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Arizona Bowl champs: Harris TD pass to Foster wins it in OT

Vakos also clutch with FG to tie game

TUSCON, Ariz. – Nathanial Vakos kicked a 46-yard field goal to force overtime, and Tyler Foster pulled down the game-winning touchdown from CJ Harris as Ohio topped Wyoming 30-27 in the Arizona Bowl on Friday afternoon at Arizona Stadium.

Foster held onto a contested catch over the Cowboys’ Derron Harrell on a third-down play to give the Bobcats (10-4) their fourth 10-win season in school history while pushing their bowl game winning streak to four.

“Emotions were high, and I was feeling pretty confident,” said Harris, who threw for 184 yards and two touchdowns on 20-of-33 passing. “It was a one-on-one matchup and I thought I’ve got to get it to my guy, and Tyler came down with the ball and we celebrated in the end zone.”

With Harris making just his third start in place of Mid-American Conference Offensive Player of the Year Kurtis Rourke, the Bobcats generally relied on their running game, led by Sieh Bangura, who finished with 25 carries for 138 yards and a touchdown. But after the Cowboys (7-6) took a 24-21 lead on a 5-yard Jordon Vaughn touchdown run with 2:08 remaining, Harris and the Bobcats had to throw.

Harris, named the game’s MVP, led Ohio on the game-tying drive, converting three third downs, including a 24-yard pass to Alec Burton to the Wyoming 40-yard line. The final conversion came on a pass interference call that moved the ball to the 32, and Harris completed to Jacoby Jones for another 4 yards to set up the field goal that went through the uprights with four seconds to go.

“Sometimes in life, you put everything out there and the ledger doesn’t fall like you want it to,” Wyoming coach Craig Bohl said. “But I thought it was a heck of a ballgame that was going to come down to a play or two here or there, which it certainly did.”

In overtime, the Cowboys had possession first and settled for a John Hoyland 29-yard field goal, leaving the Bobcats to win with a touchdown. Harris picked up a first down with a 4-yard run to the 12-yard line, but two Bangura runs netted just 2 yards, leaving Ohio with a third-and-8. Foster’s only catch of the day followed on a fade in the left corner of the end zone.

"We knew that they ran a lot of man and one-on-one," Harris said. "We knew that our one-on-one guys were going to win those situations. I just saw Jacoby one on one and (thought), 'I just got to give him a shot,' and (he) came down with it."

Expected to be a low-scoring affair, the game eventually became just that, but offense and big plays were plentiful early. Both teams scored on their first possessions.

Vaughn reached the end zone on a 17-yard run on third-and-1 to put Wyoming on top, but Ohio answered with Jones completing a 34-yard touchdown pass to Jacoby Jones one play after a targeting penalty against Wyoming defensive back Kolbey Taylor converted a third down for the Bobcats. A trick-play two-point conversion pass from Jonah Wieland to Justin Holloway gave Ohio an 8-7 lead.

One play after Sam Wiglusz muffed a punt, the Cowboys regained the lead with a 17-yard touchdown pass from Andrew Peasley to Treyton Welch.

From then on, it was mostly a game of punts and field goals. Vakos made a 43-yard kick with 13:28 left in the first half to make it 14-11, and after Vakos missed from 53 yards, Hoyland hit from that same distance at the end of the first half to push the lead to 17-11.

Finally, the Bobcats offense took advantage of a short field after the defense forced a Wyoming punt from inside its own 20-yard line after a sack. Bangura broke a 40-yard run to set up his won game-tying 3-yard touchdown run, with the Vakos extra point putting Ohio ahead by one.

Torrie Cox intercepted Peasley early in the fourth quarter, and with 4:17 remaining, Vakos kicked a 45-yard field goal to make it 21-17. A 31-yard completion from Peasley to Welch set up the Vaughn touchdown that put the Cowboys back in front.

The Bobcats finished with 201 yards on the ground, including 52 on 10 carries from Harris.

“We worked really hard to establish that in the third quarter and it paid dividends,” Ohio coach Tim Albin said.

Wyoming was held to less than 300 yards of offense, including just 105 yards rushing. Peasley was 18-of-30 passing for 186 yards, completing five passes for 91 yards to Welch.

“I don’t think we were doing a great job sustaining our blocks up front,” Bohl said. “There was penetration, and we missed a couple reads.”

Ohio missed the postseason the last two years, including during Albin’s first season, a 3-9 campaign, following the legendary Frank Solich. But the Bobcats, picked to finish in the bottom half of the Mid-American Conference, turned it around in Albin’s second season and matched the school record for wins despite losing Rourke for the final three games. Albin was named the MAC coach of the year.

The surprising season was capped with the walk-off bowl victory.

"I want to thank the Barstool Sports Arizona Bowl Committee and the City of Tuscan,” Alban said. “The hospitality, the people, so genuine, sincere. It's been overwhelming. Football has been used as a vehicle for our team and Coach Bohl's teams, to get life experiences. It has been a fabulous week, not just because we won the football game, but because of everyone here.”

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