Eastern Michigan's Tyler Allen, right, is greeted by a teammate after returning the opening kickoff for a touchdown against Ohio. The Eagles wore No. 2 stickers and armbands in memory of teammate Demarius Reed, who was found shot from gunshot wounds Friday. Ohio won 56-28. (Brianne Bowen / Associated Press)
Ypsilanti — Tyler Allen took the opening kickoff 90 yards for an Eastern Michigan touchdown on an emotionally charged Saturday afternoon at Rynearson Stadium, where the Eagles were playing in memory of teammate Demarius Reed, a homicide victim at his off-campus apartment building the previous day.
A moment of silence was held in the junior receiver’s honor prior to the game against Ohio and EMU players had a No. 2 decal on the back of their helmets and his number and name written on towels tucked into their uniforms on the cold, rainy fall day.
But emotion can only go so far and Ohio answered with three straight touchdowns to take a 21-7 first-quarter lead en route to a 56-28 win, keeping Eastern Michigan (1-6, 0-3) winless in the Mid-American Conference, losing the three conference games by an average of 29 points.
Coach Ron English did not meet with the media following the game, nor did the players, but English did give a statement:
“It’s been a very difficult and trying last 24 hours or so and you know we’ve lost a terrific leader, a young man who really turned his life around and a young man who became a Christian. This has been very difficult for all of us, but we really wanted as a team and as a program to honor Demarius today and we gave our best effort in doing that.”
Ohio coach Frank Solich talked about how difficult it was to play the game for both teams, but for obvious reasons, especially EMU.
“I don’t think it’s easy for anybody, obviously for them it hits home, just so unfortunate, but the game was played and for us, even though it’s difficult and we know what they’re going through, we just need to move forward and play the game the best we can under very difficult situations.
“If you look at it the day before the game the drastic thing that happened to Demarius, it’s so close to the game you just never know how people are going to respond and how it’s going to work, so you just have to wait until it plays out.”
Ohio (5-2, 2-1) beat EMU in all phases of the game — offense, defense and special teams. The Eagles turned the ball over three times, which led to 21 Ohio points. The first one, a fumble, led to a 14-7 Bobcats lead. They returned a punt 82 yards, leading to a 21-7 cushion. Tyler Tettleton picked apart EMU’s defense, throwing for 375 of Ohio’s 547 total yards.
And, Tettleton was never better than during the final five minutes of the third quarter.
EMU had put together a dramatic comeback to open the second half, led by junior running back Bronson Hill (257 yards, 23 carries), who had runs of 64 and 70 yards during the third quarter.
All-MAC tight end Tyreese Russell hauled in a 62-yard pass from Tyler Benz to pull the Eagles even at 21-21 with 8:19 left.
Then, after a 64-yard run by Hill, the Eagles had the chance to take the lead with a first-and-goal at the 7. Two plays later, Benz tried to force the ball into the end zone to Russell and the pass was intercepted by Devin Bass.
Tettleton went to work, finding Chase Cochran behind the secondary for an 80-yard TD pass on the first play for a 28-21 lead with 4:58 left in the third.
“When we had the chance to really take the lead, we had all the momentum and our guys were playing so hard,” English pointed out in the statement. “That (interception/Tettleton TD pass) becomes a 14-point swing. We had a young corner out there and he just got beat. It really took the wind out of our sails.”
Then, Tettleton had a short field to work with after a punt return and the Bobcats cashed in on a 42-yard drive, taking advantage of two EMU penalties and a Tettleton pass to Donte Foster on a third-and-4 play from the EMU 17. Tettleton hit Foster with a 3-yard TD pass for a 35-21 cushion with 2:02 left in the quarter.
Later, Benz was intercepted again in Ohio territory, this time when Xavier Hughes stepped in front of Dustin Creel at the 37. On the first play, Tettleton again went up top and Cochran hauled in a 41-yard pass, leading to Beau Blankenship’s 22-yard TD run for a 42-21 lead with 19 seconds left in the quarter.
“It was a big turning point,” said Solich. “The pick there was crucial in terms of getting the momentum changed and putting it back in our corner and then we capitalized with that big play.
“You could see the energy on their sideline for most of the game until we got up by two or three scores (at end of the third quarter). They had a lot going for them at that point of time. I thought their coaches did a great job of getting them ready. Emotionally, it was a charged atmosphere for their players wanting to play well.”
Tettleton ended up throwing for 375 yards and four touchdowns. He finished three yards short of becoming the first Ohio quarterback with 8,000 passing yards.
No. 23 Northern Illinois 38, (at) Central Michigan 17: Jordan Lynch rushed for 316 yards, an FBS record for a quarterback, and Northern Illinois stayed unbeaten.
Lynch had three rushing touchdowns and was 20-for-30 through the air for 155 yards and another score to help the Huskies (7-0, 3-0) extend the nation’s best conference winning streak to 20 games.
He broke the rushing record held by former Northern Illinois quarterback Stacey Robinson, who had 308 against Fresno State on Oct. 6, 1990.
Northern Illinois extended its road winning streak to 13 games, second only to No. 2 Oregon’s 18 straight.
Cooper Rush completed 16 of his 22 attempts for 271 yards and two touchdowns for the Chippewas (3-5, 2-2), who had a two-game winning streak end.
The teams were tied at 14 at halftime before the Huskies broke away. Tyler Wedel’s 34-yard field goal gave Northern Illinois the lead for good and Lynch added a 1-yard sneak late in the third quarter to stretch the advantage to double digits.
Lynch added a 4-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter and Cameron Stingly had a 19-yard run late in the game to finish the scoring.
Rush found Titus Davis for a 9-yard touchdown midway through the first quarter, but Lynch answered on the ensuing drive with a 9-yard scoring toss to Tommylee Lewis.
Rush threw his second touchdown pass, a 36-yarder, to Andrew Flory late in the opening period and the Huskies knotted the score halfway through the second when Lynch ran in from 5 yards out.
Central Michigan’s Justin Cherocci kept it tied going into halftime by intercepting a tipped pass deep in his own territory.
Ball State 38, (at) Western Michigan 17: Keith Wenning passed for 324 yards and three touchdowns to lead Ball State.
The Cardinals (7-1, 4-0) piled up 483 yards of total offense while holding winless Western Michigan to just 3 points for most of the game. Wenning marked his eighth straight game with more than 300 yards passing, directing an aerial attack that included a 42-yard TD strike to Jamill Smith, a 27-yard touchdown throw to Willie Snead and 2-yard end zone toss to Zane Fakes.
Jahwan Edwards led the Ball State ground game with 92 yards rushing, including a 25-yard touchdown, while Horactio Banks scrambled for a TD from the 38. Scott Secor kicked a 37-yard field goal.
Western Michigan attempted a fourth-quarter comeback with an 8-yard touchdown pass to Corey Davis from Zach Terrell, then scored again on a 26-yard fumble return by Ronald Zamort.
Associated Press contributed