Updated Mon, Mar 10, 2014 3:01 pm
A magical undefeated season, one that was ripe with promise, stunningly came to a screeching halt on one final play.
In the 89th “Battle of the Bricks,” Miami came up with one of the most surprising wins in the rivalry, upsetting the 24-ranked Bobcats 23-20 on a late 31-yard field goal from Kaleb Carpenter.
However the play that has everyone talking was the last one.
The Bobcats looked to be in great position to tie or possibly win the game. With nine seconds remaining and the ball at the Miami 7-yard line, head coach Frank Solich elected to try one more play and it backfired. After his inital read was taken away, quarterback Tyler Tettleton tried to scramble but was sacked by Miami's Wes Williams. With no timeouts left, the Bobcats could only watch as the last few seconds ticked away.
“I was just trying to make a play,” said Tettleton, who was 23-38 for 302 yards and a touchdown. “I just totally forgot and that’s my fault.”
Known for his intelligence and ability to make clutch plays at the end of games, it was stunning to see Tettleton take a sack.
“Plenty of time to get a play off. You either throw a touchdown pass or throw it away,” Solich said bluntly.
The play call had been one of their most successful red zone plays this season. “Back-side post and it wasn’t there. Should’ve just thrown it out-of-bounds,” said Tettleton.
It wasn’t just the final play that sunk the Bobcats. Offensively, the Bobcats were just 4-15 on third downs and were forced to punt eight times. On defense, Ohio allowed Miami to score on four of its first five possessions as the 'Cats fell behind 20-7 early in the second quarter.
“There were many opportunities to get ourselves involved in this football game at a much higher level and we did not get that done,” said Solich.
“They (Miami) did what they had to do to win the game,” he added.
Miami came out firing on all cylinders. They drove down the field on the game’s opening drive, converting three third downs to set up Carpenter’s 40-yard field goal.
After Ohio went three and out on their its possession, Dysert found a wide-open Nick Harwell streaking down the left side for a 54-yard touchdown to put Miami ahead 10-0 midway through the first quarter. Safety Gerald Moore was the closest defender but was a good five yards away as Harwell trotted into the end zone.
Ohio finally found its rhythm late in the first quarter and struck quickly. Tettleton hit Chase Cochran in stride for a 45-yard gain to Miami’s 26, before Beau Blankenship, the nation’s eighth leading rusher, punched it in from five yards out to cut the deficit to 13-7.
Miami, as it did all game long, had an answer, driving 57 yards in 1:57 capped by Jamire Westbrook’s one-yard touchdown run with 12 minutes left in the first half.
The Bobcats responded with a touchdown drive of their own. Using their furious no huddle offense, the Cats sprinted 71 yards in nine plays, mixing in the run and pass to cut the lead to 20-14. Tettleton finished the drive by leaping over a defender into the end zone for a 3-yard score.
The biggest play of the half might have been at the end, when nickel cornerback Nathan Carpenter intercepted Dysert’s pass in the end zone with 19 seconds left. Dysert tried to bide time by rolling right but forced the throw, allowing the Bobcats to escape the half down six.
An offensive shootout turned into a defensive struggle in the second half. After Ohio opened the second half with a field goal, the Bobcats were forced to punt on their next three possessions before they tied the score late in the fourth quarter.
The defense kept the Bobcats in the game, forcing four straight punts in the second half. Ohio was finally able to knot the score at 20 on Matt Weller’s 38-yard field goal with 4:41 to play, however the Red Hawks re-gained the lead on Carpenter’s go-ahead field goal with 1:24 remaining.
The Bobcats will have to rebound quickly from their first defeat of the season when Eastern Michigan (1-7, 0-4) travels to Athens on Thursday night.
“As a team we have to re-group. We got to come back tomorrow and keep our heads up and continue to play hard,” said Moore.
“It sucks but it’s not the end. We still have a chance to get back to Detroit,” said Tettleton.