Central Michigan tight end Tyler Conklin (83) leaps over Ohio safety Kylan Nelson (23) to score a touchdown during Ohio University’s homecoming football game against Central Michigan on Saturday. (Austin Janning/WOUB)

Ohio Football: Chippewas Ruin the Bobcats Homecoming Hopes

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Death. Taxes. Ohio losing to Central Michigan.

This year was supposed to be different. It wasn’t.

The Ohio Bobcats (4-2, 1-1) fell 26-23 to the Central Michigan Chippewas (3-3, 1-1) at Peden Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

“This game hurts because we did more things to stop ourselves than they did to stop us and that’s what really makes it frustrating,” sophomore quarterback Nathan Rourke said.

Turnovers plagued Ohio all afternoon.

Coming into today’s game, Rourke hadn’t turned the ball over all season. Against CMU he committed four, three fumbles and an interception. Not all the turnovers were Rourke’s fault. The offensive line struggled to give Rourke protection.

“There were a couple where I don’t think he could’ve helped it,” head coach Frank Solich said. “He got blindsided on one or two. Along with that, we had a lot of dropped balls, which hasn’t been customary for us.”

Ohio had the ball and was driving, trying to score before the half.

Rourke dropped back to pass from the Central Michigan 28-yard line. Complete. Touchdown to Andrew Meyer. But a flag for illegal formation prevented the score.

Two plays later, Louie Zervos attempted a 50-yard field goal. The Chippewas blocked the attempt and took it to the house.

Instead of Ohio being up 21-7, they were only up 14-13 at the half.

“The end of the first half was outrageous in terms of what transpired,” Solich said. “We lined up incorrectly on a formation, have a touchdown called back, have a field goal blocked and they score. Instead of being up 21-7, it’s 14-13. That’s huge.”

A turnover gave Central Michigan great field position. Quarterback Shane Morris found tight end Tyler Conklin on back-to-back plays. The second resulted in a touchdown, giving Central Michigan their first lead of the game, 19-13 with 10:13 to go in the third quarter.

Morris went to Conklin early and often. The star tight end had a career day, ending up with 10 catches for 139 yards and a touchdown. Morris, a Michigan transfer threw for 249 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception.

The score remained that way until the fourth quarter. Central Michigan lined up to punt and Tyler Gullett blocked it for a safety.

Ohio got the ball and Rourke marched them right down the field for a touchdown. During the drive, Rourke twice ran the option with A.J. Ouellette. On those plays, he gained 27 of his game-high 105 yards. Rourke rushed for three touchdowns on the afternoon, bringing his season total to nine.

Ohio needed a stop to give Rourke a chance to work his magic again. It was third and seven. Morris dropped back to pass and fired his right arm. The pass sailed over the head of Conklin but Bradd Ellis was called for pass interference, giving the Chippewas a first down. Two minutes later it was third and nine. Morris completed a pass to Mark Chapman for 11 yards, giving Central Michigan the first down, essentially ending the game.

“We didn’t play really well on offense, defense or special teams,” Solich said. “We did not have one area that played winning football,” Solich said. ‘When that happens you usually don’t win football games.”

The first half featured plenty of Rourke and A.J. Ouellette. The duo accounted for 109 yards rushing and two touchdowns. Rourke had 15 carries for 105 yards and three touchdowns on the ground. Through the air, he completed 17 of 31 passes for 160 yards and had one interception.

“Obviously there are positives but when you lose a game, there’s always more negatives you take from that and that’s fine. It’s a tough loss but we can learn from this and we still have some season left,” Rourke said. “I know our guys are a resilient bunch evident by the Eastern Michigan game and I think that if given the opportunity we’ll come through next time.”