Overview: The drought continues. The Ohio Bobcats’ (8-5, 6-2) bid for their first MAC Championship since 1968 fell short on Friday night with a 29-23 loss to the no. 17 Western Michigan Broncos (13-0, 8-0) at Ford Field.
You knew it was over when: Ohio quarterback Greg Windham’s pass was intercepted by Robert Spillane at the Western Michigan 30-yard line with 51 seconds left in the game.
Rough start: Quarterback Quinton Maxwell fumbled on Ohio’s first drive of the game. The pigskin slipped out of his hand on a screen pass attempt and the Broncos’ Andre Turner recovered.
Windham: Senior signal-caller Greg Windham hadn’t thrown a pass since October 27th, but was called upon when Maxwell was benched after a fumble and a three and out in two drives under center. Windham kept the Bobcats in the game, throwing for 214 yards and three touchdowns. With Ohio trailing by 16 at half time, Windham threw two touchdown in the third quarter, helping the green and white cut the Western Michigan lead to six heading into the fourth quarter.
Windham’s first interception since October 8th was the back breaker, though. Sealing a conference championship for the undefeated Broncos.
Butchered: Western Michigan kicker Butch Hampton was the difference maker for the Broncos. The true freshman converted all five of his field goal attempts, helping WMU open up an early 9-0 lead in the first half. Ohio’s Louie Zervos missed an extra point in the loss, but hit a 37-yarder in the fourth quarter that made it 26-23.
That doesn’t happen often: Western Michigan quarterback Zach Terrell threw just one pick over 318 regular-season pass attempts. On Friday, however, Ohio forced two interceptions from the senior. The Broncos led 23-7 and opened with the ball after half time, but Terrell’s pass was intercepted Bradd Ellis on the third play of the second half and returned 32 yards. One play later, Windham found Jordan Reid for a five-yard touchdown to pull Ohio within 10.
Running blues: The Bobcats trailed for over 50 minutes in the game, so their running game on offense was very limited. Windham was the team’s leading rusher with 14 yards on three attempts. The backfield tandem of Dorian Brown and Maleek Irons combined for just 16 yards on 15 carries.
Close call and good company: The undefeated Broncos won all of their regular-season conference games by 14 or more points, the first MAC team to ever do so. The six-point win over the Bobcats was their closest call since a 22-21 season-opening win at Northwestern. They became the first undefeated MAC club since the 1999 Marshall Thundering Herd, a team led by future NFL quarterback Chad Pennington.
What’s next?: Ohio will now play the waiting game and see where they will travel for a bowl game. CBS Sports bowl expert Jerry Palm has the Bobcats playing in the Dollar General Bowl on December 23rd in Mobile, Alabama against Arkansas State (6-5, 6-1).
Fox Sports’ Stewart Mandel predicts Ohio traveling further south to Miami, Florida to play in the Miami Beach Bowl against Tulsa (9-3, 6-2).
Photo; Ohio Athletics