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Ohio Football Returns To Peden Stadium Saturday To Host UMass

Ohio Football Returns To Peden Stadium Saturday To Host UMass

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Ohio Game Notes (PDF)

ATHENS, Ohio --  The Ohio football team (1-2) aims to end first month of the 2018 season with a victory when it plays host to UMass (2-3) in a Parents Weekend matchup at Peden Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 2 p.m.

Saturday's contest will be broadcast live on ESPN3. Michael Reghi and JeRod Cherry will be on the call. The game can also be heard on the Ohio IMG Sports Network. Russ Eisenstein returns for his 11th season as the "Voice of the Bobcats." Ohio alum Rob Cornelius, who has been a part of the broadcasts for close to two decades, is back in the booth. The 12-station network has an over-the-air coverage area that hits three states. In addition, the broadcasts are available online through OhioBobcats.com and TuneIn.com/OhioBobcats.com. They are also free on the TuneIn app.

WEEK FIVE: Saturday, Sept. 29, 2018 | Ohio (1-2) vs. UMass (2-3) | 2 p.m. | Peden Stadium | Athens, Ohio | ESPN3 | Ohio IMG Sports Network | Live Stats | Ticket Info: Click here or call 1-800-575-CATS (2287)

OPENING KICKOFF
• Ohio dropped a 34-30 heartbreaker to in-state foe Cincinnati last Saturday (Sept 22) at Nippert Stadium. The Bobcats raced out to a 21-0 lead and led 24-7 at the half, but the Bearcats clawed back with 27 second-half points to earn the comeback victory.
• The loss to Cincinnati marked Ohio's second-straight defeat away from Athens. Ohio lost to Virginia, 45-31, on Sept. 15 at Vanderbilt Stadium in Nashville, Tenn. The Bobcats battled back from a 35-7 second-quarter deficit to make it a 10-point game with just over nine minutes to play in the third quarter but could not quite complete the comeback. Virginia piled up 552 yards of total offense.
• The Bobcats opened the 2018 season with a 38-32 victory over Howard on Sept. 1 at Peden Stadium. Ohio outscored the Bison, 21-10 in the second half en route to the win.
• Ohio is coming off of a 2017 campaign in which it went 9-4 overall and finished second in the Mid-American Conference East Division with a 5-3 mark in league play.
• The 2017 season saw Ohio earn bowl eligibility for the ninth-straight season and make its eighth bowl appearance during that span. The Bobcats ended the year on a high note, rolling to a 41-6 triumph over UAB in the Bahamas Bowl.
Frank Solich is back on the Ohio sidelines as head coach for a 14th season. The Bobcats have gone 98-73 (.573) during Solich's tenure -- including 64-40 (.615) in MAC play. Two more victories will put Solich in the company of Don Peden (1924-46; 121 wins) and Bill Hess (1958-77; 108) as the only coaches in the history of the program to lead the Bobcats to at least 100 victories. Solich has guided Ohio to four MAC East Division titles (2006, '09, '11, '16) and three bowl victories in nine appearances.
• Ohio was tabbed MAC favorite in the league's preseason media poll, which was announced in late July. The Bobcats were picked first in the East Division with a league-best 140 total points. Ohio was also selected to win the 2018 Marathon MAC Football Championship Game, which will be held at Ford Field on Friday, Nov. 30 at 7 p.m. The contest will be televised nationally on ESPN2.

TAKING OFF
Quarterback Nathan Rourke (Oakville, Ontario, Canada) saw his junior campaign get off to a slow start, going 2-of-8 for 44 yards in a quarter of work in the season opener against Howard.

Since that performance off, though, Rourke has completed 28 of his 58 pass attempts for 424 yards and three touchdowns with one interception. He has run for 137 yards and a touchdown over the last two games. In Saturday's loss to Cincinnati, he finished 12-of-27 for 178 yards with one touchdown and one interception. He also ran for a season-high 96 yards and a touchdown on nine carries.

Rourke, who entered his junior season with his name appearing on the Manning, Maxwell and O'Brien award watch lists, currently ranks seventh in program history with 22 career rushing touchdowns and is tied for seventh in program history with 20 career passing touchdowns.

