Nov. 30, 2006
DETROIT, Mich. - In Ohio's first-ever Mid-American Conference Championship Game appearance, the Bobcats saw their seven-game win streak come to an end with a 31-10 loss to Central Michigan Thursday at Ford Field.
Despite the loss, the Bobcats (9-4, 7-1) will make their first bowl appearance since the 1968 season when Ohio appears in the GMAC Bowl on Jan. 7, 2007 from Mobile, Ala. Central Michigan (9-4, 7-1) will appear in the Motor City Bowl Dec. 26 at Ford Field.
Junior running back Kalvin McRae (Decatur, Ga.) made history in the loss as he recorded his 15th rushing touchdown of the season, a new Bobcat single-season record. McRae passed Kareem Wilson for sole possession of the record. He finished the day with 76 yards on 20 carries and the touchdown. His 76 yards gave McRae 1,215 on the season, good for second place on Ohio's single-season ledger. McRae also tied Steveland Hoofkin for third place in Ohio history with 29 career total touchdowns.
The Bobcat passing game managed just 137 yards as three different quarterbacks saw time. Senior Austen Everson (Brentwood, Tenn.) started the contest despite a lingering ankle injury. Everson re-aggravated the injury early in the contest and junior Brad Bower (Burr Ridge, Ill.) replaced him for the majority of the game. Bower had to come out of the game briefly in the third quarter, and freshman Josh Febus (Dublin, Ohio) spelled Bower for two Ohio possessions. Bower finished the game 13-for-19 for 122 yards with two interceptions. Senior tight end Rudy Silvan (Suisan City, Calif.) led all Bobcats with four receptions while freshman Chris Garrett (Bristow, Va.) had a team-best 39 yards. Senior Scott Mayle (Philippi, W.Va.) hauled in two passes for 15 yards, tying him for fifth place with 103 career receptions.
The Ohio defense was paced by sophomore Jameson Hartke (Centerville, Ohio), who was named Ohio's player of the game after the contest. Hartke finished with five tackles, four for a loss, and two sacks for a total loss of 23 yards. Sophomore Michael Mitchell (Ft. Thomas, Ky.) co-led the team with six tackles and had the team's only interception.
Central Michigan quarterback and recently-named MAC Freshman of the Year Dan LeFevour proved himself worthy of the award as he finished the contest 22-for-30 for 314 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. Damien Linson had a huge day as he caught seven passes for a MAC Championship Game record 191 yards and one touchdown. Bryan Anderson finished six catches for 70 yards while Obed Cetout had six receptions for 41 yards and a touchdown. Running back Ontario Sneed was held in check most of the day, but a 96-yard touchdown run late in the game gave him 130 yards on nine carries on the day. Sneed also had two catches for five yards and a touchdown.
After each team punted to open the game, the Chippewas were the first on the board with a seven-play, 89-yard scoring drive. Linson made a nice catch for 26 yards down the left sideline early in the drive, but the big play came three plays later when DeFevour hooked up with Bryan Anderson for a 37-yard gain through the air. Two plays later, LeFevour finished the drive with a six-yard touchdown pass to Cetoute, who made an acrobatic catch in the back of the endzone. The play was reviewed, but the replay booth ruled that Cetoute got his right foot in bounds for the first touchdown of the contest. Rick Albreski put the point-after through the uprights for a 7-0 Central Michigan lead with 7:10 remaining in the first quarter. LeFevour finished the drive 5-for-5 for 81 yards and the touchdown.
The Bobcats answered the Chippewa score with 11:10 remaining in the second quarter to tie the game. Junior defensive lineman Landon Cohen (Spartansburg, S.C.) stuffed Sneed for a four-yard loss on third down and forced Central Michigan to punt from its own four-yard line. The resulting punt traveled just 39 yards, where Garrett scooped the ball off the turf and returned it 11 yards to the Chippewa 32-yard line. The Bobcat offense capitalized on the good field position as it marched five plays and 32 yards for Ohio's first points of the contest. Bower, who replaced an injured Everson at quarterback, hooked up with McRae for an 18-yard screen pass on the second play of the drive. McRae followed with an eight-yard rush play and then found the endzone two plays later with a two-yard run up the middle. Senior Matt Lasher (Copley, Ohio) hit the extra-point to knot the game, 7-7.
