Nine seconds. No timeouts. Kick the tying field goal and go to overtime, or try for the win outright by running one more play? Ohio, No. 24 in the BCS standings, had a big decision to end its first game as a ranked team since 1968.
The Bobcats went for it and lost.
Tyler Tettleton lost track of his team’s timeouts and held onto the ball too long, getting sacked to preserve Miami of Ohio’s 23-20 upset of its Mid-American Conference rival on Saturday.
”Pandemonium, man!” said defensive end Wes Williams, who wrapped up Tettleton and watched the clock run out. ”It was crazy! That’s what you play football for.”
The Bobcats (7-1, 3-1) had won the last six games in the edgy rivalry, and had a chance to take this one to overtime after Tettleton — one of the country’s most dependable quarterbacks under pressure — scrambled out of bounds at the Miami 7-yard line with nine seconds left.
Kick it? Risk it? Ohio coach Frank Solich considered junior’s poise under pressure — only one interception all season — and let him run one more play.
”We wanted to win it right there,” Solich said. ”Nine seconds is plenty of time to get one more play off, knowing that it’s a throw. Either the guy is there or he’s not there, and if he’s not there then you line up for a field goal on the last play.”
One problem: Tettleton lost track of the timeouts and didn’t realize Ohio had none left. Then, when he took the snap and saw his receiver covered, he lost track of the clock, too.
”I just totally forgot,” Tettleton said. ”That’s my fault.”
The sideline didn’t have a chance to remind him before the final play that he needed to throw it away if nobody was open right away.
”On the last drive with no timeouts left, you don’t have a chance to tell Tyler to make sure you throw the ball out of bounds,” Solich said. ”But with all the training, and he’s so sharp and everything he’s done …”
The Bobcats never led a game that was mostly a stalemate.
Kaleb Patterson kicked a 31-yard field goal with 1:24 left, giving Miami (4-4, 3-1) the lead with its first fourth-quarter points in the last three games. Then, it was up to one of the nation’s worst defenses to hold on.
When Williams wrapped up Tettleton to end it, Miami had its sixth sack of the game, matching its season total coming in. A defense that ranked 115th nationally had managed to hold on.
”I was just trying to make a play,” said Tettleton, who was 23 of 38 for 302 yards and a touchdown run. ”Everything broke down.”
Miami turned Ohio’s numerous mistakes and that final gamble to its favor.
Zac Dysert completed 21-of-36 passes for 311 yards with an interception in the end zone. The senior led Miami’s 59-yard drive to the go-ahead field goal, completing a 17-yard pass on third down to Nick Harwell, who finished with 138 yards receiving.
Dysert had thrown five interceptions in the last two games, both losses on the road. He made some big plays in this one, including a 54-yard touchdown pass to an uncovered Harwell and a 46-yarder to Dawon Scott that set up a field goal.
”It was a fun game, an awesome game to be a part of,” Dysert said. ”Right now I just can’t say enough about our guys after the struggles we’ve been through.”
Harwell’s 14th career 100-yard receiving game left him one shy of the school record. He was nervous on the sideline as Ohio ran its final play with everything on the line.
Once Tettleton was sacked, the players and Miami fans stormed the field.
”I was so happy that I didn’t know how to celebrate,” said Harwell, who had eight catches for 138 yards. ”Nobody on our team has beaten OU in what, six years? It was like a break for us.”
A sign of Miami’s determination to pull off the upset: Third-string quarterback Drew Kummer lined up as a receiver on one play, took a handoff and looked to throw, but nobody was open and he got tackled.
The Bobcats self-destructed several times in the second half.
Ohio had to settle for a field goal after a personal foul and a holding penalty set back its opening drive of the second half. Tettleton took a 12-yard sack on the Bobcats’ next possession, pushing them out of range and forcing a punt.
The Bobcats drove to a first-and-goal at the 5-yard line, but Tettleton took a 15-yard sack. Instead of taking the lead for the first time, Ohio settled for Matt Weller’s 38-yard field goal that tied it 20-all with 4:41 left and set up the wild finish.