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Football: Bobcats come from behind to defeat Owls

Ohio and Temple found themselves in a game of Monopoly in a showdown fit for its national televison audience. The Bobcats endured to control the most real estate, and the Owls did not pass ‘GO’ nor collected win number six.

Ohio came from behind twice in the fourth quarter to beat Temple 35-31 on ESPN.  The Bobcats ran and threw the ball effectively against a tough defensive unit en route to scoring at least 35 points for the fifth time this season.

As has been the case all season for Ohio, big plays and turnovers dictated the flow of the game. The Bobcats (6-3, 3-2 MAC) used a little trickery and breakaway speed to pick up critical yardage, while the Owls took advantage of their opponent’s miscues to put points on the board.

“I thought it was a great football game to watch. Probably not so great to coach the way it went back and forth,” coach Frank Solich said. “I was glad that that type of game came about on national TV.”

The game followed Ohio’s style of play more than Temple’s. The Bobcats relied on a steady run-pass mix to keep a staunch Owls defense on its heels, but the visitors required a strong performance from backup quarterback Chris Coyer to fill the void of leading rusher Bernard Pierce.

The typically dominant Pierce struggled to make any progress with the pigskin in first half. He managed only 28 yards on 12 touches. Coyer rushed seven times in the half and gained 59 yards and finished with 307 yards through the air and on the ground.

Ohio jumped out to a first-quarter lead before Temple evened things up in the second. Ohio scored quickly on its opening drive thanks to a 25-yard touchdown pass from Tyler Tettleton to running back Donte Harden.

In the second quarter, Ohio receiver Donte Foster coughed up the ball after making a first-down catch, and Temple took over in Ohio territory. Five plays later, Coyer found Evan Rodriguez for the 5-yard score.

Ohio marched back down the field, and Tettleton crossed the plane on a 5-yard keeper. Temple responded after Matt Weller missed a 48-yard field goal — his second misfire of the game — and tied the contest on a 34-yard pass from Coyer to Rod Streater.

The momentum swung in Ohio’s direction in the third quarter.  Temple was whistled for offensive pass interference just as a big completion appeared to put the Owls at Ohio’s 3-yard line. Coyer kept the drive alive with his legs, but he fumbled after picking up enough yardage for a first down in the red zone.

Two plays later, Donte Harden broke free for an 81-yard touchdown run, capped by a seemingly superfluous dive into the end zone. The officials convened before ruling the play did not involve excessive celebration, which would have negated the score.

Temple’s Matt Brown returned the ensuing kickoff 80 yards, but a holding call brought the ball back to near midfield.

“There was some (calls) I didn’t like, but it is good to see a balance occur, and there have been games when we haven’t had much balance,” Solich said. “It kind of went both ways a little bit.”

But Temple overcame its stretch of ill luck to score on a 20-yard run by Pierce. A pass interference call against Ohio cornerback Travis Carrie set up the play.

On its next drive, Temple converted on fourth down when punter Brandon McManus gained 19 yards on the ground. He later hit the go-ahead field goal.

Ohio responded thanks to two long passes from Tettleton to LaVon Brazill. The second catch was a beauty that put Ohio inside Temple’s 5-yard line, and Jordan Thompson hauled in the touchdown reception on the following play.

Temple came right back with a scoring drive of its own, capped by Coyer’s third passing touchdown of the night to put the Owls up 31-28 late in the fourth quarter.

With 4:41 to play, Ohio began its biggest drive of the night. A beautiful 50-yard completion from Tettleton to Harden allowed the Bobcats to kill the clock and gain yardage on the ground. Beau Blankenship and Harden powered Ohio to the 5-yard line, and Tettleton bought enough time to find Foster on third down for the touchdown.

Temple turned the ball over on downs, and Ohio finished the game in victory formation — sort of.

Temple called its final timeout with 10 seconds remaining after the third-down snap came a few seconds too early. Tettleton ran around in the backfield as the final seconds disappeared from the scoreboard.

Ohio edged Temple in total yards by a 521-437 margin. The Owls gained 308 yards on the ground to win the rushing battle.

Ohio gains bowl eligibility with the win. The team has played a postseason game each of the last two seasons.

The Bobcats still control their own destiny in the MAC and own the tiebreaker against the Owls.

Tettleton said the team will focus solely on Central Michigan instead of looking to the MAC championship game in Detroit.

“You’re going to have that target on your back, you know?” Tettleton said.

Tettleton finished the day 15-for-24 for 258 yards and three touchdowns.

“He’s doing his thing out there, making plays with his feet and his arms,” Brazill said.

Harden finished the game with 322 total yards, the most by one player in a game in program history. His 184 yards on the ground paced the Bobcats.

“In order to do that, you’ve got to have some guys up front,” Solich said. “There was a lot of great individual performances.”



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