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‘Cats try, but can’t overcome epidemic of miscues

On a day when Ohio had seven fumbles, two unsuccessful field-goal attempts, two botched extra points, two personal-foul penalties and one interception, the Bobcats still only trailed Buffalo by seven points in the fourth quarter.

Despite the mistakes, the Bobcats looked like they might have a chance at the victory.

“It was just an absolute nightmare,” coach Frank Solich said. “Yet, we found ourselves in the ballgame, then just continued to fumble it away and have penalties.”

The Bobcats’ hopes of a late-game comeback were crushed when Buffalo’s James Starks broke open a long touchdown run across the middle of the field to give Buffalo a 32-19 lead it would hold for the victory.

The feeling is all too familiar for the Bobcats (2-7, 1-4), who are on their way to a losing season for the first time since Solich’s first year as head coach.

Much like the rest of the season, the Bobcats hurt themselves in key situations. Fumbles, personal fouls and problems in the kicking game all prevented Ohio from sustaining drives on offense and keeping Buffalo (4-4, 2-2) out of the end zone.

These same struggles have plagued Ohio all season.

“It’s really inexcusable,” Solich said.

The Bobcats’ fourth-quarter comeback started when Boo Jackson scored on an eight-yard carry to cut Buffalo’s lead to 11 points. Ohio then botched the extra-point attempt and Buffalo returned the ball to the other end zone for two points, an event that’s so rare that most football fans aren’t even aware of the rule.

In a play, that’s how Ohio’s season has gone.

“It’s just way too much in terms of expecting to win a football game executing the way we executed,” Solich said.

Even after the failed extra point, Ohio got the ball back and the offense drove down the field for another touchdown. Jackson found Riley Dunlop in the back of the end zone for a 20-yard touchdown pass to cut the lead to seven.

Again, Ohio missed the extra point, and on the next possession Buffalo pulled away with the win.

“As poorly as we played, we had a chance,” Solich said. “Then to just throw it away, is kind of inexcusable.”

Ohio had to work from behind the entire game. Buffalo scored two early touchdowns to take a 14-0 lead, and the offense was stuck playing catch up.

The offense did not help itself either, as running-back Chris Garrett fumbled going into the end zone on Ohio’s first possession. Garrett’s turnover foreshadowed what was to come on the cold, rainy evening.

“It’s just a lack of discipline and just not knowing your surroundings,” Jackson said. “We’ve just got to make some changes.”

Defensively, the Bobcats could not stop the Bulls on third down, as Buffalo went 7-8 on third-down conversions in the first half.

The defense has trouble slowing the Bulls’ rushing attack, which finished with 277 yards on the day.

“That first half we just couldn’t seem to get off the field,” linebacker Lee Renfro said. “It’s frustrating.”

Offensively, the Bobcats had success moving as they collected 417 total yards.

Jackson finished the day with 290 passing yards, 70 rushing yards and three touchdowns.

“We really needed this game,” Jackson said. “But we say that every week. It just came down to the turnovers.”

Special teams were a major problem as Ohio’s only successful kicking attempt came on an extra point. On two field-goal attempts, holder Brandon Jones had to deal with bad snaps and could not get down the hold for Barrett Way to even kick.

Later in the game when the hold was good, Way missed the extra point.

Jones took over duties as holder this week because starter Josh Febus was out with an injury from last week’s game.

Another Bobcat went down with an injury this week, when starting strong-safety Michael Mitchell left the game with a knee injury on the game’s first drive. He did not return.

Now Ohio has 10 days off before Bowling Green comes to Peden Stadium on Nov. 8. With hopes of playing for a MAC East title gone, Ohio hopes to finish the year strong.

“We lost ugly and it’s hard to accept that,” Solich said. “But we’re going to get to work.”

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Category: Athens News, Football, Game coverage

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