Oct. 7, 2006
ATHENS, Ohio - Freshman Chris Garrett (Bristow, Va.) set a school record with an 88-yard punt return for a touchdown and the Bobcats held off a late Western Michigan charge in a 27-20 Mid-American Conference victory over the Broncos Saturday at Peden Stadium.
"We would not have fallen apart if we did not get this win," Head Coach Frank Solich said. "We would have been able to continue to push forward and been a good football team, but it is obvious that it was a huge win for us."
Garrett's punt return came following Western Michigan's opening possession of the game to break a scoreless tie. The 88-yard return for a score topped Larry Grimes' 87-yard touchdown return in 1986 as the longest punt return in Bobcat history. It was also the first punt return for a touchdown by Ohio since Stafford Owens' 81-yard return in 2004 against Akron.
"(Garrett's return) was big for a lot of reasons," Solich said. "To come out and show some life and show some energy and puts some points on the board quick, that was something on the back of my mind that I wanted to try to get a fast start and get some points on the board. What a great way to do it."
Junior running back Kalvin McRae (Decatur, Ga.) led the Bobcat offense with 120 yards on 19 carries and two touchdowns. He moved into ninth place on Ohio's career rushing list with 2,074 career rushing yards. McRae's two touchdowns were the 15th and 16th rushing touchdowns of his Bobcat career. The 100-yard performance Saturday was his eighth career 100-yard game and moved him into a tie for sixth place in Ohio history in that category. The Bobcats were the first team this season to run for more than 100 yards against the Western Michigan defense. Ohio's 257 yards rushing was the most since a 307-yard performance last season against Buffalo.
Bobcat quarterback Austen Everson (Brentwood, Tenn.) finished the day 8-of-16 for 79 yards and two interceptions, but did most of the damage on the ground rather than through the air. Everson ran eight times for 92 yards in the victory.
On the defensive side of the ball, senior Tyler Russ (Stetsonville, Wis.) led the team with 12 tackles and also intercepted a Bronco pass, his second pick of the season. Sophomore Michael Mitchell (Ft. Thomas, Ky.) finished with seven tackles and recorded one of two Ohio sacks in the contest. The sack was the first of Mitchell's Bobcat career.
Western Michigan quarterback Ryan Cubit finished 24-of-40 for 243 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. Mark Bonds paced the running game with 64 yards on 15 carries for the Broncos.
After each team punted once to open the game, the Bobcats got a spark with Garrett's punt return for a touchdown. Senior Matt Lasher (Copley, Ohio) connected on the point-after for an early 7-0 Ohio lead.
Special teams came into play again on the ensuing kickoff, when Western Michigan muffed the kick and Ohio recovered. After a 17-yard run on second down by Everson, McRae found the endzone from two yards out for the score. Lasher again hit the point-after to put the Bobcats up 14-0 midway through the first quarter.
Ohio got the ball back on the following possession when Russ intercepted a Cubit pass and returned in 27 yards into Bronco territory. The Bobcats drove inside the five but a Lasher field goal attempt was blocked and Ohio went away scoreless on the drive. The Broncos failed a short field goal attempt of their own in the second quarter, when Nate Meyer missed wide right on a 23-yard attempt. Neither team found the endzone in the second quarter and the Bobcats held a 14-0 advantage at halftime.
Ohio widened its lead on the first drive of the second half as the Bobcats moved 47 yards on seven plays to set up a 25-yard field goal by Lasher. The big play on the drive was a 33-yard run by McRae, the longest Bobcat rush of the season, as Ohio went on top 17-0 early in the third quarter.
Western Michigan got back into the game midway through the third when C.J. Wilson picked off an Everson pass and returned it 66 yards for a Bronco touchdown. Meyer's extra-point was good to cut the Ohio lead to 17-7.
The Bobcats answered early in the fourth quarter on a 38-yard field goal from Lasher. The kick was a career-long for the senior specialist. Everson's 32-yard pass completion to junior Chido Nwokocha (Elk Grove, Calif.) set up the career-long kick.
The Broncos cut the deficit to just six points on the ensuing drive, as they marched 65 yards on 13 plays to make the score 20-14. Cubit hooked up with Branden Ledbetter for a one-yard touchdown strike to finish the drive and make it a one-score game with under 10 minutes remaining.
Western Michigan drove to the Ohio 14-yard line late in the fourth quarter as the Broncos looked to take their first lead of the game. The Bobcat defense held on a 4th-and-11 to keep the Broncos out of the endzone and maintain their 20-14 lead with just 3:53 remaining in the contest.
Everson put the finishing touches on the win with a 72-yard run on the second play of the following drive. The run was a career-long for the senior quarterback and set up a three-yard touchdown run by McRae, his second of the day and 16th rushing touchdown of his career. Lasher hit the extra-point to make the score of 27-14.
Western Michigan was not finished as the Broncos made it a game with a five-play, 80-yard drive that took up only 41 seconds. Cubit hit Ledbetter for a 57-yard completion and finished the drive off with a four-yard touchdown to Joe Chapple. With only 53 seconds remaining in the game, the Broncos lined up for an onside kick but Nwokocha was there to recover to give the Bobcats the 27-20 win.
The win moved the Bobcats to 3-3 on the season and 2-1 in MAC play while the Broncos fell to 3-2 overall and 1-1 in the conference.
The Bobcats hit the road next Saturday for their final non-conference game of the season in a match up against Big Ten opponent Illinois. Game time is set for 6:00 p.m., CT.