ATHENS, Ohio — No Titus Davis, no problem for the Central Michigan football team.
With their star receiver out with an injury, the Chippewas turned to their rushing attack on Saturday to get things going, avoided a bevy of special teams blunders and finished with their diverse receiving corps en route to a 26-23 upset win over Ohio before 23,826 at Peden Stadium.
They improve to 3-4 on the season and 2-1 in the Mid-American Conference.
A five-yard touchdown pass from redshirt freshman quarterback Cooper Rush (20-for-28, 3 TDs, INT) to junior receiver Courtney Williams with 22 seconds left in the game proved to be the difference, only after redshirt freshman Joe Bacci recovered a miffed punt return by Ohio cornerback Travis Carrie less than three minutes prior.
Williams (five catches, 43 yards) was one of 10 CMU players to record a catch in the game, a cumulative effort to try and duplicate the production Davis typically brings.
“When one of us goes down, we’re expected to pick up the group,” Williams said. “With him being out, it took a little from us. But in the end, we had some players step up.”
Sophomore tailback Saylor Lavallii rushed for 184 yards on 26 carries, setting a career-high in his second consecutive game. Although he didn’t account for any points in the first half, he helped guide it, rushing for 131 yards at a 10.1-yard-per-carry clip.
When Ohio’s defense decided to stack the box, loading more defenders near the line to try and stop him, he chipped in with a 7-yard touchdown catch with 9:07 remaining in the fourth quarter to put the Chippewas up 19-17. A missed extra point by sophomore kicker Ron Coluzzi prevented CMU from taking a three-point lead.
“The offensive line did a great job, opened up some cut-back lanes,” Lavallii said. “In the second half, they wanted to stop the run. Cooper (Rush) made a lot of great throws and the receivers made some big catches, too.”
Coluzzi, who had missed his previous two field goal attempts entering Saturday, continued to struggle. He was 2-for-4, missing kicks from 36 and 23 yards, respectively. Enos showed frustration with his kicker after Coluzzi’s second miss, with 8:01 left in the third quarter and CMU holding on to a 10-3 lead.
The Bobcats offense began to wake up late in the third quarter, when quarterback Tyler Tettleton (24-for-32, 319 yards) found tight end Troy Hill for a 5-yard touchdown pass to close the Chippewas’ lead to 13-10.
Ohio (4-2, 1-1 MAC) followed up on its next drive when Tettleton found streaking receiver Chase Cochran up the middle for 69 yards, giving the Bobcats a 17-13 lead with 13:16 left in the game.
Enos declared last week finishing plus-2 in the turnover margin as one of his keys to beating Ohio. Well, the Chippewas finished plus-3, forcing four turnovers, only capitalizing offensively on one.
But it was the one that mattered.
“We were concerned with how we were going to get explosive plays, but I think we were able to run the ball effectively. Our guys stuck together, we had great week of practice and we beat a good team today.
“That bus ride home is going to be a lot nicer, I can tell you that.”
Contact Aaron McMann: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @AaronMcMann.