Football: Ohio stops the run, but turnovers contribute to 27-20 loss at Central Michigan

 

Quinton Maxwell throws the ball against Toledo at the Glass Bowl on Oct. 27. (FILE)

The Bobcats sport the Mid-American Conference’s best run defense. They came into Tuesday night’s game against Central Michigan (6-5, 3-4 MAC) allowing an average of 114.8 rushing yards per game.

And despite allowing just 18 rushing yards against the Chippewas, Ohio (7-4, 5-2 MAC) faltered on offense and in the secondary and lost 27-20.

“We knew going into this game they were going to give us everything they’ve got,” quarterback Quinton Maxwell said after the game. “It was their senior night. They’re fighting to get bowl eligible.”

Central Michigan clearly wasn’t a team to be trifled with. It beat nationally ranked Oklahoma State 30-27 earlier in the season, so its record wasn’t as mediocre as it showed.

The Chippewas quarterback Cooper Rush threw for two touchdowns, 268 yards and completed 78.1 percent of his passes against Ohio. Rush showed his ability to stand in the pocket and make solid throws, even when the defensive line forced the pocket to collapse.

Ohio did on defense what it typically does well: defend the run. But the defense didn’t do an equally solid job stopping the pass. The Chippewas had three receivers total more than 40 receiving yards. Corey Willis led the team with 109.

“All we had to do was come out and execute and things would take care of themselves,” Maxwell said. “We didn’t for a half and it hurt us.”

Ohio was playing catch up for the entire game, but essentially lost the game in the first half. The Bobcats had two turnovers in the first half, and they were in a 17-3 hole at halftime. Despite winning the total yards battle, and despite winning the penalty battle, Ohio couldn’t win the most important battle of them all: turnovers.

Ohio fumbled three times, losing possession each time. Maxwell threw an interception with just under 40 seconds left in the game, which sealed the win for the Chippewas.

“I thought the defense started off well, controlling the ground game, but we kept putting them (Central Michigan) out there and they started to get things going and get confidence,” coach Frank Solich said after the game. “It was difficult to stop them in a manner that allowed us to win this ball game.”

Entering this game, Ohio had a chance to win the MAC East and seal a spot in the MAC Championship game. Ohio can still clinch the east division, but only with a win against Akron. Ohio will play the Zips next Tuesday in Athens at 7 p.m.

Miami is in contention for the division, too, but it would need a win against Ball State and an Ohio loss to Akron. The Bobcats beat Miami earlier in the season, so they hold the tiebreaker.

Ohio set a goal to win the MAC Championship at the beginning of the season, something the program hasn’t accomplished since 1968.

“We’re gonna have to play much, much better than what we did tonight if we expect to get in the MAC Championship game,” Solich said after Tuesday. “We’ve got to get back to work, have a good week of practice, play much better football.”

 

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