KENT, Ohio -- Junior quarterback Nathan Rourke (Oakville, Ontario, Canada) kept it himself and scored the go-ahead touchdown with 1:28 to go to help lead the Ohio football team (3-2, 1-0 MAC) to a 27-26 victory over Kent State (1-5, 0-2 MAC) to open Mid-American Conference play with a win this evening at Dix Stadium. The victory gave 14th-year head coach Frank Solich his 100th victory at Ohio.
The Bobcats trailed the Golden Flashes, 26-23, with 5:12 to go when Kent State freshman kicker Matthew Trickett knocked down his fourth field goal of the game -- this one from 28 yards out.
Rourke and the Ohio offense got the ball back on their own 24-yard line. Rourke completed a 13-yard pass to redshirt senior wide receiver Andrew Meyer (Canal Winchester, Ohio) on 3rd-and-5 to keep the drive alive. Rourke then rushed for five yards, and 15 more were tacked on to the end of it when Kent State sophomore linebacker Kesean Gamble was flagged for a personal foul on a late hit out of bounds. Rourke found redshirt sophomore wide receiver Cameron Odom (Bedford, Ohio) for a gain of 16 but was sacked for a loss of seven on the next play. Redshirt senior running back A.J. Ouellette (Covington, Ohio) caught a pass from Rourke and took it 20 yards down to the Kent State 14, then rushed for six more yards on the next play. That set up Rourke's eight-yard touchdown run that the Bobcats their first lead of the game with just over a minute to play. Ohio opted to go for two after the touchdown, but the try failed and the Bobcats were forced to settle for a one-point lead.
A pass interference penalty on Ohio on the ensuing drive helped Kent State move the ball to the Kent State 40. A nine-yard pass from sophomore quarterback Woody Barrett to junior wide receiver Antwan Dixon on 3rd-and-6 gave the Golden Flashes a first down at the Ohio 47. Redshirt senior safety Javon Hagan (Jacksonville, Fla.) sealed the win for the Bobcats three plays later, however, when he picked off Barrett with 30 seconds left.
"This was a tough one," said Solich of the win. "If they'd all been like this, I'm not sure I'd made it to 100. But I feel good about what the program has been able to accomplish over the last 14 years."
Rourke completed 18-of-20 passes in the win, setting an Ohio record for completion percentage in a game by connecting on 90 percent of his attempts. He threw for 284 yards with one touchdown and one interception. He also added 49 yards and a touchdown on the ground on 15 rushing attempts.
"We're still looking to play that complete game," said Rourke of the win. "Once we play that complete game, we'll be very dangerous."
Kent State led 20-7 with 9:33 to play in the third quarter. The Golden Flashes struck on the first play of the game when Barrett threw a 75-yard touchdown pass to freshman wide receiver Isaiah McCoy. Kent State extended its lead to 14-0 with 8:36 left in the first quarter when Barrett capped off a 10-play, 80-yard drive with a one-yard scoring strike to junior wide receiver Mike Carrigan.
Ohio got on the board with 2:48 to play in the first quarter when Ouellette punctuated a 10-play, 66-yard drive with a one-yard touchdown run. Kent State went back up by two scores as time expired in the first half when Trickett made a 49-yard field goal to head into the locker room up 17-7. Trickett gave the Golden Flashes a 13-point advantage with 9:33 left in the third quarter when he made a 39-yard field goal.
The Bobcats got their comeback started on the next drive, however, when Rourke hit Meyer in stride for a 59-yard touchdown to cut Kent State's lead down to six. The Golden Flashes went back up by nine when Trickett hit 38-yard field goal with just over a minute to go in the third quarter. Ohio's offense answered again, though, on the ensuing possession. Rourke found redshirt senior wide receiver Papi White (Seminole, Okla.) for gains of 27 and 10 yards on back-to-back plays, then connected with Odom for a gain of 19 on 3rd-and-17 three plays later. Ouellette then found the end zone for a second time with a five-yard touchdown, making it a two-point game with 12:45 to play.
Ouellette led the Bobcats on the ground with 72 yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries. White led Ohio in catches with five for 89 yards while Meyer gained a team-high 90 receiving yards on four receptions.
Barrett finished 27-of-35 with 271 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions for Kent State. He also added 61 yards on 12 rushes. McCoy was the leading receiver for the contest with a game-high eight receptions and a game-high 118 receiving yards. Junior running back Justin Rankin finished with a game-high 123 yards on 16 carries for the Golden Flashes.
Ohio plays its second-straight road game to open up MAC play, visiting DeKalb, Ill., next Saturday (Oct. 13) for a 3:30 p.m. matchup against West Division foe Northern Illinois (3-3, 3-0 MAC).