OXFORD — Frank Solich was trying to come up with words.
Standing in his green and white windbreaker outside the Yager Stadium visitors locker room, the coach who has dominated the “Battle of the Bricks” since arriving at Ohio didn’t have many thoughts on what his Bobcats’ 30-28 upset loss to rival Miami meant.
“I feel badly for the players that we’re in that situation,” Solich said. “They set a goal, and they want to reach that goal. Every loss hurts, so this hurts as badly as the other losses.”
Two paths met as Quinton Maxwell’s Hail Mary attempt hit the ground as time expired. One path signaled an end. The other was an extension.
The loss is Ohio’s first to Miami since 2012. The five-game winning streak is over. The Bobcats have been dominant in Solich’s tenure; he’s now 11-3 against the RedHawks. But rivalries are renewed every year, and Ohio’s goals were more lofty than just beating Miami.
With the loss, Ohio now sits two games behind Buffalo in the Mid-American Conference East Division standings with two games to play. The Bobcats will host the Bulls next week, but even a win there won’t help their case for Detroit. Buffalo has to lose out to give Ohio hope.
But the Bulls play cellar-dweller Bowling Green in the last week of the regular season, making Ohio’s title hopes all but crushed. The title drought will likely extend into its 51st year since a MAC Championship has come back to Athens.
And trust the Bobcats, they know the odds are stacked against them.
“We let Buffalo and Akron have one last year,” running back A.J. Ouellette said. “We’ve just got to take it back and see where the cards fall.”
Ohio tried to take back control of its destiny in a wild second half, which featured an intercepted screen pass, a blocked punt returned for a touchdown, a safety and a few booth reviews. After digging themselves a 28-7 hole, the Bobcats began the climb up but couldn’t mount the comeback.
“It’s a tough pill to digest,” safety Kylan Nelson said. “I don’t know if it’s set in quite yet.”
That pill might be toughest for Ouellette, a redshirt senior. He and the Bobcats came into the game undefeated against Miami. His 168 rushing yards were a new career high.
He was trying to earn the ultimate bragging rights over his most hated rival. He was trying to make a return trip to Detroit and win a MAC Championship.
Ouellette also didn’t mince any words. This loss, with both its paths, stings.
“Both hurt,” Ouellette said. “Any time you lose to these little rich boys, it hurts.”
Solich knows what the loss means. He’s been on both sides of the same coin, winning and losing countless meaningful games. His view of this loss, as tough as it may be, is simply put.
“I don’t want to put any more on it than what it is,” Solich said of the loss. “If it takes us out of something, it takes us out of something. We had our chance. We didn’t get it done.”
Two paths crossed.
One shed light on the end of a dominant run in a rivalry, and the other likely extended the Bobcats’ dreaded MAC Championship drought.