Coming into the game Wednesday night in Mt. Pleasant, there was a lot of pomp and circumstance.
Earlier in the day, the school revealed statues for coaching legends Roy Kramer and Herb Deromedi, and showed off the newly-constructed Champions Center, a $30 million project meant to modernize the athletics factility.
Add in the ESPN cameras and the designation of being the first MAC game on ESPN for the new season, and you had all the makings of an instant classic.
The Central Michigan Chippewas (1-0) and Ohio Bobcats (0-1) obliged and then some in one of the wildest midweek games in recent memory, as the Chips ultimately stopped a furious last-minute rally to take home a 30-27 victory.
The scoring account was opened with a one-yard QB sneak by debutante Daniel Richardson to put the game at 7-0 following a 16-play, 75 yard drive which took up over seven minutes of possession. The end of the drive certainly isn’t indicative of how exciting it was, with three different players taking snaps at quarterback, including former option QB-turned-DB-turned-RB Darius Bracy and starting RB Kobe Lewis on read option looks.
The drive was as methodical as it was maniacal, with three different players (Lewis, Bracy, Kalil Pimpleton) gaining nine yards or more on the ground and five players logging rushes.
Ohio answered back quickly, with Kurtis Rourke, brother of former Ohio QB Nathan Rourke, slicing throught the Chippewas pass defense for 43 yards and a touchdown on two tosses down the middle of the field, connecting with Shane Hooks to put the score at 7-7 on a drive lasting just over three minutes.
On their second offensive series, Central showed that they too could execute a quick strike offense, needing only 1:11 of game time for the five-foot-ten, 200 lb. Daniel Richardson ro reel back in the pocket and find Kalil Pimpleton with a teardrop pass for a 50-yard touchdown strike to put CMU back on top 14-3.
After an exchange of punts, Ohio once again overwhelmed the CMU defense with the deep pass, as Kurtis Rourke hooked up with Adam Luehrmann for a 22-yard strike down the middle of the field on third-down and Isiah Cox on a 58-yard touchdown toss to bring the score to 13-10 CMU with 13:56 to go in the first half after a missed PAT. Rourke was able to execute the play-action inverted veer to perfection, faking power run before stepping back and launching the open pass over the top of CMU’s secondary.
Kobe Lewis would score two drives later on a two-yard rush on fourth-and-one to push the CMU lead up to 20-10, with CMU’s Marshall Meeder missing a PAT of his own.
This is where things started getting weird.
WIth 5:05 to go, Ohio took possession of the ball and inserted former UNLV starter Armani Rogers at quarterback for what looked to be the final drive of the half. The Ohio offense immediately converted into a run-first offense, with Rogers reeling off a 14-yard rush in his debut snap. The Bobcats chewed up 47 yards on five rushes (including a 23-yard run by De’Montre Tuggle) and called timeout after a four-yard pass play to Isiah Cox with 1:21 remaining.
Out of the timeout, Rogers threw an incomplete pass, and as Ohio came back to the line of scrimmage, the lights went out at Kelly/Short Stadium. It forced the teams to stat halftime early, with 1:17 remaining on the clock, as officials attempted to diagnose the issues.
After a delay of about 25 minutes, the players came back out on the field to play the remaining 1:17 of the first half, followed directly by the second-half kickoff.
Two plays after the resumption, Tuggle found the endzone, putting the score at 20-20 with 58 seconds remaining. On the next drive, CMU attempted to run a hurry-up offense starting from their own 23. Faced with 4th and 1 at their own 48, and Ohio getting the ball to start the second half, CMU elected to go for it, with Richardson’s pass to Dallas Dixon ultimately not connecting.
Ohio had nine seconds to attempt a Hail Mary, but Kurtis Rourke was pushed out of the pocket and sacked by Amir Siddiq to end the first half coming out of the locker room, one of five sacks CMU would land throughout the game.
After a brief one-minute intermission, it was Ohio who would have the last laugh, as De’Montre Tuggle took the second half kickoff 93 yards to the house to give Ohio their first lead of the night, going from trailing 20-13 to up 27-20 in just over a minute of game time.
