Bobcat offense sputters in loss to Central Michigan

The Central Michigan Chippewas (3-4, 2-1 MAC) marched down the field early on Saturday afternoon at Peden Stadium against the Ohio Bobcats (4-2, 1-1 MAC). With a chance to nail an initial field goal to start the game and give CMU an early lead, linebacker Keith Moore had a crucial tackle to prevent the Chippewas from picking up a first down in Ohio territory. This resulted in a missed opportunity for Central Michigan, which proved as pivotal points in the final movements of the matchup between Ohio and CMU.

Ohio's defense was not able to stop Central Michigan and Cooper Rush on Homecoming Weekend (Nichola Horsley)

Ohio’s defense was not able to stop Central Michigan and Cooper Rush on Homecoming Weekend (Nichola Horsley)

These mistakes by the Chippewas’ offense were still not enough to garner Ohio its fifth straight victory, falling to the Chippewas, 26-23. The turning point was a late touchdown from CMU quarterback Cooper Rush to Courtney Williams for the five-yard, game-winning score.

“Usually you don’t win football games by playing two quarters,” head coach Frank Solich. “We played pretty well at times the second half, but obviously we didn’t play well enough to win.”

Ohio’s early problems came in its rushing attack. Running back Beau Blankenship was not able to get things going initially, but the edginess of the Ohio offense made it possible for the team to make lengthy drives of their own.

On the Green and White’s first scoring drive, the predictable running game on all three downs by Ohio actually worked in its favor.

The grit and grind resulted in a 45-yard field goal by Josiah Yazdani, giving Ohio an early 3-0 advantage with 4:18 to go in the first quarter

But what was burning the ‘Cats early on was the offensive line onslaught from the Chippewas, who lost their best player in 2013 No. 1 NFL Draft, Eric Fisher. In the first half, Cooper only passed for eight times, but Saylor Lavallii had already compiled 13 carries for 133 yards before the third quarter even got underway.

“I think we just came in a little unprepared for their play,” defensive end Ty Branz said.

Tettleton finished the game being sacked once and throwing two interceptions near the end of the second quarter. There has been a more forceful Tettleton on the field as of late, and sometimes that has led to a lack in judgment when trying to force passes into tight spaces.

“It’s a whole collection of the whole team,” Tettleton said. “It’s a collection of the whole team—it’s not just anybody—we’re going to put it on the whole team.”

Ohio’s problems were not internal, as Lavallii racked up a total of 180 yards on 19 carries against a team that ranks first in the MAC in rushing yards allowed per game (126.0 YPG). The CMU offense had already racked up 158 rushing yards by halftime, further proving the dominance of the Central Michigan offensive line despite the absence of Fisher and star MAC running back Zurlon Tipton.

With the Chippewas driving flawlessly down the field for the first 15 minutes of the contest, Rush were able to get in the end zone first with a 17-yard bullet to tight end Connor Odykirk to make the score 7-3 at the end of the first quarter.

Although Tettleton tried to get things going in the same aggressive manner that he displayed last week, his over-assertiveness resulted in two interceptions–the first one coming after a hard-fought 26-yard circus catch by wide receiver Donte Foster. Immediately following one of the longer attempts from the ‘Cats on Saturday afternoon, Tettleton was picked off on back-to-back drives in between reigning MAC East Defensive Player of the Week Thad Ingol’s diving interception. But the uneasiness from the poised senior quarter was relevant against a 4-2-5 CMU defense. Going into halftime down 10-3 without much progress on offense, something needed to branch outside of the spread scheme if Ohio wanted to beat Central Michigan.

Red zone defense, however, kept the Chippewas from building a lead too monstrous, because players like Moore and safety Josh Kristoff came up with big third-down stops that led to two missed field goals by Coluzzi. Every week a member of the Green and White’s underrated defense, a unit that ranks third in red zone defense (66.7 percent), comes up big in some capacity that has game-changing implications.

Even though the Bobcats stopped the CMU offense in the red zone for the third time, Coluzzi was still able to covert on a 36-yard attempt that put the Chippewas up 13-3. With Ohio having no momentum on offense and down by two scores, a big fourth quarter was needed if the ‘Cats wanted to survive undefeated MAC play.

Central Michigan was able to rush for over 200 yards against Ohio's stout run defense. (Nichola Horsley)

Central Michigan was able to rush for over 200 yards against Ohio’s stout run defense. (Nichola Horsley)

“We can’t just sit here and dwell on this loss because there are still al of of opportunities to make it to the MAC Championship,” Foster said. “That’s our team goal, so we have to win the rest of our games.”

On the second play of Ohio’s drive following CMU’s score, Tettleton aired out the ball to deep threat Chase Cochran, whose sure hands hauled in a 48-yard reception that put the Bobcats in Central Michigan territory.

The most important play for the Bobcats on the drive came when Foster connected on a 21-yard pass on a third and 19 that put the Green and White in an opportunistic position to score. A quick five-yard slant to tight end Troy Hill put Ohio down by three at the end of the third quarter.

Although the Bobcats were able to drive right back down the field on a quick, one-play 69-yard touchdown pass to deep threat Cochran, the persistent attack by head coach Dan Enos and Rush made Ohio fight for victory in the final 30 seconds of action by responding with a crucial score of their own on the following possession.

With 22 seconds seconds remaining in the contest, Tettleton and the Bobcat offense just did not have enough time to work themselves into a scoring situation. A hook-and-ladder play to end the game proved unsuccessful, but Ohio fought to the very end.

“I thought our play selection was fine,” Solich said of the final seconds of the game.

Ohio will partake in its third MAC contest against the Eastern Michigan Eagles (1-5, 0-2) in Ypsilanti, MI. Kickoff at Rynearson Stadium is set for 1 p.m. on Saturday.

GAME NOTES:

  • Ohio was outrushed by over 100 yards on Saturday and have still not boasted one single 100-yard rusher this season
  • The Bobcats had a -3 turnover ratio, while they usually hold a turnover margin of +3
  • Ohio recorded four sacks as a unit, making their total 20 on the season
  • Central Michigan running back Saylor Lavalli rushed for a career-high 190 yards; he has been backing up injured start Zurlon Tipton
  • Branz, who has been a pivotal member of the defensive line this season, recorded two sacks on the day
  • Ingol recorded his second interception in back-to-back games
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2 thoughts on “Bobcat offense sputters in loss to Central Michigan

  1. Pingback: Know your enemy: Eastern Michigan – Speakeasy Magazine

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