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Bobcats run past Chippewas


MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich. — Special teams miscues hampered Ohio’s fluent attack, but the Bobcats overcame their woes to defeat Central Michigan 43-28 Thursday night at Kelly/Shorts Stadium.

Ohio (7-3, 4-2 Mid-American Conference) found holes in Central Michigan’s pass defense to open an early lead. The Chippewas (3-8, 2-5 MAC) countered with their own passing attack, but the Bobcats’ rushing game proved to be the difference in what was billed as a battle of two of the conference’s best quarterbacks.

“This was a big win for us,” senior wide receiver Lavon Brazill said. “We’ve got to put it behind us and get ready for Bowling Green.”

Quarterback Tyler Tettleton wasted no time gaining yardage through the air. On Ohio’s second play from scrimmage, he found Mario Dovell over the middle for a 44-yard completion. Tettleton ran the ball in for the score four plays later to give the Bobcats an early 7-0 lead.

Ohio started its next drive at its own 8-yard line, but Tettleton needed only four plays to find Brazill wide open downfield, and the duo connected for a record-setting touchdown.

The pass was Tettleton’s 21st career passing touchdown, which set the program’s single-season record for touchdown passes.  It also marked Brazill’s ninth touchdown reception of the season, tying another school record.

After struggling early, Central Michigan quarterback Ryan Radcliff came to life while facing a two-score deficit. He capped a six-play, 68-yard drive with a 13-yard touchdown pass to Titus Davis.

Matt Weller extended Ohio’s lead with a 48-yard field goal, but the Chippewas narrowed the gap to three points with another scoring pass from Radcliff, this time to favorite target Courtney Williams.

Ohio jumped out to a commanding lead in time of possession and total offense, but special teams penalties kept the team from possibly extending the margin. The Bobcats were penalized on each of their first five kick and punt returns, all of which gave them good field position before a yellow flag nullified the play.

“Special teams should be a real plus for us, and today it wasn’t,” coach Frank Solich said.

The teams combined for 116 penalty yards on 13 first-half flags.  Before the break, six of the seven Bobcat penalties were on special teams plays.

The last special teams flag came during a fake field goal attempt. Punter and holder Paul Hershey ran past the line of scrimmage before attempting a pass that fell incomplete.

But Hershey redeemed himself early in the second half. He buried a punt inside the Chippewas’ 1-yard line, and two defensive plays later, Alphonso Lewis tackled Zurlon Tipton in the end zone for a safety.

Less than four minutes later, Ohio extended its lead on a 7-yard pass from Tettleton to Jerry Gross, who notched his first career touchdown.

Central Michigan’s next two possessions were ugly. The Chippewas could not dig themselves out of their own end and capped one series with a poor punt that led to a Weller field goal. The next Chippewas possession resulted in an interception. Travis Carrie picked off Radcliff’s deflected pass for his third interception of the season — and the team’s first since playing Kent State Oct. 1.

But the Chippewas did not exit quietly. In the fourth quarter, Tipton rushed for a 1-yard score to cash in on a 94-yard drive, cutting the lead to 29-21. A personal foul after the play pushed the ensuing kickoff back 15 yards, and Ohio once again began its drive in prime real estate.

After a pass from Tettleton to Brazill, Blankenship took control on the ground. He chiseled precious time off the clock and scored on a 2-yard run with just more than seven minutes to play.

Central Michigan responded with its final touchdown, but Blankenship struck back with a 48-yard rushing score.

“Some MAC schools are trading more touchdowns than we are,” Solich said. “We’re facing three of the top passing teams in the conference as we finish it out.”

Ohio’s game was largely Donte-less tonight. Starting running back Donte Harden missed most of the game because of illness, and wide receiver Donte Foster did not make the trip to Central Michigan because of an injury.  Blankenship and Boykin stepped in to fill Harden’s shoes.

Tettleton finished the night 12-for-22 for 218 yards. Blankenship posted a career-high 129 yards on the ground to pace the Bobcats’ rushing attack, which amassed 309 yards.

Radcliff passed for 362 yards and three touchdowns, but the Chippewas’ running game was almost a non-factor. Central Michigan gained only 65 rushing yards.

Ohio will visit Bowling Green next Wednesday in the final road contest of the regular season.

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