Updated Sun, Oct 20, 2013 5:55 pm
Throughout this week of practice, the Ohio Bobcats focused on rebounding from a difficult loss to Central Michigan. For the Eastern Michigan Eagles, the past two days have been spent trying to rebound from the difficult loss of teammate Demarius Reed. The Eagles showed an inspired effort against the Bobcats, but Ohio was able to pull away in the second half to record the 56-28 win in Ypsilanti, Mich.
After Reed’s body was found in the hallway of a campus-area apartment complex on Friday, some doubted whether or not the football game would be played the next day. In a statement released later on Friday afternoon, Eastern Michigan University officials decided to play the game against Ohio in order to honor Reed.
“This is a tragedy,” Mid-American Conference Commissioner Jon Steinbrecher said. “Words cannot express my remorse for the loss of this young man. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Reed family, his teammates, coaches, and fellow students at Eastern Michigan University."
Eastern Michigan players and coaches donned helmet stickers and towels with “#2” inscribed on them, as well as holding up two fingers at kickoff to pay homage to Reed and his family.
The Eagles sprinted out of the gates early, as Reed’s fellow wide receiver teammate Tyler Allen returned Ohio’s opening kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown and an early lead. Allen was clearly emotional after the play, receiving congratulations and consolations from the Eastern Michigan sideline.
Ohio would answer, scoring three touchdowns to take a 21-14 halftime lead on the Eagles. Tyler Tettleton threw for two of the three first half touchdowns and tallied four total for the game. Before Saturday, Tettleton hadn’t thrown for more than three touchdowns in a game in his career at Ohio.
At the beginning of the second half, the Eagles reignited their inspired effort, tying the game and threatening to take the lead away from the Bobcats behind the rushing performance of running back Bronson Hill. Hill carved up the Ohio defense, rushing 23 times for 257 yards, topping the performance of Central Michigan’s Saylor Lavallii a week ago.
“I don’t know what happened [in the run defense],” head coach Frank Solich said. “It’s a little discouraging and I’ll have to take a look back at it to see where the breakdowns were coming, but there were way too many big runs.”
After the Eagles tied the game at 21 on their previous possession, Hill got back to work, reeling off a 64-yard run to put Eastern Michigan in great position to jump ahead of the Bobcats.
But, when things were looking promising for Eastern Michigan, the wheels fell off in a span of two plays.
Tyler Benz threw to the endzone, but was intercepted by Ohio’s Devin Bass who took a knee to give Ohio the ball on its own 20-yard line. Then, on the first play of the drive, Tettleton hit Chase Cochran on an 80-yard touchdown to put the Bobcats ahead.
“They had a great deal of momentum and had scored and were looking to score again,” Solich said. “That interception was key.”
With that change in momentum, Ohio was able to pull away from the Eagles, scoring 56 points and 35 points in the second half. Ohio’s point total was the most in a single game since defeating Northern Illinois 63-15 in the 1976 season.
The Bobcats appear to be back on track after struggling a week ago, but the road to recovery will be much longer for the Eastern Michigan squad as they have to proceed without their teammate Demarius Reed.
“I felt really bad,” Tettleton said. “It was tough going out there knowing that those guys are going through something like that.”
“It was shocking to everybody,” Solich said. “I was proud of our team for keeping their focus, but I was also proud of the way [Eastern Michigan] played in terms of their toughness throughout the course of the game.”
Ohio returns home next week for a Halloween edition of the Battle of the Bricks with the Miami RedHawks while the Eagles travel to Northern Illinois to take on the No. 23-ranked Huskies.