On a sweltering, summery day in southeastern Michigan, the Ohio Bobcats (3-1, 1-0 MAC) and the Eastern Michigan Eagles (2-1, 0-1 MAC) were left sweating it out in a defensive slugfest that went to two overtimes before Frank Solich’s team found itself on top.
FIRST QUARTER: Ohio 3 Eastern Michigan 3
With an Ypsilanti temperature of 92 degrees, Ohio ran the kickoff back to the 30-yard line and started the game’s first drive. The Bobcats converted on a Cameron Odom reception on 3rd and 3 to keep the drive alive. A.J. Ouellette then ran down the sideline and carried the ball to the EMU 20. The Eagles’ Luke Maclean sacked OU quarterback Nathan Rourke on third down, and the Bobcats were forced to settle for a field goal to go up 3-0.
Brogan Roback connected to Sergio Bailey for eight on the Eagles’ first play from scrimmage, and they connected again for a first on second down. Roback hit Jaron Johnson for another first on third down near midfield. Roback then took it himself on 3rd and 12 and couldn’t make it. A false start penalty on EMU forced a replay of the down with five yards added on, and a short pass went nowhere, forcing the Eagles to punt. The Bobcats took over at their own 13.
Rourke took another sack on second down after a penalty, and the completed pass on 3rd and 13 didn’t go far enough. After the punt, Rourke saved the drive on the ground as he ran across midfield for a first and then converted on third down, hitting Matthew Sexton for 26 yards. The Bobcats set up another third and long after sacking Roback on second down. Blake Banham didn’t get enough yardage on the play, and EMU kicked a field goal to tie the game.
The ensuing OU drive went nowhere, and the punt team came back on.
SECOND QUARTER: Ohio 10 Eastern Michigan 6
Roback could only force a 4th and short on the opening drive of the second quarter, and a heave to Sexton in the end zone didn’t pay off. The Bobcats took over at their own 27. Dorian Brown crossed midfield, but Rourke was sacked for the third time to force 3rd and 18. Tight end Jerrid Marhefka then brought it in for the first, but an incompletion on 3rd and 14 forced another punt.
A loose ball out of the hands of EMU’s Isaac Holder was ruled incomplete, and the play went under review. The call was confirmed, and EMU went back out on second down. Ohio’s Chad Moore was called for a potential targeting infraction, but no foul was called, and the Eagles punted.
On the Bobcats’ next drive, Rourke connected to Ouellette for a 44-yard gain to the EMU 31-yard line. Craziness ensued, as a Brendan Cope reception for OU was fumbled, taken down the field by a breaking Brody Hoying, and lateraled in an attempt to keep the play alive. The Eagles took over in OU territory. A Roback throw to John Niupalau put the Eagles at first and goal, and Roback hit Bailey for a touchdown that came back on offensive pass interference, which set EMU back to the 19. Roback couldn’t find Bailey on third down, and the field goal unit saw the field again. With 1:25 left in the second quarter, EMU took a 6-3 lead.
With ten seconds left, Roback was picked off by Ohio’s Bradd Ellis and returned to the house, giving OU a 10-6 lead and the game its first touchdown, a fitting end to a defensive-dominated first half.
THIRD QUARTER: Ohio 13 Eastern Michigan 6
EMU’s opening drive went nowhere, and they punted. Ohio’s Ouellette ran for a first, and then another on second and 4, but the drive stalled on 3rd and 3 courtesy of a rocking hit from Vince Calhoun. Ohio took the ball back after a punt of their own and an EMU punt right back. Ouellette broke for about 25 yards on the first play of the drive. The end zone proved elusive again, though, and Ohio gave themselves a one-score lead by splitting the uprights. EMU later turned the ball over on downs, albeit with the advantage of an Ohio unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, after a fake field goal on 4th down turned into an incomplete pass.
FOURTH QUARTER: Ohio 13 Eastern Michigan 13
The Eagles dug deep into their playbook for a flea-flicker, as Isaac Holder took a handoff and connected with John Niupalau all the way to the Ohio two-yard line, and Ian Eriksen dove over the line for a touchdown, the first offensive score of the day to tie the game at 13. Ohio’s Odom brought the ball across midfield, but fumbled shortly after, and EMU’s Hoying scooped the ball up to give the Eagles possession at the Ohio 44. The Bobcats’ defense gave the offense a break by forcing a three-and-out as the excitement gave way to a cavalcade of punts, OU being forced to kick it away again.
With two minutes to go, the Bobcats faced a 4th and 3, and elected to go for a field goal. From 47 yards, the kick went wide left. EMU punted again on their ensuing drive, giving OU 55 seconds to get into field goal range. OU instead decided to kneel the clock out and force overtime.
OVERTIME: Ohio 27 Eastern Michigan 20
Ohio won the toss and chose to defend first. Roback hit Bailey immediately from scrimmage for the touchdown. EMU was called 15 yards for pass interference on OU’s drive, giving the Bobcats a new set of downs, and Rourke used them to hit Cope for the touchdown. The extra point was converted to tie the game at 20 and send the game to a second overtime.
OU’s second overtime drive didn’t start promisingly, as Rourke escaped a sack only for Ouellette to be tackled for no gain. He then had a pass tipped on second down. Andrew Meyer gained some yards through the air to get Ohio closer to the goal line. Rourke took the ball himself on the ground to gain a few more yards on second down, setting up 3rd and 6, before hitting Odom for another touchdown.
EMU, needing a touchdown to stay alive, came out for its second drive. Roback went nowhere on the ground on the first play form scrimmage, and then had a pass bobbled in the end zone, bringing up 3rd and 10. The Eagles gained six on third down, and Roback’s pass on 4th and 4 was incomplete. Bobcats win, 27-20.
Ohio visits Massachusetts next week, while Eastern Michigan is at Kentucky.