In the fourth quarter, Ohio trailed by three points in what had been a back-and-forth battle between it and Central Michigan.
The Bobcats and the Chippewas had traded blows all game. Neither team had trailed by more than a touchdown for the entire game. After Chippewas’ quarterback Daniel Richardson connected with Kalil Pimpleton on a 28-yard touchdown pass to take a three-point lead, the Bobcats had just under four minutes to respond. They might’ve been able to take back the lead or force overtime.
Instead, Ohio faltered on its final drive. It was forced to punt after a verbal unsportsmanlike conduct penalty forced it into a fourth-and-17 play deep in its own territory. Central Michigan got the ball back with two-and-a-half minutes remaining and ran out the clock. Richardson kneeled to end the game, and Ohio suffered its first Mid-American Conference loss of the year.
Ohio showed flashes of success but failed to close out the fourth quarter in its 30-27 loss to Central Michigan on Saturday at Peden Stadium. It had kept on Central Michigan's heels throughout the game and even gained the lead twice in the second half.
But when the Chippewas rallied to score a field goal and a touchdown in their final two drives, the Bobcats had no answer.
“(The MAC) top to bottom is the most competitive it’s been in my time here,“ Ohio coach Tim Albin said. “Every game is going to come down to what you saw today and what you saw last week ... it’s going to be down to who makes the plays and plays for four quarters.”
The Bobcats (1-5, 1-1 MAC) seized control for brief moments in the second half. An interception by safety Tariq Drake — his second of the game — resulted in a three-play drive capped off with a two-yard touchdown run by De’Montre Tuggle.
A 40-yard touchdown run by Sieh Bangura wrestled the lead back two drives later, but Ohio’s offense fell silent soon after. It put up 11 yards of offense in its final two drives. Central Michigan (3-3, 1-1 MAC) scored 10 points in two of its final three drives.
Richardson, who had been held to 100 yards in the first half, lit up the Bobcats defense after halftime. Despite going just 7-of-13 in the second half, five of Richardson’s passes were for 26 yards or more. The Bobcats failed to contain Richardson, and untimely penalties only inflamed the problem.
“It's just, you know, the small little plays at the end of the game that count,“ linebacker Bryce Houston said. “It's definitely something that we can still go back on the drawing board and still be proud of ourselves, the way we fought, but we’ve still got to capitalize on it.”
The final unsportsmanlike conduct penalty was not Ohio's lone mistake. It wasn’t even Ohio’s worst mistake. Yet when it was down by one score with less than four minutes remaining, it all but destroyed Ohio’s chance at a comeback.
“We were going to go for it,“ Albin said. “We got a penalty from the bench area, and you can’t do that. It’s unfortunate. I’m disappointed, the person is disappointed. That’s not who he is.”
The three-point difference in the final score makes Ohio’s mistakes stick out more than its moments of potential. If Ohio wants to win more games this season, it needs to learn how to close them out.