Football: Bobcats return to MAC play eyeing payback

For Ohio to win on Saturday, it'll need quarterback J.D. Sprague to play well. Photo by Carl Fonticella.

For Ohio to win on Saturday, it’ll need quarterback J.D. Sprague to play well. Photo by Carl Fonticella.

Oct. 12, 2013: The game was sealed. Ryan Boykin put the Bobcats ahead 23-19 and the Ohio defense forced a Central Michigan punt. Ohio was about to move to 5-1, until something went amiss during Travis Carrie’s fair catch. The punt slipped through his hands. The Chippewas recovered and a Cooper Rush touchdown put them ahead 26-23 with 22 seconds remaining. Ohio’s desperate last attempts failed and it lost. The loss was a turning point in the Bobcats’ 2013 season.

The 2014 Ohio Bobcats is a much different team than the season prior, but the loss still lingers in the minds of this year’s team.

“We definitely want some get-back,” Ohio defensive end Tarell Basham said. “You might say we feel some type of way about it.”

“They came in here and beat us on our homecoming, so we want to beat them on their homecoming,” Ohio linebacker Jovon Johnson said.

Ohio (3-2, 1-0 MAC) returns to MAC play after concluding their nonconference schedule with a 34-19 victory over FCS foe Eastern Illinois. J.D. Sprague completed 15 of his 28 passes for 143 yards with two interceptions in his first start. He reached the end zone twice on the ground, but Sprague, a  redshirt sophomore, thought he could’ve done better.

“I hold myself to a higher standard and I feel like I could’ve made more plays,” Sprague said after the game.

The Chippewas (2-3, 0-1 MAC) have lost their last three games. Central Michigan returns 20 of its starters, including Rush and most of his receiving core.

“It makes it a little bit easier,” Basham said. “We know what to expect out of Central Michigan and their players.

Rush has thrown for 997 yards and six touchdowns, 5th and 6th in the MAC, respectively. Last week in a 42-28 loss to Toledo, Rush completed 24 of 31 for 291 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.

Michigan transfer Thomas Rawls gets the majority of carries in the Chippewa backfield. He served a two-game suspension earlier this season after charges surfaced of an April arrest. Rawls pleaded guilty to attempted larceny in connection with a 62-year-old woman’s stolen credit cards. On the field, Rawls has rushed for 341 yards and five touchdowns.

Rawls is averaging over 24 carries per game, so look for Cooper Rush to hand him the ball early and often.

About the Opponent: Central Michigan Chippewas (2-3, 0-1 MAC)

Location: Mount Pleasant, Michigan

Established: 1892

Colors: Maroon & Gold

Mascot: Central Michigan doesn’t have a mascot out of respect for the Chippewa tribe.

Notable Alumni: Actor Terry O’Quinn (Lost), actor Jeff Daniels (Newsroom), sports broadcaster Dick Enberg and Indiana basketball head coach Tom Crean.

Players in the NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown, Kansas City Chiefs tackle (2013 NFL Draft top pick) Eric Fisher, San Francisco 49ers tackle Joe Staley, New York Giants defensive lineman Cullen Jenkins, Indianapolis Colts cornerback Josh Gordy, San Diego Chargers safety Jehleel Addae, New York Jets linebacker Nick Bellore and Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Frank Zombo.

Previous Bobcat Game: Central Michigan defeated Ohio 26-23 on Oct. 12, 2013, at Peden Stadium.

Current Matchup: 3:30 p.m. Saturday — Kelly/Shorts Stadium

Bobcats to Watch

Offense: RB Daz’ Patterson – The speedy junior got off to a slow start this season, but he showed flashes of big-play capability against Eastern Illinois. Patterson had a 45-yard kick return and averaged eight yards when he touched the ball on offense. It’ll be interesting to see if he can keep the momentum going against the Chippewa defense.

Defense: CB Devin Bass – The corner back will likely be tasked with handling Titus Davis, one of the best receivers in the MAC. His performance could make a huge impact on the game, one way or another.

Chippewas to Watch

Offense: WR Titus Davis – Last season, Davis averaged over 100 yards per game. He was one of only two receivers in the MAC to do so. Last week, in just the second game of his injury-shortened season, Davis pulled in six catches for 128 yards. He’ll be Rush’s top target on Saturday.

Defense: LB Justin Cherocci – Cherocci won’t be hard to find on Saturday. The senior linebacker is a ballhawk. He leads the Chippewas in tackles, averaging over 10 per game. He already has 56 tackles this season, 24 more than any of his teammates.

Prediction

Ohio 24, Central Michigan 21 – This year’s game will come down to the wire yet again. Saturday’s forecast calls for rain, which could make this game a battle in the trenches. The combination of Sprague, A.J. Ouellette and Patterson will reach the end zone multiple times. The Ohio defense will make a late stand to avenge last year’s defeat.

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