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Ohio wins another shootout against UMass, 58-42

Bobcats, Rourke sets school records for total yards


ATHENS – Ohio set a new school record for yards in a game with 664, winning a shooting against UMass for the second straight year, 58-42, on Saturday at Peden Stadium.

The Bobcats racked up 394 yards rushing and quickly erased an early 14-point deficit, scoring exactly 58 points against the Minutemen for the second straight year. Ohio won 58-50 last year on the road. The Bobcats set a Peden Stadium record for points in a game.

Nathan Rourke rushed for 189 yards and a touchdown on just 16 carries and completed 23 of 32 passes for 270 yards and three touchdowns, overcoming an interception on his first pass attempt. Rourke’s 459 total yards broke the school record previously set by Greg Windham when he had 430 against Texas State in 2016.

"He's a very confident player, very bright player," Ohio coach Frank Solich said. "He's not the kind that repeats mistakes and you feel comfortable, even when something like that goes wrong, he'll find a way to come back. He can hurt you in so many ways. In the first half he did a great job on some runs that gave us big and explosive plays and kept those drives going, which enabled us to get points on the board to get back in the ballgame after we were down 14-0."

Maleek Irons added 140 yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries, and A.J. Ouellette had 12 carries for 70 yards and a touchdown. Ohio (2-2) averaged 9.0 yards per attempt on the ground.

The teams combined for over 1,000 yards for the second straight year, as the Minutemen (2-4) totaled 451 yards, including 410 against the Bobcats’ struggling pass defense. Andrew Ford was 27 of 38 passing for 355 yards and four touchdowns, connecting with Andy Isabella 12 times for 198 yards and three touchdowns.

UMass jumped out to a 14-0 lead, scoring on an Isabella 39-yard touchdown catch on its first possession and then getting a 55-yard interception return from Isaiah Rodgers two minutes later.

Papi White caught a 19-yard touchdown pass to get Ohio on the board, but Isabella came back with a 37-yard touchdown catch from Ross Comis to put UMass back up by 14, still in the first quarter.

The Bobcats scored three straight touchdowns after that and did not trail again. Rourke’s 2-yard touchdown run made it 21-14 late in the first quarter. After finally forcing a punt, Ohio tied the game at 21 on a 16-yard Irons touchdown run. After another UMass punt, Rourke threw a 12-yard touchdown pass to White to give Ohio its first lead, 28-21, with 7:52 left in the first quarter.

The Minutemen converted a pair of fourth downs on their way to Sadiq Palmer’s 4-yard touchdown catch from Ford with 2:02 left in the half, but that was just enough time for Rourke and the Bobcats. Rourke’s 14-yard touchdown pass to Ouellette with five seconds left in the first half put Ohio up for good, 35-28.

Ouellette scored on a 49-yard touchdown run to start the third quarter, but UMass answered on its next play from scrimmage with Isabella catching a 55-yard scoring pass. Louis Zervos’ first of three second-half field goals put the Bobcats up 45-35, and after getting a fourth-down stop, Ohio went up three possessions, 52-35, on Irons’ 6-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter.

Back-to-back sacks early in the fourth quarter halted a UMass drive, but a goal line stand kept the Minutemen in the game after the Bobcats earned a first-and-goal from the 1. Zervos kicked a 22-yard field goal to make it 55-35 with 10:15 to go.

"Defensively, we weren't playing very well," Solich said. "We started applying pressure in the second half, and particularly the fourth quarter, which made a big difference in the outcome of the game. Once we didn't allow the quarterback to just sit back there, it helped us and caused them some problems. We got a 15-yard penalty out of a blitz, interception out of a blitz, sack on fourth down out of a blitz. We have a pretty fast football team on the defensive side of it. I think moving people like that seemed to be a good thing for us."

Ford struck quickly with five straight completions, the last going to Samuel Emilus for a 19-yard touchdown to make it 55-42 with still 8:05 to go. After an Ohio punt, UMass had a chance to really make it interesting again, but Javon Hagan came up with an interception that stood after a pass interference call was waived off.

One more time Ohio was stopped near the goal line, settling for a Zervos 25-yard field goal with 2:26 remaining, keeping UMass within two scores. The Bobcats’ defense came up with a stop to finally seal the victory and the offense was able to take knees to run out the clock.

"MAC got their revenge on us, officiating-wise," UMass coach Mark Whipple said. "That's the worst I've ever been a part of. I've been in the SEC, I've been in the NFL and I've never seen anything so bad: six holds against none until the end. At least when I got a 15-yarder the guy finally threw a flag. I thought our guys fought hard at the end there. We couldn't make enough plays."

White finished with six catches for 84 yards, while Andrew Meyer made six grabs for 60 yards. UMass’ Palmer had eight catches for 96 yards.

While Ohio had a huge game on the ground, the Minutemen gained just 41 yards, averaging 1.9 yards per carry. They were led by Marquis Young’s 45 yards on 13 attempts.

Evan Croutch led Ohio’s defense with nine tackles and a pair of pass breakups. Cornerback Marlin Brooks had an active game with seven tackles, including two for loss – one a sack – a forced fumble and a pass breakup. The Bobcats’ three sacks – all in the fourth quarter – increased their season total to seven.

The previous school record for yards in a game was 662 against Eastern Michigan in 1980.

Ohio take on Kent State at 3:30 p.m. Saturday at Dix Stadium.






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