Painful MAC Memories: Ohio's Second-Half Meltdown In the 2011 MAC Championship Game

Mark A. Cunningham

As part of our Painful MAC Memories series, we have a guest blog post from Ohio alumnus Mike Scholze on the Bobcats collapse in the 2011 MAC Championship game.

November 16th, 2011: My room in Adams Hall is packed with Bobcat fans crowded around my television. The Bobcats have the ball with 7:34 to go, down two on their own 10. Tyler Tettleton leads the drive, milking the clock, and Matt Weller hits the game winning field goal over Bowling Green as time expires. My room erupts.  The Bobcats win the MAC East and clinch a trip to the MAC Championship game.  With the cheering and excitement, someone yells, "We're going to Detroit!"

We had no idea.

December 2nd, 2011: We all meet up in Cleveland, and drive into Detroit. We arrive early, and see two teams warming up that hadn't lost in quite some time.  Ohio is coming off a win over rival Miami and riding a five game win streak, while Northern Illinois went 7-1 in the MAC and hasn't lost since Week 4 against Central Michigan.

The game starts with two quick interceptions.  The over/under was set at 70 for the championship and the early showing by the defenses is surprising.  After a field goal, the Bobcats get the ball back and use what is seemingly Frank Solich's favorite play: the pitch reverse pass where Phil Bates hits Donte Foster, and Ohio goes up 10-0.  Another Weller field goal in the first, and a Tettleton run in the second quarter put the Cats up 20-0 at halftime. The first MAC Championship since 1968 is all but ours.

Ohio has the momentum. The 20-point lead matches the largest deficit the Huskies had ever come back from in the history of the program. This is the Bobcats game to lose and there is no way that can happen.

The second half starts off poorly for the Huskies.  A fumble leads to Ohio getting the ball back early.  On that play however, Corey Hastings throws a punch in the pile.  The Bobcat defensive lineman is tossed; a 15-yard penalty is assessed to the Green and White.  The Bobcats follow up the NIU turnover with a negative six-yard drive.

I have a bad feeling.

NIU goes 78 yards and scores.  Ohio is now only up 13. We have a ball game.

The fourth quarter starts with Weller lining up for a 36-yard field goal, the perfect way for the Cats to stabilize this ball game. He was perfect from under 40 yards all year.  But, by now we all know how this is going to end.  He misses, wide right.

NIU scores, again, but misses the extra point making it a seven-point game.  No way the Bobcats can lose in regulation now, right?

Ohio has the ball with 7:36 left in the game, up a score.  Solich decides to go into a shell, playing some of the most conservative football I've ever seen. Ohio runs the ball up the middle, and attempts short passes that don't go anywhere. Where were the trick plays and aggressive football we saw in the first half?  The Bobcats seemingly throw the game plan that gave them a 20-point lead down the drain. Fourth down comes and Ohio trots out the punt team. The punt goes 13 yards. At this point, we know what's coming.

NIU scores. Tie game.  Right after the score the ESPN cameras find my friends and myself, looking confused, upset, and surprised.

Ohio has the ball, needing a field goal to win. The ‘Cats fumble on the first play, get six yards on the second, and drop the third pass. Three and out.

The drive gives the ball back to NIU with 88 seconds left in the game.  The first pass the Huskies throw goes 27 yards.  Immediately after the play my friend simply says "It's over". They get the ball to the Ohio 16.

Timeout, NIU.

Timeout, Ohio.

Timeout, Ohio.

The ESPN cameras find us again, this time looking more upset than ever. These three timeouts prolonged the inevitable; Ohio isn't going to win that MAC Championship. Finally, Northern Illinois kicks it. The ball sails through the uprights. Huskies win.

We stand in Ford Field, shocked.  Personally, I have never seen a collapse like Ohio's during a football game.  Seemingly everything went wrong.  The Bobcats have to wait on getting another MAC Championship. They still don't have it. It's been 46 years.

On my long drive back home, I got a text: "You're the lead in on SportsCenter. You aren't happy."

No, I'm not.

Mike Scholze is a recent graduate of Ohio with a degree in sport management, whose friends are sick of him talking about #MACtion.

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