YPSILANTI, Mich. — Overtime simply brought out the best in the Bobcats.
After being held without an offensive touchdown throughout regulation, the Ohio University football team found paydirt twice in the extra sessions, as the Bobcats opened Mid-American Conference play with a 27-20 double-overtime victory over host Eastern Michigan on Saturday at Rynearson Stadium.
The Bobcats (3-1, 1-0 MAC) scored points on the first drive of the game, as Louie Zervos made a 41-yard field goal with 10:42 left in the opening stanza, but Ohio went scoreless on its next five possessions.
Eastern Michigan (2-1, 0-1) tied the game at three with a Paulie Fricano 41-yard field goal at the 1:11 mark of the first quarter. Fricano hit a 31-yard field goal with 1:25 left in the second quarter, giving the Eagles a 6-3 lead.
Trying to add to their lead before halftime, Eastern Michigan made a costly mistake, as Ohio’s Bradd Ellis intercepted a pass and returned it 46 yards for the touchdown. Zervos added the point after, giving the guests a 10-6 lead with 10 seconds left in the half.
Ohio stretched its lead to 13-6 with 6:22 left in the third quarter, as Zerovs hit a 44-yard field goal. However, the Bobcats came up empty on their next five drives.
Eastern Michigan tied the game at 13 with 10:54 left in regulation, as Ian Eriksen capped off a seven-play, 69-yard drive with a one-yard scoring run and Fricano added the extra point.
EMU regained the lead on the first play of overtime, as Brogan Roback found Sergio Bailey for a 25-yard touchdown pass, and Fricano made the point-after kick.
Ohio needed four plays to answer the score, with Branden Cope catching an eight-yard touchdown pass from Nathan Rourke, and Zervos adding the extra-point to force a second overtime.
Ohio had the ball first, driving 25 yards in six plays with Cameron Odom hauling in a seven-yard pass from Rourke for the touchdown. Zervos made another extra-point, giving the Bobcats a 27-20 lead.
Eastern Michigan was stopped for no gain on its first play of the second overtime, and then Ohio’s Quentin Poling broke up a pass on second down.
Roback completed a pass to Breck Turner on third down, but Ohio’s Jalen Fox stopped Turner four yards short of the first down. Roback’s fourth down pass fell incomplete, giving the Bobcats a 27-20 victory.
For the game Ohio held a 19-to-15 edge in first downs and a 373-to-350 advantage in total offense, including 176-to-45 on the ground. The Eagles won the turnover battle by a 2-1 count, recovering a pair of Bobcat fumbles, while tossing the game’s lone interception.
For the victors, Rourke was 19-of-32 passing with 197 yards two scores. Andrew Meyer hauled in a team-high six passes for 44 yards, while Odom finished with 56 yards and a score on five grabs. Cope grabbed four passes for 24 yards and one score, Jerrid Marhefka caught two passes for 26 yards and Troy Mangen caught one pass for five yards.
A.J. Ouellette caught one pass for 42 yards and posted a game-high 145 yards on 26 carries. Dorian Brown carried the ball six time for a total of 32 yards, Joey Duckworth added nine yards on four carries, while DL Knock had one rush for one yard.
Fox led the OU defense with nine tackles, followed by Poling and Chad Moore with eight apiece. Moore came up with a sack for the guests, while Trent Smart and Will Evans combined for another sack. Poling and Kevin Robbins both added a tackle for a loss, with Poling also forcing a fumble. Of Ohio’s seven pass breakups, Kylan Nelson had a team-high two.
Roback was 28-of-47 passing with 271 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Bailey led all receivers with seven receptions and 82 yards, to go with one score. Shaq Vann led the hosts on the ground with 29 yards on 10 carries.
The Bobcats are now 19-12-1 in all-time meetings with the Eagles and OU began conference play with a win for the seventh straight year.
Ohio will continue MAC play on Saturday at UMass, with a 3:30 p.m. kickoff time.
Alex Hawley can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2100.