A game that looked to be a Central Michigan blowout turned into a nailbiter as the Chippewas used a goalline stand to hold on for a 27-20 win over the Ohio Bobcats.
It was such a weird and confusing game, but CMU got the job done and earned that elusive sixth win of the year. Now, we can stop talking about that terrible loss to Kent State and whether it would be what kept Cooper Rush and company from bowling this season.
The Chippewas, after struggling early on in a loss to Miami last week, came out and scored the first 17 points of the game. That was a bit disappointing for the 8,000+ in attendance for senior night as Ohio lost two fumbles in the first half with CMU only able to earn a Brian Eavey 40-yard field goal in the process.
Finally, midway through the second quarter, CMU kicked into gear offensively with back to back scoring drives to that that previously mentioned 17-0 lead. Ohio, having been stifled for the first 28 minutes of the opening half, finally found success in the final 90 seconds as Quinton Maxwell went 4-8 for 33 yards to set up a Louie Zervos field goal attempt. The 34-yard attempt was good, sending the game to intermission with CMU leading 17-3.
That scoring drive to end the half was just enough of a momentum swing to change the entire complexion of the game in the second half. Returning the favor of a 17-3 start to the game in favor of CMU, the Bobcats scored 17 of the next 20 points on touchdowns by Papi White and Dorian Brown and a 34-yard field goal.
Suddenly we had a 20-20 ballgame in the fourth quarter with Ohio sensing a trip to the MAC title game only one score away.
That score instead came from Central Michigan on a highlight reel catch by Tyler Conklin. Go ahead, watch Conklin make that catch, then watch again, and watch one more time for good measure. Admit it, you watched it at least 10 times and still cannot understand how he made the grab.
With Ohio driving in CMU territory for an attempt to tie or even take the lead in the final four minutes, Joe Ostman came up with what looked like the defensive play of the game. He sacked Maxwell, forcing a fumble that was recovered by CMU at the 47-yard line.
Clearly, that won the game for the Chippewas, right? Not so fast my friend. Seeming to be allergic to winning, CMU quickly turned the ball over on a Jahray Hayes fumbles at their own 48-yard line. With that fumble, Ohio had 2:19 and 48 yards to score a touchdown and send the game to overtime.
The Bobcats quickly moved downfield into the red zone, helped by a pass completion and fasemask penalty that moved the ball from the 33-yard line to the 12-yard line. Ohio got as close as the seven, to face a third and five with :45 left in the game.
Remember Ostman getting that strip sack one drive earlier? Ostman again came up big for the Chippewas with a sack of Maxwell, forcing a fourth and 13 from the 15 yard line and essentially putting Ohio up against the wall. The fourth down conversion was intercepted by Sean Bunting in the endzone for a touchback, giving CMU a 27-20 win over Ohio and postseason eligibility.
The loss for Ohio opened the door for Miami to complete their miraculous turnaround from 0-6 to a possible 6-6 with a trip to the MAC title game. No team has ever completed the 0-6 to 6-6 turnaround in FBS history. Ohio can ruin the MAC title plans of Miami if they are able to defeat Akron in the season finale, so despite the disappointing result, they are still in the driver’s seat to a loss to WMU in the MAC title game.
Congrats to Central Michigan. After losing to Kent State and then getting boatraced by Miami, many thought they would lay down and end up missing the postseason. Instead, they came out and fought hard to pull out this win and ruin the division title coronation of Ohio.