Ypsilanti, Mich. — Behind two touchdown passes from sophomore quarterback Nathan Rourke in overtime, the Ohio Bobcats defeated Eastern Michigan 27-20 in double overtime Saturday (Sept. 23) at Rynearson Stadium.
With the game tied 13-13 headed into overtime, the Bobcats won the coin flip and opted to defend. EMU scored on the first play from scrimmage, a 25-yard pass from quarterback Brogan Roback to wide receiver Sergio Bailey.
Rourke and the Bobcats were forced to score a touchdown, and they did as Rourke found redshirt senior wide receiver Brendan Cope in the back right corner of the end zone, an eight-yard connection. Then, in the second overtime, the Bobcats converted on third down when Rourke found redshirt freshman wide receiver Cameron Odom for a seven-yard touchdown pass. That would turn out to be the deciding score.
The Ohio defense held EMU to 45 rushing yards a season-low for a Bobcat opponent and stopped the Eagles offense to win the game. On the final three plays of the game, the Bobcats forced three incompletions, the final on fourth and four from the Ohio 19-yard line.
It was the Bobcats defense which kept them in the game, too. Along with keeping EMU from being a threat on the ground, they sacked Roback two times and intercepted him once.
The interception came late in the second quarter when redshirt senior cornerback Bradd Ellis intercepted Roback and returned it for 46-yards to the endzone. It was the first touchdown scored in the game, the first Bobcat interception taken back for a touchdown since 2015 and Ellis' first career touchdown.
"I think that was huge (the interception)," head coach Frank Solich said. "We were struggling and we weren't moving the ball the way we wanted to move the ball and certainly at getting points on the board at that point. I think that lifted, not only Brad, but I think it lifted all of our secondary. Kind of saying, 'Hey, we got hurt by this guy last year and it doesn't have to be that way again.'"
Ohio (3-1) broke up six passes on the day and redshirt junior cornerback Jalen Fox led the Bobcats with nine tackles, seven solo. Redshirt senior linebackers Quentin Poling and Chad Moore each picked up eight tackles.
Rourke completed the game with 197 yards passing. Redshirt junior running back A.J. Ouellette rushed for 145 yards on 26 carries, his second straight week with over 100 yards on the ground. Four wide receivers finished the day with over 20 yards. Redshirt junior Andrew Meyer finished with a team-high six receptions for 44 yards.
"It's a resilient group, and toughness certainly played a key role in it," Solich added. "We found ourselves in a heck of a game and I'm just proud of the way the kids hung in there and found a way to make it work and to get it done. This is a tough bunch of kids and they have proven to me time and time again, they don't have to prove it anymore, I just expect it out of them. It's good to see them rise to this occasion and get this win."
EMU tied the game at 13-13 with 10:54 left in the game when running back Ian Eriksen jumped in from a yard out. The score was setup when the Eagles ran a double pass, a 34-yard completion to the Ohio one-yard line.
The Bobcats responded by marching down the field into field goal range, but kicker Louie Zervos missed the 47-yard try. He finished the day with two field goals and accounted for six of Ohio's 27 points in a game where points were hard to come by.
Ohio opened up the game with a scoring drive, putting together 10 plays for 46 yards over 4:18. Starting from their own 35-yard line, the Bobcats completed three passes for 21 yards. The drive was capped off by a 41-yard field goal from Zervos.
Heading into halftime, the Bobcats led 13-6.
"They stepped up and rose to the occasion," Solich said. "I was proud of the way they battled and played. Our guys hung in there and did a great job."
Ohio returns to action next Saturday (Sept. 30) as when it travels to UMass for a 3:30 p.m. ET kickoff against the Minutemen.