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Ball State’s Torieal Gibson plows through Ohio’s Nathan Carpenter during the Homecoming game Saturday at Peden Stadium. Ball State beat Ohio 23-20. (KATHARINE EGLI | Staff Photographer)

Football: Homecoming game was first home loss for 'Cats

Immediately after Ohio’s loss to Ball State Saturday, the easy question to ask was, “What if?”

But the more pertinent question is, “What now?”

The Bobcats (4-3, 1-2 Mid-American Conference) dropped their first home game of the season to the Cardinals on Homecoming and in the process made their preseason goal of winning the MAC East increasingly difficult.

“We’re going to need some help,” co-captain and redshirt senior linebacker Noah Keller said. “We can’t keep beating ourselves.”

The loss marked the first time since 2008 that Ohio has dropped two conference games this early in the season. The Bobcats have lost three games in a four-game stretch in 10 of the last 11 seasons. The only exception was 2009, when they won the MAC East.

Ball State’s attack consisted of reliable gains by running back Jahwan Edwards early in the series and mid-range runs and pass completions on third down.

Edwards finished with 123 yards and a touchdown and helped Ball State move the sticks on 12 of its 22 third downs.

Ohio’s defense avoided any further debilitating injuries and had no complete collapses, but with starters missing on the defensive line and secondary, the

Cardinals managed a steady supply of offense.

Three decisions that were logical at the time contributed to Ohio’s loss. The first came when Ohio gained possession at its own 24-yard line with 32 seconds to play in the first half. On what appeared to be a testing of the offensive waters, running back Donte Harden found a hole and gained 13 yards on first down.

With that momentum, Tettleton dropped back for a pass on the next snap. But the ball deflected off a helmet and was snagged by Ball State’s Travis Freeman, who returned the ball to the 8-yard line. Steven Schott made a 25-yard field goal as time expired to extend the Cardinals’ lead to 13-7.

The next decision came on a punt return, when LaVon Brazill fielded the ball at the 3-yard line. Ball State punter Scott Kovanda had pinned two straight punts within six yards of the goal line, and Brazill decided to take a risk by playing the third. He was tackled at the 5-yard line.

“I thought I was going to make a play,” Brazill said. “I misjudged it. I should have just let it bounce in, but the way he was punting it would have landed on the one or something.”

And then there was the decision to attempt a 41-yard field goal on fourth and two with 36 seconds to play. After the third-down play, Tettleton stayed on the field and looked for instructions from the sideline. The team called its final timeout and sent on the field-goal unit.

Matt Weller, who was 16-for-23 lifetime from 40- to 49-yard field goals, pulled a 41-yard attempt wide left.

“I feel comfortable with the fact that we went for the field goal versus trying on fourth and two,” coach Frank Solich said. “It’s just unfortunate it ended the way it did.”

But other miscues prevented Ohio from avoiding those tough situations.

Tettleton threw another interception in the second half, and Harden fumbled in Ball State territory with less than six minutes to play in the fourth quarter.

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

Brazill provided the most cheerful part of the game by compiling eight catches for 157 yards and two touchdowns. He passed Taylor Price to become Ohio’s all-time reception leader, having snagged 151 passes in his career to top Price’s 149.

“It feels good to be one of the top receivers at Ohio University, but I wish I would have won the game with those catches,” he said.


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