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LaVon Brazill

Football: Bobcats drop close Homecoming game to Ball State

A trio of turnovers and a missed field goal attempt late in the game were too much for Ohio to overcome in a Homecoming Weekend loss to Ball State.

The Bobcats (4-3, 1-2 Mid-American Conference) dropped a 23-20 decision in which their own mistakes hurt more and counted more than most of what the Cardinals did offensively.

“We kind of dug our own graves,” captain and middle linebacker Noah Keller said.

The Bobcats and Cardinals featured almost identical play in the first half.

But the key word there is “almost.”

The differences favored Ball State, which had more success moving the ball though most drives still resulted in a punt. The Cardinals scored 10 of their 13 first-half points thanks to a pair of Ohio miscues.

With the Bobcats leading 7-3 late in the second quarter, Jahwan Edwards ran for a 28-yard score on third down. Ohio missed chances to bring Edwards down near the line of scrimmage.

The Bobcats got the ball back at their own 24 and appeared content to let time run out. But Donte Harden picked up 13 yards on a first-down carry, and Tettleton attempted a pass on the ensuing play. The pass was deflected and intercepted by Travis Freeman, who returned the ball to the 8-yard line. Two plays later, kicker Steven Schott tacked on three points to end the half.

The Bobcats had major problems converting on third down and did not create many sustained drives. The only successful series was a three-minute, 70-yard march capped by a Phil Bates touchdown pass to LaVon Brazill on a reverse play.

That drive included Ohio’s only third-down conversion of the half. The Bobcats entered the break 1-for-6 on third downs, compared to Ball State’s 6 conversions on 12 attempts.

“We’re a big-play offense, and we weren’t really sustaining drives,” coach Frank Solich said.

The teams combined for nine punts in the half, including all six first-quarter possessions.

The second half saw more ball movement for both teams and no appearances by either punter. Ohio opened the scoring with a connection between Tettleton and Harden for a 13-yard score. The Cardinals blocked the extra-point attempt, and punter and place-kick holder Paul Hershey chased down Jason Pinkston on the attempted return to avoid a two-point score.

Ball State responded with a 10-play, 77-yard drive capped by a 3-yard touchdown run by Cardinals quarterback Keith Wenning.

But Ohio responded quickly with a 74-yard catch-and-run by Brazill to tie the game at 20. That marked the Bobcats’ longest scoring play from scrimmage this season.

Ball State lumbered down the field again, gaining enough yardage on third downs on three occasions. Schott put the Cardinals ahead with a field goal.

Tettleton attempted a momentum-shifting play on the following drive but threw another interception after the ball battled away from intended receiver Donte Foster. The Bobcats forced a punt but started the next drive from their own 6-yard line and eventually punted as well.

Ohio next took possession inside its own 1-yard line following a magnificent punt by Scott Kavunga. Big plays by Riley Dunlop and Jordan Thompson put Ohio within striking range, but Donte Harden fumbled away the ball at the Ball State 36-yard line.

“It was heartbreaking,” Harden said. “I definitely don’t want that to happen again.”

The Bobcats again regained possession inside the 5-yard line and began their final charge. Key completions to Brazill, Bakari Bussey and Dunlop kept the chains moving before Ohio faced fourth and 2 from the Ball State 24-yard line. Tettleton appeared hesitant to leave the field, and Solich called a timeout.

Kicker Matt Weller lined up for a 41-yard field goal but missed the attempt wide left. Ball State ended the game in victory formation.

“I think that was a good decision,” Brazill said about the decision to attempt the field goal. “We probably wouldn’t have gotten the first.”

Solich echoed the sentiment.

“I feel comfortable that we went for the field goal on fourth and 2,” he said. “It’s just unfortunate that it ended the way it did.”

Tettleton finished the game with 18-for-30 passing for 246 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. Brazill had eight catches for 157 yards and two scores.

Ohio visits Akron next Saturday.

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