AIR CANADA (WITH GROUND SUPPORT)
Quarterback Nathan Rourke (Oakville, Ontario, Canada) burst onto the scene for Ohio in 2017, earning All-MAC Second Team honors for his efforts. He etched his name in the program's top-10 for passing yards (2,203; ninth), completions (161; tied-10th), touchdown passes (17; seventh) and passing efficiency (132.9; ninth) in a single season. He threw for the most yards by an Ohio sophomore signal caller since Tyler Tettleton passed for 3,302 yards in 2011.

Rourke proved problematic for opposing defenses not only because of his arm but because of his legs as well. He set the program record for rushing touchdowns in a single season with 21, which tied him for third-most in NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision in 2017 with Washington running back Myles Gaskin and ranked as the most by a quarterback in the country last season. His 6.66 yards per carry a year ago rank as the fourth-highest in a single season in program history and ranked as the 11th-highest average in the country, finishing just behind former Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson (6.90) of Louisville. Rourke tallied five 100-yard games last season, tying him for the 10th-most in a single season in program history.

In all, Rourke accounted for 3,115 total yards of offense (sixth-most in a single season in program history), averaging 7.26 yards per play (second-most in a single season in program history) and 239.6 yards per game (fourth-most in a single season in program history. He set Ohio's single-season scoring record with 132 points (tied for sixth-most in the nation in 2017), 22 touchdowns scored (fifth-most in the nation in 2017) and 39 touchdowns responsible for. His 234 points responsible for tied him for ninth-most in the country last year.

KEEPING IT 100
Redshirt sophomore wide receiver Cameron Odom (Bedford, Ohio) enjoyed a breakout performance last Saturday at Cincinnati, producing his first career 100-yard receiving game by finishing with a career-high 114 yards on five receptions. Ohio has had at least one receiver record at least 100 yards in four-straight games dating back to the 2017 Bahamas Bowl. 

PAPI PRODUCES
Redshirt senior wide receiver Papi White (Seminole, Okla.) posted his third-straight game with at least 100 yards receiving, hauling in six catches for a team-high 131 yards and a touchdown in the loss to Virginia. The last Bobcat receiver to post three-straight games with over 100 receiving yards was Donte' Foster in 2013.

White enjoyed a career day in the win over Howard, racking up a career-high 154 receiving yards on a career-high eight receptions and hauling in a touchdown. He became the first Bobcat wide receiver to register 150-plus receiving yards since Sebastian Smith achieved the feat on Sept. 17, 2016 against then-No. 15-ranked Tennessee.

Through four weeks of the 2018 season, White ranks 11th in the NCAA with 102.7 receiving yards per game. 

FIRST THING'S FIRST
In the loss to Virginia, redshirt freshman wide receiver Isiah Cox (Jasper, Ala.) caught his first career pass, which went for 36 yards and a touchdown. Freshman wide receiver Jerome Buckner (Columbus, Ohio) also hauled in his first two career receptions and finished the game with 44 receiving yards.

FINDING THE END ZONE
Redshirt senior running back A.J. Ouellette (Covington, Ohio) scored his first touchdown of the 2018 season last Saturday at Cincinnati, running into the end zone from nine yards out. He has now scored 21 rushing touchdowns in his Ohio career, which is tied for the eighth most in program history.

Ouellette, who rumbled for 71 yards on 21 carries against Cincinnati and leads the team with 164 rushing yards on 52 carries through three games, has moved up into seventh place in school history with 2,642 rushing yards. He needs 185 more yards to pass Chad Brinker (2,826 yards; 1999-02) to move into sixth place. His 558 career carries also rank as the seventh-most in program history, and his nine career games with at least 100 yards rushing are good for ninth-most in program history. Ouellette last rushed for 100 yards on Oct. 14, 2017, picking up 143 yards in a 48-30 victory for the Bobcats.

