The Ohio Bobcats forced turnover after turnover en route to a 33 to 14 route of the Western Michigan Broncos. The betting line for the game was very close and favored each team at one point, but the Broncos were ultimately no match for the Bobcats.
The game was within one possession for most of the contest, but the Ohio defense came up strong time and again, preventing the Broncos offense from ending their drives efficiently. Jack Salopek threw five interceptions in the second half and a muffed punt nullified any momentum the Broncos had after getting a stop on Ohio’s opening drive of the second half.
Corey Crooms caught a 74-yard pass late in the first half to make it a 17-14 game with 1:05 left in the second quarter. Unfortunately for them, they were done scoring. Ohio used 59 seconds to add a field goal before the break and the wheels would fall off for the Broncos from that point on.
The Broncos were poised to get the ball with good field position after forcing an Ohio punt from inside their own 20-yard line. Punt returner Zahir Abdus-Salaam decided to try to dive onto the ball to stop the roll, but misplayed it one of the three Bobcats surrounding him controlled the ball.
That specific play didn’t hurt, as Ohio turned the ball over on downs on their next possession, but it was the first of four consecutive drives that ended with a turnover for the homestanding crew. Ohio created tipped passes, hit Salopek as he was releasing the pass and made plays on the ball when Bronco receivers didn’t. That half of football is just as much about Ohio capitalizing on every opportunity they created as the Bronco offense cratering.
The Bobcats took the opening kick for a touchback and didn’t face a third down until they were at the one-yard line. A nifty option to the right side got Ohio running back Sieh Bangura into the endzone untouched after the pitch from quarterback Kurtis Rourke. The Broncos answered and seemed up to the task early. WMU quarterback Jack Salopek threw a beauty of a pass to Jehlani Galloway for 28 yards to the eight-yard line, with the amped-up QB calling his number on the very next to score on an eight-yard run.
The next Ohio drive marched downfield for 75 yards on 11 plays to retake the lead with another touchdown, never facing a third-down situation at any point. Bangura finished the drive off after Rourke completed seven passes on seven attempts.
Tim Lester did his thing on the next drive and went for a fourth-and-six attempt in plus territory. It failed, but the Broncos got the ball back three plays later when safety Delano Ware intercepted Rourke deep in his own territory.
Ohio kicked a field goal after forcing WMU to go backwards on a three play drive. Kurtis Rourke found receiver Jacoby Jones for 31-yards to get into field goal range. The game was 17-7 in favor of the Bobcats at this point.
After playing to end of the half as previously described, Ohio has a six-point lead and the Broncos would get the ball to start the second half.
After the muffed punt, the Broncos were on the move. A well-designed middle screen got tight end Blake Bosma the ball in space. He rumbled for 38 yards down to the Ohio 25, but three plays later, an out route was intercepted by cornerback Torrie Cox Jr.
That would mark the start of WMU’s troubles.
The Bobcat’s next drive went 48 yards, but stalled out after a sack by linebacker Corvin Moment. Receiver James Bostic is a big play machine and got free over the middle of the field for another 48-yard reception to set up the field goal attempt. Nathanial Vakos missed the 33-yard attempt, but he got another chance on the next drive.
After a defensive holding penalty bailed out the Bronco offense on a third-and-18 play, Salopek delivered a ball that was knocked into the air by a Bobcat lineman. Bryce Dugan tracked it and converted it into interception number two. Vakos made the next 33-yard attempt after the offense moved the ball a single yard on three plays.
Salopek was hit as he threw on a high-arching ball which found its way into the hands of defensive back Zach Sanders, who returned it 42 yards to Bronco territory. Running back Sieh Bangura fumbled the ball back to WMU three plays later.
With the game slipping away, WMU head coach Tim Lester made another aggressive fourth-down call, opting to go for it on fourth-and-seven from their own 17-yard line. The bright side is the drive did not end in another interception. The bad news is that a sack ended the drive and Ohio took over on the WMU eight-yard line.
Rourke scored on a one yard rush two plays later and the game was officially over. Salopek would throw two more interceptions in less than four minutes of game time and Ohio would, mercifully, only add a field goal.
Rourke was good for Ohio and completed just under two-thirds of his passes for 264 yards and he rushed six times for 24-yards and a touchdown. Sieh Bangura found the endzone twice on 25 rushes. James Bostic averaged 25 yards per catch to keep his average for the season over 20. Zach Sanders and Torrie Cox Jr. each had two interceptions and a combined 76 interception return yards.
The Broncos continue to have trouble getting the ball to Crooms, but his day was solid. Almost all of his 87 yards came from one play, but he lead all receivers in the game. Running back Sean Tyler lead the Broncos in rushing yards with 84 on 19 carries. Salopek was running for his life when he dropped back to pass. The five interceptions get all of the attention, but he was also sacked five times.
The Broncos are headed to Oxford to play Miami next week. Both teams will be looking for a rebound before mid-week #MACtion starts.
Ohio heads back home and hosts a Northern Illinois team that throttled Eastern Michigan. That game should be fun as the Bobcats try to improve to 3-1 in the MAC.