ATHENS, Ohio — It was the kind of Homecoming party that eventually left a lot of people feeling sick … and it wasn’t something that they ate or drank.
The Ohio University football team took its largest lead barely three minutes into the fourth quarter, but visiting Central Michigan rallied with 10 unanswered points down the stretch and ultimately claimed a 30-27 victory Saturday in a Mid-American Conference matchup at Peden Stadium.
The Bobcats (1-5, 1-1 MAC East) never led in the first half, but the hosts answered the third quarter bell with nine consecutive points that turned a 13-10 halftime deficit into a 19-13 cushion with 4:18 remaining.
The Chippewas (3-3, 1-1 MAC West), however, got a 7-yard Kalil Pimpleton touchdown run with 1:05 left in the third, allowing the guests to reclaim the slimmest of leads at 20-19 headed into the fourth.
Sieh Bangura notched his first career rushing touchdown on a 40-yard scamper with 11:57 remaining, and a successful Armani Rogers to Adam Luehrman 2-point conversion pass gave OU its largest lead of the day at 27-20.
CMU countered with a 7-play, 48-yard drive that ended with a successful 40-yard Marshall Meeder field goal, cutting the deficit down to 27-23 with 10:06 left in regulation.
The ensuing Ohio drive stalled and resulted in a punt, then Central Michigan strung together a 7-play, 83-yard drive that resulted in a 30-27 edge when Pimpleton hauled in a 28-yard pass from Daniel Richardson with 3:55 remaining.
The Bobcats went backwards seven yards before ending its ensuing 3-and-out drive with a punt, then CMU ran seven plays and picked up a first down while eventually running off the final 2:34 for the narrow 3-point triumph.
Ohio finished the day plus-1 in turnover differential after securing two of the three takeaways, but the guests claimed a 23-22 edge in first downs and outgained OU by a 461-369 overall margin in total yards of offense.
The Chippewas won both the ground (204-179) and aerial (257-190) battles in yardage and also went a perfect 6-for-6 on kick attempts, including 3-for-3 on field goal tries.
The Bobcats, conversely, went just 3-of-5 overall in the kicking game, which included a 2-of-3 effort on field goal attempts. The Green and White did win the time of possession battle by almost a full seven minutes (33:27-26:33) of play.
OU started the day on a bad note after fumbling the ball away on its opening possession of the game, but the hosts were able to get the ball back when Tariq Drake picked off a pass on the following CMU drive.
The Bobcats drove the ball down and had Stephen Johnson attempt a 47-yard field goal, but the kick sailed wide right — leaving the game scoreless with 8:44 left in the opening canto.
The Chippewas responded as Lew Nichols capped a 7-play, 70-yard scoring drive with a 3-yard run at the 5:25 mark, giving the guests an early 7-0 advantage.
OU answered with a 10-play, 57-yard drive that ended with a successful 29-yard Johnson field goal for a 7-3 contest with 26 seconds left in the first period.
Meeder converted a 34-yard field goal at the 7:01 mark of the second to increase the CMU lead out to 10-3, but a Rogers 4-yard scamper with 2:44 left in the half pulled the game to an even 10-all tie.
Meeder, however, booted a successful 35-yard field goal with 34 seconds remaining, giving Central Michigan a 13-10 cushion entering the break.
The Bobcats secured their first lead of the night following a 2-yard De’Montre Tuggle touchdown run. The impending PAT kick was no good, but the hosts owned a 16-13 edge with 11:44 showing in the third quarter.
Drake’s second interception of the game help set up the 3-play, 45-yard touchdown drive that was capped off by Tuggle.
Johnson tacked on a 44-yard field goal with 4:18 remaining in the third stanza, which increased Ohio’s cushion out to 19-13.
Tuggle led the hosts with 83 rushing yards on 19 carries, followed by Bangura with a single tote for 40 yards.
Rogers had 15 carries for 37 yards and also went 13-of-18 passing for 190 yards, including no picks and no touchdown tosses.
Cameron Odom hauled in a team-best four catches for 88 yards. Jamison Collier led the defense with eight tackles, while Rodney Mathews recorded two of the three Bobcat sacks.
Lew paced CMU with 186 rushing yards on 30 carries, while Richardson completed 16-of-30 passes for 257 yards — including two interceptions and one touchdown pass.
Pimpleton hauled in a team-high five passes for 78 yards. Devonni Reed led the Chippewa defense with 11 tackles and had a sack, while George Douglas recovered the opening drive fumble.
The Bobcats — who are still winless at home this fall — have now dropped six straight decisions to Central Michigan, including back-to-back 30-27 setbacks in each of the last two meetings.
In fact, only one of those last half-dozen outings have been decided by more than one possession. CMU leads the all-time series by a 5-27-2 overall margin.
Ohio returns to action on Saturday when it travels to Buffalo for a noon kickoff in MAC play.
Editor’s Note: This story will appear in the Wednesday sports editions of the Gallipolis Daily Tribune, Point Pleasant Register and The Daily Sentinel.
© 2021 Ohio Valley Publishing, all rights reserved.
Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.