IRON(S) MAN
Redshirt senior running back Maleek Irons (Chilliwack, British Columbia, Canada) scored a pair of one-yard touchdown runs in Ohio's loss to Virginia. Irons scored his first touchdown since Nov. 3, 2016 against Buffalo with his one-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. With his two rushing touchdowns, he recorded his second career multi-touchdown game and first since Oct. 8, 2016 against Bowling Green.

Through three games in 2018, Irons ranks second on the team with 159 rushing yards on 32 carries. In last Saturday's game at Cincinnati, he hauled in a 12-yard touchdown reception in the first quarter for his first career receiving touchdown. 

TURNOVER BELT
Ohio's defense has produced eight takeaways through the first three games of the 2018 season and owns a plus-four turnover margin.

Perhaps some of the credit for the takeaways can be attributed to the Ohio defense's new sideline prop: The Turnover Belt, which is a WWE-replica championship belt that is awarded to individuals who force the opposition to turn the ball over. 

Sophomore cornerback Jamal Hudson (Miami, Fla.) recorded his first career interceptions last Saturday at Cincinnati, picking off the Bearcats' redshirt freshman quarterback Desmond Ridder in the first quarter.

Redshirt defensive lineman Chukwudi Chukwu (Willingboro, N.J.) produced a strip sack of Virginia junior quarterback Bryce Perkins in the second quarter of Ohio's loss to the Cavaliers. The fumble was recovered by junior linebacker Eric Popp (Loveland, Ohio) at the Virginia 29 yard line. In the fourth quarter, redshirt senior cornerback Cameron Gunnels (Cincinnati, Ohio) recovered a fumbled punt by the Cavaliers.

The Bobcats forced four turnovers in the season-opening victory over Howard. On the first play from scrimmage of the new season, redshirt senior safety Kylan Nelson (Lexington, Ky.) came up with the first big play of the year for the Ohio defense, forcing a fumble that redshirt senior cornerback Jalen Fox (Cincinnati, Ohio) recovered. In the second quarter, redshirt sophomore safety Jarren Hampton (Fostoria, Ohio) forced a fumble that sophomore cornerback Marlin Brooks (Miami, Fla.) recovered. Senior linebacker Evan Croutch (Youngstown, Ohio) recorded his first career interception on Howard's first drive of the second half. Finally, with 18 seconds remaining in the contest, redshirt sophomore cornerback Ilyaas Motley (Centerville, Ohio) came up with his first career interception to seal the victory for Ohio. 

FANTASTIC FARKAS
Redshirt junior kicker/punter Michael Farkas (Mishawaka, Ind.) enjoyed another strong game in Saturday's loss to Virginia. He recorded six punts for 282 yards. His longest punt of the day went for 59 yards in the first quarter, and he also produced a 52-yard punt in the first quarter and a 57-yard punt in the fourth quarter, helping him average 47 yards per punt. Three of his six punts ended up inside Virginia's 20 yard line. Farkas also kicked off four times, with all four going for touchbacks for a 65-yard average. He successfully executed an onside kick in the second quarter that was recovered by junior linebacker Eric Popp (Loveland, Ohio).

Farkas was recognized as the MAC East Division Special Teams Player of the Week for his efforts against Virginia, earning such honors for the second time in his career and first time since Oct. 3, 2016.

In the season-opening victory over Howard, Farkas set career highs with eight punts and 368 punting yards in the win. Last Saturday at Cincinnati, he punted four times for 190 yards, averaging 47.5 yards per punt with a long of 55 yards in the second quarter. His 46.7 yards per punt currently rank fifth in the NCAA.

Farkas now ranks sixth in program history in career punting yards with 6,011, passing Matt Schulte (5,984; 2007-09) last Saturday at Cincinnati. 

JUST FOR KICKS
Redshirt junior kicker Louie Zervos (Tarpon Springs, Fla.) made all three of his field goal attempts last Saturday at Cincinnati -- including a season-long 47 yarder in the fourth quarter. He is 5-for-6 (83 percent) on the season and has made all 12 of his extra points. Zervos ranks second in program history with 49 career field goals made and third with 108 extra points made. He is one of just three kickers in the history of the program to make over 100 extra points, joining Matt Weller (120; 2009-12) and Kevin Kerr (115; 1999-02). 

