The Ohio Bobcats (5-1, MAC 2-0) earned an impressive win on Homecoming weekend, pulling away from the visiting Golden Flashes (1-5, 0-2 MAC) to win by a final score of 42-17 after a competitive first quarter-and-a-half.
The contest began with a scoreless first quarter as both defenses gained the upper hand with solid play and a few key penalties by their offensive counterparts.
Ohio’s offense came out firing deep, a plan that had some success against KSU earlier in non-conference. However, KSU’s secondary won the early battles with solid play aided by a ‘Cats offense that perhaps wasn’t clicking early.
Kent State defensive back Jalani Williams made a great play thwarting Ohio’s second drive. On third down, Williams immediately diagnosed and snuffled out a wideout screen to receiver Sam Wiglusz for no gain.
Offensively, KSU moved the ball somewhat early but were unable to sustain drives on their first two series owing to two false start penalties and three Bobcat sacks.
Things started to heat up a bit in the second quarter for both offenses with Ohio ultimately taking control of the affair through some staunch defense, field position, and an effective passing game.
The Flashes pass defense that shut down Ohio in the first quarter started to yield as the Bobcats completed 5-of-6 passing attempts before scoring on a 25-yard strike from QB Kurtis Rourke to Miles Cross to cmplete a six-play, 55-yard drive. Rourke got the Kent State defense to bite first on a play action and then on a slick pump fake, creating an opening for Cross.
The Golden Flashes responded big on the next series, crafting a seven-play, 77-yard drive yard finished by a 42-yard pass from QB Michael Alaimo to wideout Chrishon McCray. The touchdown throw looked like a double move where Ohio’s defensive back in single coverage ultimately fell and McCray corralled the pass for an easy six. McCray was elite on the drive, picking up 63 of the 77 yards.
During the second quarter, it became apparent why opposing teams were taking some deep shots against KSU’s secondary so far this year. On Ohio’s first scoring drive, a deep route was open but Ohio did not connect. On the next drive, another deep route was wide open but was dropped by normally sure handed Bobcat WR Sam Wiglusz.
Wiglusz redeemed himself on the next drive with a great grab on a 30-yard touchdown catch. KSU staked Ohio to field position at the Flashes own 41-yard line after a shanked punt. Ohio found the endzone in two plays, sealing the deal with a Bobcat staple: a play action off of an option look. Jalani Williams’ coverage wasn’t bad, but Wiglusz made a better play with a nice catch at the pylon to get a foot down for the score.
As the second quarter went on, Ohio’s defense began to dominate, forcing two punts on two, three-play drives that netted a total of one yard.
The beneficiary again of great field position, Ohio’s offense continued to pour it on by closing out the second half with a four-yard touchdown run by Rourke. With the drive beginning at Ohio’s 43-yard line, it took the ‘Cats only one minute and 53 seconds to hit paydirt. Rourke’s run was one of many examples during the contest where Rourke looked in command. On the four-yard score, Rourke feigned a possible throw, keeping his running lane open to ensure the score.
Ohio’s offense picked up where it left off in the second half, marching 90 yards on its first drive to extend the lead to 28-10. As they regularly did on the afternoon, the ‘Cats burned single coverage after picking up the blitz, this time capping the drive on a 22-yard pass from Rourke that Miles Cross. The Ohio wideout made a nice juggling catch in the corner of the endzone to get the score.
The touchdown play to Cross was set up by one of the most exciting plays of the game, a 50-yard pass from Rourke to tight end Tyler Foster. Foster ran over a defender, caught the ball then broke a tackle, tight roping the sideline for the explosive play that ended by a crunching blow against a KSU defensive back.
With about five minutes left in the third quarter, the game was effectively over when a Bryce Houston interception gave the ‘Cats possession at KSU’s 31 yard-line. Ohio quickly converted their big defensive play into points on a three-yard run by Sieh Bangura.
Both sides emptied the benches in the fourth quarter with the backups getting a look.
Although KSU struggled at times, their 17 points were the most allowed by Ohio’s defense since week one of the season. Also, a few interesting developments occurred offensively for the Golden Flashes. Chrishon McCray looks to be an emerging playmaker for KSU; after tagging Miami last week with ten catches for over 100 yards, McCray hit Ohio for six catches for 93 yards and two receiving scores.
Also keep an eye on the running game going forward for the Flashes.
KSU’s Jaylen Thomas came into the contest a distant third in rushing attempts but was featured this week and showed some promise. Although finishing with only 67 yards, Thomas looked effective at times against an Ohio defense that came into the contest allowing just 66 yards per game rushing.
Ohio had its biggest statistical day of the season led by QB Kurtis Rourke, who threw for his first 300-yard game of the season, while adding three touchdown passes and a rushing score. Sieh Bangura led Ohio rushers with two touchdowns.
Rourke had a lot of help, including wideout Miles Cross who ran amok in the first half with over 100 yards receiving. Cross finished the day with seven grabs for 125 yards and two receiving scores.
Ohio’s defense was stellar again for most of the day, holding the Flashes to a total of 229 yards. As usual, it was a total team effort by Ohio’s defense, getting after KSU with six sacks and 10 tackles-for-loss. Leading Ohio with ten tackles on the day was linebacker Bryce Houston, playing behind a very effective defensive line in Bradley Weaver, Rayyan Buell, Rodney Mathews, and Shane Bonner, among others. Weaver possibly had one of his better games with six tackles, two sacks, and 2.5 tackles for loss.
The win was the ninth straight at home for the Bobcats since the new field last season was named the ‘The Frank’ after former head coach Frank Solich.
Both squads return to action next Saturday as Ohio hosts Northern Illinois on ESPNU at 4:00pm Eastern, while KSU heads to Eastern Michigan for a showdown at noon Eastern televised on CBS Sports Network.