Central Michigan nips Ohio, 26-23

ATHENS, Ohio – A slow-starting football game turned a little wild and wooly with the outcome on the line in the second half here Saturday afternoon at Peden Stadium as Ohio dropped a 26-23 Mid-American Conference decision to visiting Central Michigan.

It seemed though like the Bobcats, who had won four straight after a season-opening loss at Louisville, were behind or rallying back practically the whole game.

But, when they went ahead 23-19 with 4:42 to play when running back Ryan Boykin rammed a yard to paydirt, then stopped the Chippewas on the subseqent 3-and-out series and were going to get the ball back on a CMU punt, it looked like Ohio was going to pull out a win.

But the boot was muffed by Bobcat punt returner Travis Carrie and recovered by the Chippewas at the Ohio 39 with 2:47 remaining. CMU signal-caller Cooper Rush connected for passes of 21 and eight yards to move his team to the Bobcat 8, then to the 5, from where Rush hit wide receiver Courtney Williams with a slant pass for a touchdown with only 22 seconds to play for a 26-23 lead.

When Ohio got the ball after the ensuing kickoff, there were 19 seconds left. Three incomplete passes followed, then finally with just four seconds to play, the Bobcats tried a flea-flicker after a pass to wide receiver Donte Foster on the other side of the 50. He tried to lateral the ball to a teammate, but the ball went out of bounds as time ran out on the Bobcats, now 4-2 overall and 1-1 in the MAC.

Ohio scored first in the game on a field goal to lead 3-0, but CMU (3-4, 2-1 MAC) was ahead 7-3 after one period of play. Two more field goals, both by the Chippewas, made it 13-3 CMU with 2:37 left in the third quarter.

That’s when the Bobcats began to get their act together offensively. First Ohio QB Tyler Tettleton found wide-out Chase Cochran with a perfect lead pass down the sideline for 48 yards to the CMU 17, setting up his five-yard TD toss to tight end Troy Hill as time expired in the third quarter to narrow the gap to 13-10.

And on the Bobcats’ next possession, Tettleton, who completed 24 of 33 aerials for 319 yards Saturday, hit Cochran in stride with a 69-yard scoring strike to propel Ohio into the lead at 17-13 at 13:21 of the fourth quarter.

But the Chippewas were equal to the task as well, going up again at 19-17 when running back Saylor Lavallii gathered in a seven-yard touchdown pass from Rush with 9:07 left in the game.

“We didn’t play the way in the first half the way we played in the second (half),” admitted Tettleton. “And you can’t blame anybody; we just made too many mistakes. I had two interceptions.”

In the first half, noted Foster, who totaled nine catches for 118 yards Saturday, “our offense was awful. What made us lose in the fourth quarter was the way we played in the first half.”

Ohio head coach Frank Solich thought his team “responded well in the second half after not playing very well in the first half. But you can’t win by playing just two quarters. And four turnovers were a huge issue in the ball game for us.”

On the muffed punt, Solich said “it looked like Travis stumbled when he tried to catch it, then had to sort of lunge for it.”

Solich added that “it was a game of ups and downs as far as I was concerned. The whole game was sort of frustrating, and sort of an odd game.”