TRULY SPECIAL
Farkas and Zervos aren't the only bright lights on the Ohio special teams so far this season.

Redshirt junior wide receiver/kick returner DL Knock (Springboro, Ohio) helped swing the momentum of the contest against Howard in favor of the Bobcats when took the second-half kickoff back 100 yards for a touchdown to tie a school record. Ohio was trailing Howard, 22-17, at halftime, but Knock's return sparked a stretch in which it scored two touchdowns in 1:37 to flip the script.

Knock became the first Ohio player to bring a kick back 100 yards since Daz' Patterson went 100 yards to the house against Buffalo on Oct. 6, 2012. It marked the first time Ohio returned a kickoff for a touchdown since Nov. 25, 2014 at Miami when Kylan Nelson (Lexington, Ky,) brought one back 84 yards. Knock finished the game with three kickoff returns for 125 yards.

Knock was named the MAC East Division Week One Special Teams Player of the Week on Sept. 3.

In last Saturday's game at Cincinnati, redshirt sophomore defensive lineman Will Evans (Augusta, Ga.) blocked his first career field goal. The Bearcats sent out freshman kicker Cole Smith to attempt a 49-yard field goal before time expired in the first half. His try was blocked by Evans, however, and Ohio took a 24-7 advantage into halftime. 

SCOUTING UMASS
Saturday will mark the fourth meeting between Ohio and UMass, with the Bobcats holding a perfect 3-0 mark against the Minutemen. 

The teams are facing off for the second year in a row. On Sept. 30, 2017, the Bobcats departed Amherst, Mass., with a 58-50 shootout victory over the Minutemen. Ohio and UMass combined to produce a staggering 1,029 yards of offense -- including 479 for the Bobcats. Quarterback Nathan Rourke (Oakville, Ontario, Canada) threw for 181 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 118 yards and two more scores. Running back A.J. Ouellette (Covington, Ohio) rumbled for 125 yards on 12 carries and scored a touchdown.

UMass is in year three competing as an independent. The Minutemen were members of the MAC from 2012-15 and played the Bobcats twice during their tenure in the conference. Ohio edged UMass, 37-34, on Sept. 29, 2012 in Amherst, then earned a 51-23 win on Nov. 29, 2013, in the lone previous trip to Peden Stadium for the Minutemen.

The Minutemen are led by Mark Whipple, who is in his 11th year overall as head coach at UMass and fifth season of his second stint with the program. Whipple led UMass to the 1998 NCAA Division I-AA national title. He served as the quarterbacks coach for the Pittsburgh Steelers from 2004-06, earning a Super Bowl XL championship ring as a member of Bill Cowher's staff.

The Minutemen are 2-3 after scoring 28 points in the first quarter en route to a 49-31 win over Charlotte in Amherst. Redshirt junior quarterback Michael Curtis made his first career start for UMass and threw for two touchdowns and ran for two more. He finished 12-of-19 for 189 yards passing.

UMass has piled up 101 first downs so far in 2018, which is good for 17th in the country. Senior wide receiver Andy Isabella is the top offensive threat for the Minutemen. He ranks seventh in the nation with 450 receiving yards and has hauled in four touchdown catches. Isabella is tied for the team lead with five total touchdowns with senior running back Marquis Young. Young is eighth in the nation with 158.4 all-purpose yards per game and ranks ninth with 30.6 yards per kickoff return. 

Defensively, UMass is led by graduate linebacker Bryton Barr, who leads the country with 71 total tackles (35 solo, 36 assisted; 14.2 per game), which is 14 more than senior defensive back Ron LaForce of New Mexico State, who ranks second in the nation with 57. Opponents are averaging 447.8 yards per game against the Minutemen, though, including 229.2 on the ground. UMass is allowing 39.6 points per game, which is tied for 120th in the nation.

UP NEXT
Ohio opens up MAC play with a trip to Dix Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 6, to clash with Kent State in an East Division battle. Kickoff is scheduled for 3:30 p.m., and the contest will be streamed live on ESPN+.