12 years is a long time, and the weight of all 4,388 of those days were lifted off the shoulders of the Green and White faithful assembled at Peden Stadium, as the Ohio Bobcats (8-3, 5-2 MAC East) finally knocked off the Central Michigan Chippewas (5-6, 3-4 MAC West) in cross-division play by the final score of 34-20 on Tuesday night.
It was a stellar effort by the Bobcats, who forced four turnovers on defense (scoring once), and tallied three rushing touchdowns on offense to effectively control the contest from start to finish.
After forcing a quick CMU three-and-out on the first drive of the game, the Bobcats would get a field goal on their first possession, taking an early 3-0 lead at the 9:49 mark of the first quarter.
Ohio didn’t have to wait much longer to find the scoreboard again, as defensive end Shane Bonner tipping a Jase Bauer pass to himself and returning it for a 21-yard touchdown, pushing the lead to 10-0 midway through the first quarter. The offense joined the party at the 12:57 mark of the second quarter, as O’Shaan Allison capped off an eight-play, 84-yard drive with a one-yard touchdown run to put the ‘Cats up three scores at 17-0.
Central, who to this point, had struggled to move the ball all game, took advantage of a missed defensive assignment on an aggressive third-down blitz, as Jase Bauer stepped up into the pocket and delivered a 50-yard strike to a streaking Tyson Davis for a touchdown to finally put the Chippewas on the board with 4:38 remaining in the first half. Prior to the play, CMU had gone 0-of-5 on third down, missed their only fourth-down conversion and punted three times in the first quarter.
The Chips would get one last drive to end the first half, but on the final play of the half, Marion Lukes fumbled the ball after Roman Parodie punched the ball out at around the CMU 40-yard line, effectively killing a nice downfield run which could have gone for a score under different circumstances.
Ohio would get off to a fast start in the second half, sandwiching a 62-yard Chris Parker touchdown reception on another broken defensive assignment for CMU with rushing touchdowns from Kurtis Rourke (16 yards) and O’Shaan Allison (one yard) to take a 28-14 lead with 4:11 remaining in the third quarter.
The ‘Cats defense had a chance to put the game away late in the third quarter, as linebacker Bryce Houston appeared to recover a Jase Bauer fumble 30 yards behind the line of scrimmage on a sack attempt, but an unsportsmanlike conduct call on cornerback Torrie Cox Jr. closer to the endzone rendered the play dead and CMU would get another chance to score.
Lax discipline arouse again on a third-and-20 play after a holding call, as Bradley Weaver was penalized for roughing the passer on an incompletion, granting CMU the ball and a new set of downs at the Ohio 14-yard line. One play later, Marion Lukes would burst through for a rushing touchdown to put the score at 28-20, pending the extra point.
A false start penalty on the first kick attempt moved the ball five yards back, and Tristan Mattson was unable to convert, as the ball fluttered wide right to keep the score at 31-20.
The Chippewas would get one last drive to try and bridge the gap after a Gianni Spetic field goal to extend the Ohio lead to 34-20, and even showed some promise with passes of 22, 9 and 8 yards to get to the Ohio 25-yard line. It wasn’t meant to be, however, as on first-and-10 from that mark, Jase Bauer tried to throw out of a sack but wound up passing the ball backwards, resulting in a live ball fumble. The Bobcats would jump on it and wind the clock down to kill any chance of a comeback rally.
Sieh Bangura was the star of the game offensively for Ohio, with 126 yards on 21 carries. O’Shaan Allison would vulture two touchdowns in the redzone, finishing the day with 10 carries for 13 yards and the two tallies, while Kurtis Rourke completed 15-of-23 passes for 222 yards and rushed for 13 yards and a score. Miles Cross led Ohio passcathers with 53 yards on three receptions. Four other Bobcats tied for three catches as well.
Defensively, Bryce Johnson once again put on a clinic, with nine total tackles, including 1.5 tackles-for-loss and sack on the night. Defensive end Bradley Weaver lead the team with 2.5 TFLs, while fellow lineman Shane Bonner picked up a pick-six to go along with five tackles.
Gianni Spetic finished 2-of-3 on field goal attempts on the night, with two kicks made inside the 40, and a miss from 43 yards out.
For Central Michigan, it was once again a rotation at quarterback— though Jase Bauer took the majority of snaps. Bauer finished 10-of-21 passing for 157 yards, two touchdowns and an interception, while Bert Emanuel Jr. had five rushes for 35 yards in relief. Marion Lukes carried the rushing burden, with 15 carries for 75 yards and a touchdown for his troubles. Myles Bailey also had a long 48-yard rush aid the attack. Tyson Davis (50 yards) and Chris Parker (team-leading 62 yards) each hauled in receiving touchdowns, with Lukes leading the team in receptions (three.)
Cornerback Da’Raun McKinney led the Chips defensive effort, with nine total tackles. Fellow corner Donte Kent and linebacker Kyle Moretti— back from a leg injury which had him sidelined for several weeks— each notched a pass break-up. Defensive linemen Jacques Bristol and Robi Stuart each had a solo sack and TFL to lead the team.
Tonight’s win was vital for Ohio’s hopes of finishing the season as a 10-win program, with their remaining regular season game against Akron and a bowl game ahead on the calendar. On top of being Ohio’s first win over CMU since 2011, it is also the first win against CMU at Peden Stadium since 2000.
The loss was a heartbreaker for the Chippewas, who now have to host the Toledo Rockets at Kelly/Shorts Stadium to try and earn their way into the postseason after a poor run of form in recent weeks.
Both Ohio and CMU are next scheduled to play on Black Friday, with kickoff scheduled for noon Eastern time.