ATHENS — Ohio University quarterback C.J. Harris ran for three touchdowns as the Bobcats defeated the Bowling Green State University football team, 38-14, Tuesday at Peden Stadium.
“We ran out of gas, plain and simple,” BGSU coach Scot Loeffler said. “We were a competitive team this year and that’s what we wanted to be. We need to take the next step in the program, consistently being able to play our best.”
Loeffler said Harris exposed a weakness in the Falcons’ defense — a weakness he hasn’t seen a while.
“We didn’t tackle well. We’ve been a really good tackling team,” Loeffler said. “We ran out of gas. Whenever I’m watching our defense, they’re normally flying to the ball. We were just a step slow, we didn’t tackle well.
We need to learn to take the next step. This isn’t going to be the first time that we play a really hard opponent with a chance to clinch the MAC East.”
With the win, the Bobcats (9-3 overall, 7-1 MAC) clinched the MAC’s East Division title and a berth in the MAC Championship game.
The Falcons (6-6, 5-3 MAC), who became bowl eligible with last week’s 42-35 win at Toledo, now await their bowl fate.
Loeffler would have liked to see his team perform better in an important game.
“It’s inconsistent. That’s college football right now,” Loeffler said. “Ohio is one of the best teams because they’re just consistent week in and week out. That’s where we need to take the next step.
“We had no culture, now we’ve got culture. Now it’s learning how to do it day in and day out because it’s hard.”
BGSU senior quarterback Matt McDonald completed 16-of-29 passes for 217 yards and a touchdown.
McDonald’s 44-yard TD toss to 6-foot-7 junior wide receiver Tyrone Broden gave the Falcons a 7-0 lead after the opening quarter, but Harris ran for a touchdown to tie the score, then threw a 20-yard scoring pass to Sam Wiglusz to give the hosts the lead for good.
BGSU’s other touchdown on Tuesday night came on a 10-yard run by quarterback Camden Orth in the fourth quarter.
Nine different BG receivers caught at least one pass, with six of those players making two or more catches apiece. Broden had two catches for 89 yards.
The Falcons started their third drive of the game at their own 11-yard line, then converted on a third-and-12 with a McDonald to C.J. Lewis 14-yard reception.
Facing a third down-and-2 a few plays later, McDonald threw a screen to freshman Harold Fannin Jr., who carried a pair of Bobcat defenders down the sideline for a 16-yard gain.
After a seven-yard completion to Jhaylin Embry and two-yard rush by Jaison Patterson, Bowling Green had another chance to move the chains on third down.
McDonald dropped back and threw a deep ball down the middle to Broden, who made a leaping catch at the goal line for a 44-yard touchdown. Mason Lawler’s extra point gave the Falcons a 7-0 lead that stood for the remainder of the quarter.
However, Ohio scored 28 points unanswered in the second quarter to take a commanding 28-7 halftime lead.
First, Ohio responded with a lengthy drive that stretched into the second quarter, covering 77 yards on 12 plays. Their final play of the drive came on 3rd-and-4, with Harris scampering five yards on a draw for a touchdown.
On BGSU’s ensuing possession, a fourth-down pass attempt was intercepted by Zack Sanders at the OU 20. Harris later connected with Wiglusz on the left sideline for a 20-yard touchdown.
A quick possession from the Falcons resulted in a punt, with Ohio taking over just shy of midfield. A few plays later, Sieh Bangura punched it in from three yards out to extend Ohio’s lead to two touchdowns.
McDonald hit Broden in stride for a 37-yard gain to open the next drive, but the Falcons stalled once again. Like the earlier drive, a fourth down pass by McDonald was intercepted.
Harris ran in for an eight-yard touchdown, giving the hosts a 28-7 lead.
In the third quarter, Ohio got a 32-yard field goal from Nathanial Vakos that capped a 15-play, 71-yard drive that took 7:39 off the clock.
The next BGSU drive started with back-to-back incomplete passes, but McDonald scrambled and found an open Christian Sims to convert on third down.
That was followed by a one-yard run and a sack, then McDonald was stripped as he scrambled on third down. The Bobcats recovered at the BG 33, taking over with seven seconds left in the third quarter.
The Bobcats ran the ball on all seven plays of their drive, with Harris scoring from 12 yards out after keeping it on a speed option. Vakos’s kick made it 38-7 early in the fourth.
The next two drives featured punts, as well as replacements at quarterback. Running back Nick Mosley started the next Bowling Green drive with a 14-yard rush, then followed it with a three-yard gain.
New BGSU quarterback Camden Orth completed a pass to tight end Andrew Bench for the first down, then Mosley and Orth each ran for a first down.
A pass interference penalty gave the Falcons the ball at the 10, where Orth punched it in on the ground. Lawler’s extra point was successful, making it a 38-14 game with 2:24 left to play. Ohio ran out the clock to end the game.
D.J. Taylor led BGSU’s defense with 11 tackles (8 solo, 3 assists) and an assist on a tackle for loss, and Chris Bacon had 10 tackles (6, 4) with an assist on a tackle for loss.
The Falcons await a bowl invitation, which will be announced on Dec. 4 after the announcement of the College Football Playoff.