After a dormant second half performance at Cincinnati, the Ohio Bobcats got the offensive revival the program needed heading into conference play.
Frank Solich’s program clawed back from an early 21-7 deficit to outpace UMass’ offense in a 58-42 offensive shootout. Just one year ago, the two teams combined for 108 points in Ohio’s 58-50 victory. Once again, the matchup proves to be a defensive coordinator’s nightmare, becoming the seventh 100-point game of the season.
A 39-yard touchdown pass from Andrew Ford to Andy Isabella launched the Minutemen to a 7-0 lead on their opening possession. Ohio’s offense looked poised for an immediate response after a long Nathan Rourke run to start its initial drive, but a 55-yard pick-six return stalled the Bobcats’ effort. UMass, as road underdogs, led Ohio 14-0 at Peden Stadium.
It turns out a pick-six would be the only thing stopping Ohio’s offense Saturday. The Bobcats scored on each of their ensuing nine possessions in the form of seven touchdowns and two field goals. The Minutemen seriously looked lost trying to stop Ohio’s rushing offense. The Bobcats out-gained UMass 394-41 on the ground, 9.6 times the amount of yards obtained by the former MAC program.
Rourke was a superstar to say the least. The junior quarterback threw for 270 yards and three touchdowns, but those were arguably the dual-threat’s less impressive statistics. Rourke rushed for a career-high 189 yards and a touchdown. The quarterback wasn’t the only individual taking charge of the Bobcats’ unstoppable rushing attack. Fellow Canadian and running back Maleek Irons added 140 yards and two touchdowns to Ohio’s offensive clinic of a performance.
Rourke’s first touchdown of the day was by way of the air. He found his favorite target Papi White for a 19-yard score to slice into UMass’ two-possession lead. From then on, Ohio kept scoring uncontested. Rourke and Irons dished into the scoring effort with rushing touchdowns on the next two Bobcat opportunities. Then, to break a 21-21 tie, Rourke hit up White for their second touchdown connection of the day — this time, from 12 yards.
At 28-28 after one of four Andrew Ford touchdown passes, Ohio responded in the waning seconds of the half. Longtime running back A.J. Ouellette edited the scoreboard with a 14-yard touchdown reception, providing the Bobcats a 35-28 lead.
On the second half, a 28-point was created. Ohio escaped the 14-point deficit and created a 14-point advantage of its own. Ouellette broke free and saw daylight on a 49-yard run from midfield. After this play, Ohio’s offense primarily scored by way of Louie Zervos field goals for the remainder of the afternoon to claim a 58-42 victory.
Despite the unbelievable offensive performance, Ohio’s defense did lack its swagger at times. Ford threw for 355 yards and four touchdowns on the Bobcats’ struggling secondary. Wide receiver Andy Isabella accounted for 198 of these yards and two scores — a player Ohio had absolutely no answer for. The inexperienced front seven displayed a phenomenal job at limiting the run game though, holding UMass to a paltry 41 yards.
With the non-conference victory, Ohio retains a .500 record. The Bobcats dropped contests against Virginia and at Cincinnati, but the team has finally notched its first FBS win of 2018. Frank Solich and the Bobcats are 4-0 against the Minutemen all-time. Two of those wins occurred during UMass’ brief tenure in the MAC, while the other two transpired in shootout form in each of the last two seasons.
Rourke and Ohio already received a bye week on Week 2, so it’s time to get back to work in Week 5. The team travels within the Buckeye State to battle the Golden Flashes in Kent.