DETROIT – Not many losses are as painful as the one Ohio endured Saturday.
The Bobcats had everything on their side going into the Mid-American Conference Championship game. They have an efficient offense, a strong defense and even good special teams. The MAC Championship was theirs to lose.
Unfortunately for Ohio, that’s what it did. It put up a good fight, but ultimately fell to Toledo 17-7 Saturday. Not only did the loss extend Ohio’s championship drought to 55 years, it also snapped the team’s winning streak that it had been holding on to since Oct. 8.
“Our locker room is obviously very disappointed,” Ohio coach Tim Albin said. “When you invest as much as this football team has, and you keep stacking days together, you’re going to have pain. That’s where they are right now.”
The main problem for Ohio Saturday was the run game, both on offense and defense.
Toledo quarterback Dequan Finn has been known for being a threat on the ground this season, totaling 608 yards as the team’s second leading rusher. He added to that Saturday, earning 86 yards on 18 attempts.
Most of those rushing yards came on quarterback keepers throughout the game. There were multiple times Saturday when Finn would keep the ball, break free from multiple Ohio defenders trying to earn a sack, and pick up yards on the play.
The only Ohio defender who was able to bring Finn down Saturday was Kai Caesar. He achieved Ohio’s only sack of the day on one of Toledo’s two fourth down conversion attempts.
“That guy, he’s a great quarterback,” Caesar said.
Jacquez Stuart also had a big game on the ground for Toledo, rushing for 93 yards. Most of his big plays came in the first half, including a 29-yard rushing touchdown on Toledo’s first drive.
On the other side of the ball, Ohio running back Sieh Bangura had 56 rushing yards, his third lowest in a game this season. Albin said all week that Toledo’s defensive line would be hard to break through, and that was certainly the case.
Even when handing the ball off to Bangura wasn’t working for the Bobcats, they were not willing to give up. The Bobcats continued to try to utilize their normally effective run game, but Toledo kept getting stops.
The passing game wasn’t as effective as usual either, as Ohio quarterback C.J. Harris finished the game Saturday with 17 completions on 31 attempts for 163 yards. His longest pass of the day was to tight end Will Kacmerak, and it led to Ohio’s only touchdown of the game.
Losing the MAC Championship hurts, but in no way does it take away from the success Ohio has had this season. It knew it could make the conference championship game all along, but Ohio still shocked most of the MAC by finishing the regular season 9-3 one year after ending the season 3-9.
Ohio has a lot to be proud of, and Albin agrees.
“I told them to keep their heads up, shoulders back, chest out,” Albin said. “I couldn’t be prouder of a group of guys. For me personally, (this was) my funnest year of coaching, not because of the seven or eight games we won in a row and all of the postseason stuff. It’s because of …everyone in the locker room. They have been remarkable.”