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Turnovers, blocked kick return cost Ohio in another loss to Central Michigan

Bobcats suffer 26-23 homecoming setback to Chippewas

ATHENS – Ohio committed four turnovers and had a kick block returned for a touchdown, falling short against Central Michigan, 26-23, on homecoming Saturday at Peden Stadium.

The Bobcats fell behind 26-14 on Shane Morris’ 10-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Conklin with 10:16 remaining, made it interesting in the end, but could not get a stop to get the ball back for a final chance to win.

Tyler Gullett blocked Zach Oakley’s punt through the end zone for a safety with 7:48 to go, making it 26-16, and Nathan Rourke’s 4-yard rushing touchdown with 5:01 left made it a three-point game, but the Bobcats did not get the ball back. Central Michigan (3-3, 1-1 Mid-American Conference) converted three different third downs to run out the block.

The game turned late in the first half. Ohio (4-2, 1-1 MAC) seemingly went up 21-7 with 12 seconds left in the first half on a 28-yard strike from Rourke to Andrew Meyer, but an illegal formation penalty negated the score.

Instead, two players later, Louie Zervos’ 50-yard field goal try was blocked by Chris Kantzavelos and returned 60 yards for a touchdown. The extra point moved back because of a sideline infraction on the return, and a poor snap did not allow the Chippewas to get off the kick, leaving it 14-13 in favor of the Bobcats at halftime.

Jonathan Ward scored on a 1-yard run on the game’s opening possession of the second half to put Central Michigan on top, 19-14. The two-point try failed.

Rourke was intercepted on Ohio’s first place of the second half, but the defense held the Chippewas with an incompletion on fourth-and-goal at the 3-yard line. The Bobcats’ ensuing drive ended across midfield on one of three Rourke lost fumbles, this one recovered by Trevor Apsey.

Rourke fumbled for a final time when he was hit on a third-and-7 play from the Ohio 42, with Mike Danna recovering with 10:37 left in the game. That set up the Morris-to-Conklin touchdown pass that made it a two-score game.

Ohio took the lead to start the game on its first drive, scoring on a 1-yard Rourke touchdown run. Central Michigan answered on its first possession with a 16-yard touchdown pass from Morris to Conklin.

The Bobcats’ first chance to go ahead came after a Chad Moore interception of Morris, but Rourke’s first fumble was recovered by Kantzavelos at the 14-yard line. Rourke’s 14-yard touchdown run on the next possession gave the Bobcats a 14-7 lead.

Besides the turnovers, Rourke was dynamic again, completing 17-of-31 passes for 160 yards and rushing 15 times for 105 yards and all three touchdowns. A.J. Ouellette carried 15 times for 65 yards, and Brendan Cope caught six passes for 58 yards.

Ohio’s defense did not have an answer for Morris and Conklin. Morris was 25 of 35 for 249 yards and two touchdowns, hitting Conklin 10 times for 136 yards and two scores. Mark Chapman made six catches for 66 yards. That helped the Chippewas overcome a lack of running game. They gained only 68 yards on 31 carries.

The Bobcats play at 3:30 p.m. Saturday at Bowling Green.

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