Donte Harden was having an excellent game until the fourth quarter. (Photo Via: OhioBobcats.com)
That was the word that Bobcats' running back Donte Harden used to describe his fumble with five and a half minutes to go in the fourth quarter of yesterday's game against Ball State. And as it would turn out, that cough up would be the backbreaker for Ohio.
Harden was having an excellent game prior to the fumble - he had over 80 yards on the ground and he had a 13-yard touchdown reception as well. But on second and five with the Bobcats down 23-20, Harden had a good run putting Ohio close to field goal range while also picking up the first down. But Harden, who is known for his refusal to be tackled, stayed up too long on the play and Aaron Morris, a Ball State linebacker, was able to come from behind and rip the ball away. The drive ended at Ball State's 36 yard-line with five minutes and 27 seconds to go.
Ohio's defense was great all afternoon and they would come up with yet another key late game stop. They forced Ball State to punt but for the third kick in a row Scott Kovanda pinned the Bobcats inside the six. Starting at their own five with 3:15 left in the game, the Bobcats had a tough task at hand, but Tyler Tettleton was up to the task. After failing to get out of their own redzone the first two times, Tettleton hit hit LaVon Brazill for a 20 yard gain on third and 12. From there, Tettleton would continue to look for Brazill while mixing in some QB running plays that got the Bobcats all the way down to Ball State's 24. On fourth and two with just a little over 40 seconds left, Frank Solich sent out his kicker, Matt Weller, to attempt to tie the game.
Weller is the best kicker in school history and a 41-yarder for him is routine. But it wasn't yesterday. Weller booted it wide left and yet again, a Bobcats player walked off the field feeling heartbroken and as if they had let their team down.
Coach Solich pointed to the possession battle as the main reason the Bobcats lost this game and it's hard to disagree. In addition to Harden's fumble, Tyler Tettleton threw two interceptions. Both plays were a bit fluky as one hit off of a defenders helmet and the other was popped up into the air by one DB and caught by another. And though it isn't tallied as a turnover, Matt Weller's extra point after Ohio scored their second touchdown was blocked. Had he made it, Ohio would have been up 14-13 and Solich believes that a lead for the Bobcats would have changed the coaching mindset on both sides.
When you add turnovers with the inability to stay on the field with sustained drives you are typically going to lose. The Cardinals ended up with a huge margin in time of possession: 37:16 to 22:44. Keith Wenning wasn't particularly effective - he only had 179 on 36 pass attempts and no aerial touchdowns.Jahwan Edwards, or Juhwana Mann, was the key for the Cardinals as he ended up with 123 yards on 25 carries and a touchdown. Harden was having just as good of a day but the turnover made the difference.
Unfortunately for Ohio, they are now 4-3 and 1-2 in the MAC, with their two losses coming to teams they should have beaten. Their banged up defensive line is a big reason for this (Edwards and Branden Oliver made a living going through line over the past two weeks). They will get what should be an easy win against Akron next week but after that they play Temple on a Wednesday night and Temple just beat Buffalo 34-0 with two guys rushing for over 120 yards. That doesn't sound like a good combo for the Bobcats.
Despite the loss, LaVon Brazill was able to make school history. He set a new record for career receptions during the fourth quarter with 150 and he was easily the best player on the field during the game. He finished with the best day of his career with eight catches, 157 yards and two touchdowns. Brazill had some key catches on what would have been the game tying drive and also had a 74 yard touchdown catch and run that started off with a run hand grab in the middle of the field and ended with Brazill bouncing off of a defensive back's tackle before sprinting 30 yards to the endzone. We will have more on LaVon later this week.