Mount Pleasant, MI
Overview: The Ohio Bobcats (7-4, 5-2) dropped a close contest to the Central Michigan Chippewas (6-5, 3-4) by a 27-20 score.
You knew it was over when: CMU’s Sean Bunting intercepted Quinton Maxwell’s fourth-down pass in the end zone with 34 seconds left in the game, preserving the victory for the Chippewas which made them bowl eligible for a fifth straight season.
Slow start: In their previous game — a 34-10 thrashing of the Buffalo Bulls — Ohio got out to a 20-0 lead in the first half. On Tuesday in Mount Pleasant, however, Ohio fell behind 17-0 late in the first half. The Bobcats got on the board when Louie Zervos drilled a 34-yard field goal as time expired and went into the intermission trailing 17-3.
Maxwell: The freshman quarterback was once again in full control of the offense with Greg Windham sidelined for a second straight week. After three touchdowns in the win over Buffalo, Maxwell was grounded for most of the first half. He finished the game completing just 16 of 36 passes for 208 yards and was contained in the ground game, too, rushing for just 56 yards on 21 attempts. Maxwell did throw a touchdown for the third consecutive game, though, finding Papi White for a 16-yard score to make it 17-10 early in the third period.
Brown finds groove: Running back Dorian Brown rushed for 416 yards over a three-game stretch, but was held to just 2.5 yards per carry in the win over Buffalo. On Tuesday, Brown got back to form, running for 91 yards on just 12 carries (7.6 yards per attempt), and a one-yard touchdown that tied the game at 20 with 14:20 left in regulation. On Ohio’s second drive of the third quarter, Brown knocked off a season-long 58-yard run that led to a second Zervos’ field goal. However, Brown did lose a fumble converting a fourth and one inside the Central Michigan red zone on Ohio’s first drive of the game.
Turnovers lead to mixed results: Ohio out gained the Chippewas by 71 total yards and held Central Michigan to just 18 rushing yards, but four turnovers on offense spoiled the chance of a fourth straight victory. Facing a fourth and five from the CMU 32 with 3:23 left in the game, Joe Ostman’s strip-sack of Maxwell was recovered by the Chippewas.
Conklin’s acrobatics earns a game ball: Central Michigan tight end Tyler Conklin only had two catches in the win, but they both went for touchdowns and made the difference. Conklin’s first catch was a 13-yard touchdown reception from Cooper Rush that gave the Chippewas a 17-0 lead with 1:25 left in the first half. Late in the game with the score tied at 20, Conklin made an acrobatic, one-handed eight-yard touchdown snag over safety Kylan Nelson which proved to be the game-winning score.
Smith sets career-high: Ohio wide out Sebastian Smith was the team’s leading receiver in the loss, catching four passes for 92 yards including a season-long 53-yard reception to the CMU one-yard line that set up Brown’s touchdown plunge in the fourth quarter. The outing brought Smith to a career-high 795 receiving yards on the season, 20 more than his junior campaign in 2015.
‘Cats pass rush: After the win over Buffalo, Ohio led all of division-one football in total sacks. On Tuesday, however, the intense pass rush of the MAC-East leaders was contained as Toran Davis and Blair Brown split Ohio’s lone sack. They now sit third in the NCAA in the category behind Louisiana Tech and Alabama.
What’s next?: Ohio still needs a victory to seal a spot in the MAC Championship game against the undefeated Western Michigan Broncos. On Tuesday (Nov. 22), the Bobcats play host to the Akron Zips (5-6, 3-4), a team that has lost three straight games and has dropped to third in the division behind the streaking Redhawks of Miami (OH). Ohio rides an eight-game winning streak against the Zips — dating back to 2008 — into their season-finale matchup at Peden Stadium.
Photo: Ohio Athletics