Football: Ohio’s Offense Closes Out CMU To Keep East Lead

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Start fast, finish strong.

Ohio has only done one part of that saying in 2011, and the trend continued in the Bobcats' 43-28 win over Central Michigan in Mount Pleasant, Mich.

Ohio (7-3, 4-2 MAC) scored on three of its first four drives to take a 17-7 lead, but Central Michigan capatalized on terrible Bobcat tackling, nine Ohio penalties (for 86 yards) and a Tyler Tettleton first-quarter interception to get within a halftime score of 17-14 and hang around until the waning minutes of the game.

At one point in the first half, Ohio committed five straight penalties on punt or kick returns.

"Special teams should be a real plus for us, and today it wasn't," head coach Frank Solich said. "That's gonna have to be addressed. We're going to have to play better in order to get it done."

The Chippewas (3-8, 2-5 MAC) gashed Ohio for 427 yards, and junior CMU quarterback Ryan Radcliff passed for 362 against a Bobcat secondary that looked vulnerable in the virtually empty Kelly/Shorts Stadium in Mount Pleasant.

Ohio's offense did its job though, even without wide receiver Donte Foster (concussion) and after starting running back Donte Harden (illness) exited the game in the first quarter. He finished with six carries for 26 yards and didn't return.

Beau Blankenship – who played high school football with Tettleton – and Ryan Boykin combined for 220 yards and two touchdowns to keep the 'Cats out in front of CMU. The Chippewas never led in the game.

"We have so many playmakers," Tettleton, the Norman, Okla. native, said. "Boykin and Beau always get the job done…it was great to see them do their thing. Especially Beau, being my hometown guy."

"That's two pretty good players we're missing there," Solich said of Harden and Foster. "We did miss those two guys, but I think those guys who stepped in did very well."

Ohio scored the first 12 points of the third quarter to steal the momentum back after the halftime break. A brilliant Paul Hershey punt pinned CMU inside its own one-yard-line, where, two plays later, linebacker Alphonso Lewis sniffed out a swing pass and tackled running back Zurlon Tipton in the end zone for a safety.

A few drives later, Tettleton (12/22, 218 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT) hooked up with Jerry Gross for a six-yard score (Gross' first career touchdown) and a 26-14 Bobcat lead. Kicker Matt Weller nailed a 32-yarder to give Ohio a 15-point lead entering the fourth quarter. Weller hasn't missed from inside 40 yards in 2011.

The 'Cats had regained the comfort it felt when it led 14-0 in the first frame, but that didn't last long, as Ohio's defense was non-existant in the fourth quarter.

Central Michigan gained 206 yards on its last three possessions – two resulted in touchdowns – to get within 29-21 and 36-28.

"There are some MAC schools trading more touchdowns than us," Solich said, with a chuckle. "You don't like to have to continue to outscore people.

"Our defense has played some really good football at times this season…we're going to have to be really on top of our game if we wanna finish this off."

But Ohio's offense, as it has all year, bailed out its defense to the tune of two fourth quarter drives of 55 and 77 yards (6:24 total). Both touchdowns in the fourth quarter were scored by Blankenship, who ran for 129 yards on 25 carries – both career highs.

After it all, though, it was the first time a Solich-coached Ohio team has beaten Central Michigan (Solich was 0-4 against the Chippewas and has now beaten every current MAC team except Toledo) and the first time the Bobcats beat CMU since October 13, 2001 – a 34-3 win in Mount Pleasant.

"This was a big win for us," wide receiver LaVon Brazill said. "But we've got to get ready for Bowling Green."

"They're an excellent program," Solich said. "They've won a lot of football games over the years…they're a good physical football team. We've had a lot of close games with them. We're glad to get the win."

Brazill caught his ninth receiving touchdown of the season on a 63-yard pass play in the first quarter, where he was so wide open he could have walked backwards into the end zone.

"I gave him a little outside move, acting like I was going to go to the outside and he jumped," Brazill said. "Tett threw a great ball."

That touchdown catch tied the redshirt senior with Terrence McCrae and Andrew Mooney for the most touchdown catches in a single-season.

"Next week I'll break his record," Brazill said of Mooney, the former Bobcat tight end.

Brazill is also 29 punt return yards and 51 receiving yards away from being Ohio's career leader in both categories, and Tettleton broke the single-season mark for passing yards (2,583) and touchdowns (22) in the win over CMU.

"I think that's great," Solich said. "I think they're both deserving. They're both excellent athletes, tremendous competitors. They've both done so much for Ohio. It's good to see both those guys having the year they're having."

Because of Temple's win over Miami (OH) on Wednesday night, the 'Cats entered Thursday's cold-weather game with a one-game-in-the-loss-column lead over both those teams in the MAC East. Because of its offense, it stayed that way for at least another week.

With two games to play – at Bowling Green next Wednesday and home against Miami (OH) the following Tuesday – Ohio still controls its fate to Detroit and the MAC Championship.

Record watch:

With his performance against CMU, Ohio quarterback Tyler Tettleton became the single-season leader in passing touchdowns (22) and passing yards (2,583). He's also alone in fifth place on the all-time list for passing touchdowns in a career and is closing in on the top-10 for passing yards in a career. Tom Dubs (1990-93) is 10th on the list with 2,666 yards.

LaVon Brazill finished Thursday's game with three catches for 89 yards and a touchdown. He is now tied for the single-season receiving touchdowns record. He's also 29 punt return yards and 51 receiving yards away from being Ohio's career leader in both categories.