Ohio came away with a 34-20 victory on Wednesday night in the team's final home game of the season. Central Michigan was the only opponent Ohio faced off in a midweek game at home this season. With the buzz of a midweek Mid-American Conference game, Ohio came out fast and ready to play.
After winning the coin toss, Ohio elected to start the game on defense. During Central Michigan’s first offensive drive of the game, the Ohio defense forced a quick three-and-out, which set the tone for a phenomenal Ohio defensive effort for the remainder of the game.
After driving down to score the game's opening points on a 39-yard field goal from Gianni Spetic, the Ohio defense came back onto the field to force its second three and out in just as many drives.
What really kickstarted Ohio was a defensive touchdown by graduate student Shane Bonner. Midway through the first quarter, Central Michigan quarterback, Jase Bauer, had a pass deflected by Bonner as he was rolling out of the pocket. The deflection landed right into Bonner’s hands who had a clear path to the end zone thereafter.
“Once I knew that I caught it, we’d been talking about scoring on defense for a couple of weeks so I just took the ball and ran with it,” Bonner said.
Following Bonner’s interception, Ohio had momentum on its sideline. Driving once again with a 10-0 lead, quarterback Kurtis Rourke looked as good as he has all season.
To start the second quarter, Rourke and the offense marched down the field with four plays in the air of 10-plus yards. One of Rourke's best throws of the game came during this drive with a 25-yard pass to Will Kacemarek that set the Ohio offense up in great field position to extend its lead.
The impressive drive was capped off by a one-yard touchdown rush from O’Shaan Allison.
“That’s something that I’ve manifested all week; last home game, I had to get in the end zone,” Allison said.
Heading into halftime, Ohio held a 10-point lead of 17-7. Throughout the season, Ohio has won five of its six games in which it led at halftime.
“It’s certainly nothing that I’m saying at halftime that is changing it,” Albin said. “It’s just the guys executing, and this staff is going to continue to challenge them. It’s a four-quarter game, and if we can continue to put four quarters together ... then we should be pretty darn good.”
Ohio’s offense continued to play well out of halftime, going on a quick offensive drive for a touchdown as soon as the third quarter began. This time, it was a 16-yard rushing touchdown by Rourke. Although it was Rourke who eventually scored, the whole drive coming out of the half was led by a strong run game.
At the end of the game, sophomore back Sieh Bangura had 126 yards rushing on 21 carries, while his counterpart, Allison, had tallied two touchdowns, a season-high for the senior running back.
“We both have similar run games; he’s a little bit quicker, we piggyback off of each other,” Allison said. “When he’s in and then comes out we talk about what we could have done better what he could have done better and vice versa. We just have that type of connection.”
Allison’s second touchdown of the game would come on another one-yard rush that was scored late in the third quarter as Ohio tried to put away Central Michigan.
Ohio was able to close out its time inside of Peden Stadium this season with a win. But for some, this will have been the last time that they ever play under the lights in Athens. Making it an emotional experience for all the graduating seniors.
"It was surreal,” senior Keye Thompson said. “I look over at the end of the game, kind of look at my brothers, guys I've been here with since 2018 … It was a good hard-fought game, came out with the win, something we always want to do and we just embraced that with each other.”