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Turnover leads to winning Central Michigan TD with 22 seconds left

Bobcats give ball up 4 times in 26-23 homecoming loss

Lonnie McMillan Photo
ATHENS – Given a second chance in the final five minutes, Central Michigan scored the winning touchdown with 22 seconds left on a 5-yard pass from Cooper Rush to Courtney Williams, ruining Ohio’s homecoming, 26-23, on Saturday at Peden Stadium.

The Bobcats went ahead on a 1-yard Ryan Boykin touchdown run with 4:42 remaining and got a three-and-out to force a Chippewas punt, but Travis Carrie muffed the ball and it was recovered by Joe Bacci at the Ohio 39-yard line with 2:47 to go.

It was Ohio’s fourth turnover and was just what Central Michigan needed after it gave up a 13-3 lead late in the third quarter.

“It’s not (Carrie’s) fault whatsoever,” Ohio quarterback Tyler Tettleton said. “We shouldn’t even be mentioning him whatsoever. I had two turnovers and we had another one. It’s a whole collection of turnovers.”

Saylor Lavalli ran for 184 yards on 26 carries for the Chippewas (3-4, 2-1 MAC). Chase Cochran had 122 yards on just three receptions, while Donte Foster made nine grabs for 118 yards for Ohio (4-2, 1-1 MAC).

After the final turnover, an Andrew Flory reception of 21 yards got the Chippewas into the red zone, and it was followed by an 8-yard pass to Williams to the 8-yard line. Ohio forced a third-and-1, but Lavalli forged ahead for the first down to the 5-yard line.

After a spike, Devin Bass broke up a fade pass intended for Williams on second down, but Williams got open on a slant on the next play.

“I thought our defense responded pretty well in that situation,” Ohio coach Frank Solich said. “They battled them the whole time, but they had enough good field position to be in four-down territory immediately. … Your play selection becomes a little different. They did a good job of not tightening up on their play selection and getting that thing in the end zone.”

An excessive celebration penalty against Central Michigan on the final score helped Ohio get field position at its own 42-yard line. Cochran was ruled out of bounds on a catch along the sidelines and Tettleton threw an incompletion and was knocked out for the final two plays on second down.

With backup Derrius Vick already out with an injury, third-string quarterback J.D. Sprague entered for the final two plays. His pass attempt to Foster down the left side was just out of reach, leaving the Bobcats with time for one play. Sprague completed a short pass to Foster, who pitched back to Mario Dovell, but his toss attempt went out of bounds, ending the game.

“It’s clear to me that we did not well play well enough in the first half,” Solich said. “Obviously, it was a poor half of football for us. Usually, you don’t win a football game by playing only two quarters.”

Down by 10 on a Ron Coluzzi 36-yard field goal with 2:37 left in the third quarter, the Bobcats quickly turned things around with a pair of long completions to Cochran. The first was good for 48 yards and was followed by a 21-yard strike to Foster on third-and-19. That led to Ohio’s first touchdown, a 5-yard pass from Tettleton to Troy Hill on the final play of the third quarter.

After forcing a Central Michigan punt, Ohio needed just one play to find the end zone as Cochran beat the defense deep again, scoring on a 69-yard reception to put Ohio on top, 17-13.

The Chippewas responded with a nine-play, 75-yard drive to regain the lead, keyed by a 30-yard completion from Rush to Ben McCord. Lavalli’s 7-yard touchdown reception made it 19-17 in favor of Central Michigan after the extra point was blocked by Nieco Teipel.

Ohio faced only one third down in answering back with a 12-play, 78-yard drive that included three completions to Foster and was capped by a Boykin plunge into the end zone. The two-point conversion attempt was intercepted.

Ohio’s only turnover of the second half was big, but so were its three in the second quarter. Matt Waters lost the ball on the Central Michigan 25, and after review, it was ruled he had possession before putting it on the ground, where it was recovered by Kavon Frazier.

Frazier made another big defensive play, picking off Tettleton in Chippewas territory, but this time, it was followed with Central Michigan’s only turnover of the game on the next play, an interception by Thad Ingol after Cameron McLeod applied pressure and tipped Rush’s pass.

One more time, the Bobcats did not take advantage, advancing to the 12-yard line before Brandon Greer picked off a Tettleton pass in the end zone with 57 seconds left before the half.

“There’s no reason why we should have had three points at halftime,” Foster said.

“We have to come out there and execute plays better in the first half. We have to come out there and stomp on them. They came out stomped on us basically.”

Coluzzi missed a 36-yard field goal on the game’s first possession and Ohio got a 45-yard field goal from Josiah Yazdani on its first chance on offense. The Chippewas gained the lead when a 30-yard Lavalli run set up a 17-yard touchdown pass to Connor Odykirk.

Central Michigan twice failed to add to its lead when Coluzzi missed a field goal attempt from 27 yards away early in the second quarter and another from 23 yards out midway through the third quarter.

One week after a 2.5-sack performance against Akron, Ty Branz had two sacks to give him 5.5 on the season. Tarell Basham had his fifth sack, while Ingol had a sack that ended the Chippewas’ second-to-last possession. Keith Moore led the Bobcats with 10 tackles.

With the loss coming against a MAC West Division foe, the Bobcats still control their destiny in the East Division. Two years ago, the Bobcats were upset by Ball State on homecoming but bounced back to reach the MAC Championship Game.

“There’s going to be a lot of competitive football games the rest of the season,” Solich said. “There’s going to be some things develop that if you still want to play good football, you’ll have a shot, and I think we’ll have a team that will have a shot.”

Ohio takes on Eastern Michigan at 1 p.m. Saturday in Ypsilanti.

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