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Recap: Ohio manhandles Western Michigan in Kalamazoo, 59-14

Bobcats win turnover battle 6-0 to dominate Broncos and gain bowl eligibility.

MAC Championship - Western Michigan v Ohio Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Calamity, disaster, mishap, catastrophe. Pick up a thesaurus and you’ll find thousands of words to describe Western Michigan’s performance in a cold and rainy Kalamazoo atmosphere Thursday night.

The Broncos dropped their second straight home game in embarrassing fashion. Fueled by six turnovers, the Ohio Bobcats demolished Western Michigan, 59-14 to clinch bowl eligibility and win their fifth game in six tries.

It only took 30 minutes for the Bobcats to spoil the Broncos’ first night of November. Quarterback Nathan Rourke rushed for 68 yards, completed 12-of-14 passes for 149 yards, and accounted for five total touchdowns and 30 points on offense. He played just one half, and the Bobcats elected to turn to backups, including quarterback Quinton Maxwell for the final half of action.

The lopsided score at the break stood at 45-0, the first time Western Michigan was shut out in a first half since September 2017 against Michigan State. In adverse conditions, the 11,935 fans in attendance began filing out before the teams even headed to the locker rooms.

Some of Western Michigan’s most egregious errors occurred on special teams. The tone was set after the Broncos shanked a field goal attempt on their opening drive with a chance to take the lead. Later on, Ohio blocked a Western Michigan punt and recovered the pigskin for an easy touchdown to lead 21-0.

Before halftime, Western Michigan muffed consecutive kickoffs. These unforgivable mistakes permitted the Bobcats to have three-straight, uninterrupted possessions. Those three drives — the first one set up by a Kaleb Eleby interception — resulted in 17 points for Frank Solich’s team.

Western Michigan’s turnovers were divided up into four fumbles and two interceptions. On the other hand, Ohio failed to commit a single turnover. After all but winning the game by halftime, Ohio elected to leave Kalamazoo by pounding the ball on the ground to senior halfback A.J. Ouellette. The power back saw plenty of grass ahead of him on nearly every run, finishing with 71 yards and a touchdown on eight carries.

Ohio doubled Western Michigan’s rushing yards: 256-118. Other than the ground game and turnovers, the teams played similarly in many other primary statistical categories (e.g. passing yards, penalty yards, time of possession).

Western Michigan scored two touchdowns in the second half to avoid a total shutout. Jamauri Bogan punched it in for a 1-yard score and Jaylen Hall caught his lone pass of the night from the first-time starting quarterback Eleby for a 26-yard score to break the double-digit barrier.

The Broncos fall to 6-4 with the loss. MAC West hopes remain alive, but require:

  • Winning out against Ball State and Northern Illinois
  • An additional Northern Illinois loss, preferably to Miami (OH)
  • Toledo dropping a game one more game (NIU, Kent State, Central Michigan, Kent State)

Meanwhile, Ohio still controls its destiny in the MAC East with Miami (OH), Buffalo, and Akron — the three toughest MAC East opponents outside of Ohio — awaiting. The Bobcats earned their sixth win to mark 10-straight seasons of bowl eligibility. However, since 6-6 Ohio was snubbed of a bowl appearance in 2014, the Bobcats are seeking their fourth-consecutive bowl appearance under the consistent Frank Solich.

Ohio has now held MAC opponents to 14 points in three-consecutive showings while scoring 49, 52, and 59 on their victims (an average of 53.3 points per game). The Bobcats offense has finally come to life, and the team’s three losses — Cincinnati, Virginia, and Northern Illinois — combine for a 19-6 record.

The teams seem to be trending in opposite directions at the moment, and that was on full display at Waldo Stadium on Thursday night.