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Recap: Pitt stuffs Ohio’s offense in 20-10 defensive bout

Rourke unable to lead the offense to victory in Bobcats’ first loss of 2019.

NCAA Football: Ohio at Pittsburgh Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

With one of the strongest rushing attacks in the country and an electrifying dual-threat quarterback in Nathan Rourke, Ohio looked poised for a battle with Pittsburgh in Heinz Field.

Instead, the run game was limited to 35 yards on 29 attempts and the Panthers consistently barged through the offensive line en route to six sacks and a 20-10 win over the Bobcats. Frank Solich’s first career victory at Ohio was over the Panthers 14 seasons ago, but he couldn’t quite pull one off in the Steel City to remain unbeaten.

Nathan Rourke was forced to beat Pitt with his arm, as Rourke took a handful of beatings in the backfield in a -43-yard rushing performance. Through the air, he completed 15-of-27 passes for 177 yards.

The star quarterback of the afternoon was decked in Pitt’s new blue and mustard yellow colors. Kenny Pickett threw for 321 yards, including a 74-yard touchdown pass to Maurice Ffrench in the second quarter, to lock up Pitt’s first victory of the season.

Ffrench’s long touchdown catch-and-run marked the first touchdown of the afternoon, launching the Panthers to a 10-0 lead. Pitt overcame several near-disasters early including recovering its own muffed punt, avoiding a sack in the end zone for a safety, and having Ohio drop an interception near the goal line.

Meanwhile, Ohio frequently reached Pitt territory, but the Bobcats punted on three of the five possessions that crossed the 50-yard line. No Ohio rush went longer than eight yards in a 60-minute offensive struggle.

The Panthers extended their lead to 17-0 on a 3-yard Vincent Davis run to the end zone. With Rourke completing consecutive passes to wide receiver Isiah Cox and running back O’Shaan Allison for 61 combined yards, Ohio managed to score its lone touchdown with four minutes to go in the third quarter.

Ohio cut Pitt’s lead to 20-10, and the opportunities were still there — just not the capitalization. The Bobcats punted on each of their final three drives of the game, going three-and-out on the first two before punting from their own 36 on the last. With seven minutes of clock time remaining, Pitt’s Davis duo of A.J. Davis and Vincent Davis (139 combined rushing yards) continued to truck their way to first downs and finish the game.

For the second straight year, the MAC favorite Bobcats drop a seemingly winnable ACC game. But unlike 2018’s Virginia game, the Ohio defense created stops and the offense was unable to finish drives, leading to 10 punts by Michael Farkas. Neither team turned the ball over once, and the inability to snatch the ball for favorable field position prevented Rourke and Co. from ever gaining offensive momentum.

Ohio (1-1) travels to Huntington, WV, for a Week 3 rivalry matchup against Marshall (1-1). Both programs suffered close defensive losses in Week 2 and are looking for their first FBS wins of the 2019 season.