and a half minutes remaining.

Starting on their own nine, the Eagles worked their way to Bobcat territory, before being stopped on an incomplete pass on 4th and two on the Ohio 40.

Hunt put the game to rest on a nine-yard touchdown run with 2:52 to go for his fifth touchdown of the day.

Georgia Southern was stopped on fourth down on their final offensive drive before Navarro kneeled out the final offensive play to put a bow on the 41-21 victory.

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