On a frigid Tuesday night late in the season, the Akron Zips (5-5, 4-2 MAC) hosted the Ohio University Bobcats (8-2, 5-1 MAC). Each team came in with hopes of earning the MAC East title, although Akron would need two wins and Ohio would just need one.
Everybody could see that MACtion was imminent when these two powers collided. Two Akron defenders were ejected for targeting in the hard-hitting match-up. Forced and unforced errors wreaked havoc on both teams. And this wild Ohio touchdown:
In the end, Akron prevailed with a score of 37 to 34. Both teams combined for an astonishing 838 yards of offense in a brutal battle.
Nathan Rourke put himself in harm’s way in an all-out attempt to lead Ohio to a victory. He passed, he ran, and he even wrecked a jersey and needed to switch to a new one. Rourke put up 110 passing yards, while going 9-for-22. He finished without any passing touchdowns, two interceptions, and a receiving touchdown. Brendan Cope threw that touchdown pass, earning him a fun stat. Papi White led the Bobcats in receiving with 68 yards on six receptions.
Akron thought they had a good bead on stuffing A.J. Ouellette, but they seemed to ignore Nathan Rourke from the quarterback position. Rourke burned the Zips for 165 yards and two rushing touchdown on 15 carries, good for most yardage on the Bobcat roster. The next best rusher was A.J. Ouellette, who put up 74 yards on 24 carries. Ohio put out 282 rushing yards as a team.
Louie Zervos and his infamously beautiful hair was perfect on the night. Zervos kicked all four extra points and two field goals. He made 19- and 46-yard field goals. Michael Farkas handled the punting duties for Ohio, kicking away three times. Dorian Brown returned two kickoffs for a nice 69 yards, including an explosive 36-yard return. Dylan Wears managed to block an Akron punt in the first quarter.
Akron blew the Bobcats out of the water with a tremendous passing attack. Redshirt freshman Kato Nelson took over for Thomas Woodson and really earned his reps today. Nelson finished 22-for-38, with a jaw-dropping 322 passing yards, four touchdowns, and no interceptions. Kwadarrius Smith managed to lead the powerful receiver corps with 125 yards on his two catches, both of which were touchdowns. Four different receivers caught touchdown passes through the game.
Despite the heavy emphasis on passing, Akron was no slouch when it came to running the ball. Manny Morgan led the Zips with 14 carries, good for 55 yards and a touchdown. Akron’s offense put up 121 rushing yards and a touchdown on a tough Ohio linebacker group.
Nick Gasser nailed four of the five extra point attempts and a 19-yard field goal. His extra point was missed due to a botched snap and hold. Gasser also punted seven times. Defensively, Akron did not seem to suffer despite losing Alvin Davis Jr. and Ibrahima Camara to targeting ejections. Akron also came up with two interceptions, one each from Shawn Featherstone and Jordan George.
Ohio started the scoring early with Nathan Rourke’s 68-yard touchdown run. Akron responded immediately with a solid drive capped with a 19-yard field goal. Ohio’s ensuing drive was cut short by a long Shawn Featherstone interception return. Akron made quick work with the short field, scoring on a 16-yard pass from Kato Nelson to A.J. Coney. Coming off of a great kickoff return, Ohio eventually scored on a trick play. Brendan Cope completed a pass to a wide-open Nathan Rourke on an end-around for an easy touchdown, giving the Bobcats a 14-10 lead.
A blocked Akron punt gave Ohio the ball five yards from the end zone. Dorian Brown punched it in for the quick Bobcat score. Akron struck back with a one-play drive, where Kato Nelson threw a single 71-yard touchdown pass to Kwadarrius Smith. Ohio’s David Burroughs fumbled the ball away on the kickoff, giving Akron another easy score. This time it was Kato Nelson to Austin Wolf for a 23-yard touchdown. Louie Zervos capped off Ohio’s drive with a 19-yard field goal, tying the game at 24 apiece. Akron broke the tie immediately with a 54 yard touchdown pass from Nelson to Kwadarrius Smith.
The third quarter began as a defensive battle. With fewer than four minutes remaining, Ohio’s Louie Zervos knocked a 46-yard field goal in to cut into Akron’s lead. Another stalemate was broken by Akron’s Jordan George intercepting a Nathan Rourke pass. Akron turned the turnover into points with an eight-yard Manny Morgan run. Ohio responded with a bold drive, converting on fourth-and-short, en route to another Nathan Rourke rushing touchdown.
The Akron Zips (6-5, 5-2 MAC) have secured bowl eligibility with their sixth win of the season. Akron needs another win or an Ohio loss to secure the MAC East title. Their next opportunity is next week, hosting the Kent State Golden Flashes in the Battle for the Wagon Wheel. For the Ohio Bobcats (8-3, 5-2 MAC), there is one more chance at the MAC East title if Akron loses their next game, and if Ohio can defeat the Buffalo Bulls on the road.