MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich. — After a decade without much to smile about when thinking of Central Michigan, the more experienced Bobcats took the “chip” off of their shoulders and put it back in their opponent’s mascot’s name.
Ohio had little trouble opening an early lead and held on down the stretch to defeat Central Michigan 43-28 on the road Thursday.
The Chippewas’ passing game proved as effective as it had all season, but a fruitless rushing attack kept them one-dimensional and allowed the Bobcats to focus on stopping the aerial assault.
On offense, Ohio used a steady rushing attack and explosive passing plays to put 40 points on the scoreboard for the third time this season.
The Bobcats (7-3, 4-2 Mid-American Conference) won their third straight game, marking the second time this season they have accomplished the feat. Ohio sits alone atop the MAC East thanks to Miami’s midweek loss to Temple. Ohio can clinch the division with a win and a Miami loss in either of the next two weeks. The RedHawks visit Athens Nov. 22.
“This was a big win for us,” senior receiver LaVon Brazill said. “We’ve got to put it behind us and get ready for Bowling Green.”
The game featured several record-breaking performances from the Bobcats, two of which came during quarterback Tyler Tettleton’s 63-yard touchdown pass to Brazill midway through the first quarter. The score marked Tettleton’s 21st touchdown pass and his 28th touchdown accounted for this season, both of which were school records. He extended both records on a third-quarter touchdown pass to Jerry Gross.
For Brazill, the catch marked his ninth touchdown reception of the season, tying the program record.
“I think they’re both deserving,” coach Frank Solich said. “They’re both excellent athletes, tremendous competitors, have done an awful lot for Ohio, LaVon through his career and Tyler still with a share of his career to go. It’s good to see both of those guys having the kind of year that they’re having.”
Ohio entered the contest knowing that Central Michigan strongly favored passing over rushing, but Solich had stressed shutting down the ground game to keep the Chippewas from diversifying their offense.
The Bobcats never gave up the lead they gained less than four minutes into the first quarter. With no luck on the ground and time constantly disappearing from the scoreboard, Chippewas quarterback Ryan Radcliff took to the air to keep the game close.
Radcliff threw for 362 yards and three touchdowns to pass the 3,000-yard plateau on the season.
The Chippewas’ committee of rushers mustered only 65 yards on the ground, and 25 of those came on one play from Zurlon Tipton.
The Bobcats used strong performances from running backs Ryan Boykin and Beau Blankenship to do what the ill Donte Harden could not. Harden was limited to six carries in the game, but Ohio still gained 309 yards on the ground.
Blankenship shined brightest by posting career-bests in carries (25), yards (129) and rushing touchdowns (two). His 48-yard score with just more than two minutes remaining gave Ohio a two-possession lead and put Central Michigan out of reach.
“It just felt good to get out there and find some room,” Blankenship said.
The Bobcats overcame early special teams miscues before settling into more disciplined football. Each of Ohio’s first five kick and punt returns was called back because of a flag, and Paul Hershey’s failed fake field goal attempt involved an illegal forward pass.
“Special teams should be a real big plus for us, and today it just wasn’t,” Solich said.
Ohio visits Bowling Green in the season’s final road game Wednesday.