It would be the last time the Bobcats scored.
Coming off forcing a punt on CMU’s next possession, the Bobcats took over at their own 16-yard line and handed it off to Tuggle, who ran for six yards before getting stripped of the ball by Willie Reid, who also recovered it. The Chippewas took advantage two plays later, as Lew Nichols III’s 14-yard reception would set up an eight-yard Kobe Lewis touchdown to tie the game back once again at 27-all.
Both teams posted up good defensive stops from there, with Ohio coming upon possession of the ball near the end of the third quarter and fumbling again, this time thanks to Kurtis Rourke scrambling to evade George Douglas’ pressure. CMU couldn’t make points out of it after going for it on fourth down inside Ohio territory, but it stuffed a promising drive for the Bobcats.
Ohio would get into CMU territory once again at the start of the fourth quarter and elect to go for a field goal from about 40 yards out, missing wide right, but a false start penalty pushed the ball back to the CMU 28 yard line. Head coach Frank Solich decided to trust his true freshman kicker once again on fourth-and-11, but the kick by Vandeberg was blocked at the line, ending the drive.
CMU’s next possession would be a 15-play, 70 yard drive which took over five minutes off the clock, ending in a Marshall Meeder field goal to put the score at 30-27, CMU advantage with just over nine minutes remaining.
Ohio would get one last drive with 2:10 left in the game, when CMU once again went for a 4th-and-1 conversion at Ohio’s 33 yard line and failed on a wildcat Kobe Lewis look. The Bobcats came out firing with the younger Rourke under center, as he completed two different eight-yard strikes to Ryan Luehrmann and a 16-yarder to O’Shaan Allison to bring Ohio to the CMU 27. A holding call on a first down rush pushed Ohio back to the CMU 36, and after a series of unsuccessful plays, found themselves calling timeout with 33 seconds left on 4th-and-10 from the CMU 35.
Out of the timeout, Ohio committed another costly false start penalty in CMU territory, pushing it to a 4th-and-15 from the CMU 40. Rourke ran back in the pocket, found his read in the middle of the field, and launched it towards Ryan Luehrmann, who was two yards beyond the sticks. Luehrmann initially caught the ball, but couldn’t complete the process, as linebacker Troy Brown showed excellent pass coverage to break it up to secure a win for Central Michigan.
The win propels CMU to a 1-0 record, and they next play Northern Illinois on the road on Wed., Nov. 11. For Ohio, they fall to 0-1, and will host the Akron Zips in their home opener on Tues., Nov. 10 on CBS Sports Network.
- QB Daniel Richardson: 23-of-41, 243 yards, two total touchdowns
- RB Kobe Lewis: 28 rushes, 115 yards, two rushing touchdowns
- WR Kalil Pimpleton: five receptions, 65 yards, one receiving touchdown; three rushes, nine yards
- LB George Douglas: team-leading nine total tackles (eight solo), fumble recovery
- DE Troy Hairston Jr.: seven tackles, three sacks, three tackles-for-loss, forced fumble, QB hit
- DE Amir Siddiq: two tackles, two sacks, two tackles for loss
- PK Marshall Meeder: 1-1 FGs (22), 3-4 on PATs
- P Luke Elzinga: five punts, 276 net yards, three inside-20, one touchback, long of 76
- QB Kurtis Rourke: 12-of-19, 231 yards, two touchdowns
- RB De’Montre Tuggle: 16 rushes, 79 yards, one rushing touchdown, one fumble; 93-yard kickoff return touchdown
- WR Isiah Cox: four receptions, 104 yards, one touchdown
- SAF Jamison Collier: team-leading eight tackles (seven solo)
- LB Jeremiah Wood: seven tackles, two tackles-for-loss
- DE Austin Conrad: seven tackles, one tackle-for-loss, one pass breakup, QB hit
- PK Tristian Vandeberg: 0-1 FGs (45), 3-4 on PATs