Central Michigan wasted no time in responding, as LeFevour led the Chippewas to the endzone on just their second play of the ensuing possession to regain a one-touchdown lead. The freshman quarterback found Cetoute for a nine-yard gain on the first play and then followed with a 71-yard bomb down the middle of the field to Linson. The drive took a total of 1:14 and gave Central Michigan a 14-7 lead with 9:56 remaining before halftime.
On the next possession, Ohio picked up a pair of first downs but then lost a fumble to give the Chippewas a first down just inside Bobcat territory. The high-powered offense took advantage of the good field position and drove 37 yards before the Ohio defense stiffened and held Central Michigan to a 28-yard field goal attempt. Albreski's kick was true for a 17-7 Chippewa lead, Ohio's first double-digit deficit since the Bowling Green game on Nov. 30.
The Chippewas looked to make things even worse for the Bobcats heading to halftime after a Bower interception gave Central Michigan the ball inside Ohio territory again. After a 36-yard completion from LeFevour to Linson set up a first-and-goal, the Chippewas had a touchdown called back on an illegal motion penalty. The Ohio defense did the rest, as Hartke sacked LeFevour for a 13-yard loss on first down and the tandem of Tyler Russ (Stetsonville, Wis.) and Todd Koenig (Nanty-Glo, Pa.) sacked LeFevour for a 10-yard loss on second down. The Chippewa quarterback picked up seven yards on the ground to set up a 45-yard field goal attempt, but Albreski's kink clanked off the right upright to send the two teams to halftime with a 17-7 Chippewa advantage.
The Bobcats pulled within a touchdown on the first possession of the second half with a 16-play, 76-yard drive that took nearly half of the third quarter. After a penalty on the kickoff gave Ohio the ball inside its own 10-yard line, the Bobcats picked up a crucial third-and-four to prevent a three-and-out. Bower found Mayle for a six-yard gain to keep the drive alive. Bower found his rhythm during the drive, completing passes of 16, 12, nine, and six yards on the drive before an incomplete pass on third-and-10 set up a 33-yard field goal attempt. Lasher's kick was good for the 10th consecutive time, extending his own school record, to cut the Chippewa lead to 17-10.
Central Michigan looked to answer on the following drive and marched inside Ohio territory. On second-and-four from the Ohio 40-yard line, LeFevour looked for the endzone but Mitchell made a nice play on the ball and intercepted the pass to prevent a Chippewa score. After a Bobcat punt, Central Michigan drove inside Ohio territory again, but a sack by Hartke for a loss of 10 yards knocked the Chippewas out of field goal range and forced them to punt.
Central Michigan was finally able to break through early in the fourth quarter after forcing Ohio to punt from its own 10-yard line. Lasher got off a 41-yard boot and a one-yard return gave the Chippewas the ball at midfield. LeFevour did the rest as he went 3-for-4 on the drive with 40 yards, including a four-yard swing pass to Sneed for a touchdown and a 24-10 Chippewa lead. Linson caught a 24-yard pass on the drive to set up a first-and-goal and the touchdown pass.
Ohio drove into Chippewa territory on the following possession but the drive came to a halt when Bower was sacked for a 10-yard loss on third-and-one. The Bobcats opted to punt the ball and give Central Michigan possession at its own four-yard line with just 6:28 remaining in the game. The Chippewas dialed up the right play on first down, as Sneed rushed through the right side and found daylight for a 96-yard touchdown run. The play shattered the previous record for longest run in the MAC Championship Game of 65 yards by Chester Taylor. The Bobcats were unable to muster a comeback attempt with little time remaining in the game and Central Michigan earned the 31-10 win at Ford Field.
The Bobcats will enjoy some time off before heading back to action on Sunday, Jan. 7, 2007 for the GMAC Bowl from Mobile, Ala. The game is set to begin at 8:00 p.m. and will be covered on ESPN.