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Ohio's comeback comes up short at Central Michigan, 27-20

Maxwell intercepted in end zone in final minute

MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich. – Amari Coleman intercepted Quinton Maxwell in the end zone on fourth-and-13 from the 15, and Central Michigan held on for a 27-20 victory against Ohio to become bowl eligible and keep Ohio from clinching the Mid-American Conference East Division on Tuesday night at Kelly/Shorts Stadium.

The Bobcats (7-4, 5-2 MAC) fell behind 17-0 but tied the game at 20 early in the fourth quarter before the Chippewas (6-4, 3-4 MAC) scored the game-winning 8-yard touchdown on a one-handed catch by tight end Tyler Conklin on a third-and-goal with 5:51 remaining.

Ohio gained two first downs before its next drive stalled at the Central Michigan 42-yard line when Maxwell fumbled while being sacked by Joe Ostman on fourth down. But the Chippewas returned the favor when Kent Berger caused Jahray Hayes to lose possession on a third-down carry, and it was recovered by Toran Davis with 2:19 remaining.

Maxwell converted a third down with a 9-yard run to the Central Michigan 33-yard line and then hit Jordan Reid for an 8-yard gain. A facemask penalty on the play gave Ohio a first down at the 13-yard line.

Another pass to Reid gained 5 yards, but Ostman sacked Maxwell at the 15-yard line, setting up a fourth down. Maxwell stepped up to avoid pressure but tried to force the ball into the left corner of the end zone.

“We’re gonna have to play much much better than what we did tonight if we expect to get in the MAC Championship game,” Ohio coach Frank Solich said. “We’ve got to get bet back to work, have a good week of practice, play much better football.”

A pair of fumbles early helped Central Michigan gain the momentum in the first half. Dorian Brown got enough yards to convert a fourth-and-1 from the Central Michigan 20, but he lost the ball to Malik Fountain. On Ohio’s next drive, Brown could not hold on to an option pitch from Maxwell, and Ostman recovered.

That led to the Chippewas taking a 3-0 lead on a Brian Eavey field goal with 5:30 left in the first quarter, though they had not gained a first down on three possessions to that point.

The game’s first touchdown game with 5:57 left in the first half on a 1-yard run by Hayes that was set up by a 39-yard pass from Cooper Rush to Corey Willis on third-and-5.

One possession later, Central Michigan took advantage of a short field after an Ohio three-and-out and went up 17-0 on another third-down conversion, this one a 13-yard touchdown pass from Rush to Conklin with 1:25 left in the half.

“We knew going into this game they were going to give us everything they’ve got, it was their senior night, they’re fighting to get bowl eligible,” Maxwell said. “All we had to do was come out and execute, and things would take care of themselves, we didn’t for a half, and it hurt us.”

Ohio’s comeback began with a 34-yard Louis Zervos field goal just before halftime, and the Bobcats were right back in the game by scoring on the opening drive of the second half on a 16-yard pass from Maxwell to Papi White. That drive was extended when the Chippewas were called for holding on a fourth down.

Central Michigan followed with a successful drive, but it was stopped after moving inside the 10-yard line when Rush fumbled for a 19-yard loss. The Chippewas settled for a 33-yard Eavey field goal to make it 20-10, and the Bobcats came right back with a field goal of their own – a 34-yarder by Zervos that was set up by a 58-yard run by Brown.

Sebastian Smith made a 53-yard catch on Ohio’s next possession, setting up a 1-yard touchdown run by Brown to tie the game at 20 with 14:20 remaining.

The Chippewas’ go-ahead touchdown was set up by pinning the Bobcats at their own 10-yard line on a punt and then forcing a three-and-out, giving them a short field before Conklin’s catch that ranked as the SportsCenter top play of the night.

Maxwell finished 16-of-36 passing for 208 yards and ran 21 times for 56 yards. Brown had 91 yards rushing on 12 carries, and Smith finished with four catches for 92 yards. Reid and Papi White both had 50 yards receiving.

Rush was an efficient 25-of-32 passing for 268 yards, though Central Michigan had no ability to run the ball, finishing with 18 yards on 31 attempts. Willis had eight catches for 109 yards.

Ohio outgained Central Michigan, 357-286, but was done in by a 4-1 disparity in turnovers.

Quentin Poling led Ohio’s defense with eight tackles, while Blair Brown had seven tackles, including the team’s only sack.

The Bobcats now are tied for the MAC East lead with Miami, which has won five games in a row after an 0-6 start. Ohio’s 17-7 victory early in the season, though, gives the Bobcats the tiebreaker, though, and means they still can clinch the division with a win or a Miami loss on Tuesday.

Ohio hosts Akron at 7 p.m. on ESPNU while Miami is home against Ball State at the same time.

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