Ohio Game Notes (PDF)
ATHENS, Ohio -- The Ohio football team (5-3, 3-1 MAC) will travel to Kalamazoo, Mich., to take on Mid-American Conference West Division foe Western Michigan (6-3, 4-1 MAC) on Thursday (Nov. 1) in a 7 p.m. matchup at Waldo Stadium. The contest will be nationally televised on ESPNU, with Dave LaMont and Ray Bentley on the call.
Thursday's 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.
• The Bobcats will play four of their six remaining 2018 regular season games at Peden Stadium. Ohio has won each of their last three home MAC games dating back to the 2017 campaign.
• Ohio racked up 411 rushing yards in a dominant 52-14 victory over MAC West Division foe Ball State last Thursday (Oct. 25) at Peden Stadium. The Bobcats' 411 yards via the ground game marked the eighth-most in a single game in program history and the most since Ohio piled up 414 rushing yards in a 38-21 win over Ball State on Oct. 22, 2005. Ohio scored six rushing touchdowns, the program's most in a single game since scoring six in a 47-7 rout at Eastern Michigan on Oct. 4, 1997. In all, the Bobcats piled up 554 total yards of offense and scored on eight-straight possessions.
• Redshirt senior running back A.J. Ouellette broke the 100-yard rushing mark for the first time in the 2018 campaign, racking up a game-high 135 yards on 13 carries and scoring two touchdowns in last Thursday's victory over the Cardinals. Redshirt senior running back Maleek Irons picked up 102 yards of 16 carries and scored a pair of touchdowns. Junior quarterback Nathan Rourke rushed for 77 yards and a pair of touchdowns while going 11-of-19 for 127 yards, a touchdown and an interception through the air.
• The Ohio defense limited the opposition to just 14 points for the second week in a row in the victory over the Cardinals. The Bobcats held Ball State to just 242 total yards of offense -- the lowest output by an Ohio opponent in 2018. Ball State managed just one first down over the second and third quarters. Ohio tallied 63 total tackles, with redshirt junior safety Javon Hagan leading the Bobcats with five total tackles (two solo, three assisted). Redshirt sophomore Ilyaas Motley recorded a team-high two tackles for loss -- including the first sack of his career. Redshirt sophomore linebacker Jared Dorsa notched his first career interception while redshirt sophomore linebacker Dylan Conner and redshirt junior wide receiver DL Knock both recorded their first career fumble recoveries. Sophomore cornerback Marlin Brooks forced his second career fumble.
• Ohio earned a 49-14 Homecoming victory over MAC East Division rival Bowling Green on Oct. 20 at Peden Stadium. Junior quarterback Nathan Rourke accounted for five total touchdowns, throwing a career-high four touchdown passes and adding another on the ground. He completed of 8-of-12 passes for 193 yards and carried the ball 10 times for 101 yards. Redshirt senior wide receiver Papi White caught two touchdown passes and ran for another for his first three-touchdown performance of his career. He finished with a team-high 92 receiving yards. Redshirt senior running back Maleek Irons racked up a game-high 116 rushing yards, marking his second 100-yard rushing performance of the year. Senior linebacker Evan Croutch recorded his second interception of the season while junior defensive lineman Cole Baker tallied his first career forced fumble and redshirt sophomore defensive lineman Will Evans pounced on its for his first career fumble recovery.
• The Bobcats have won each of their last five home MAC games dating back to the 2017 season. Ohio is closing out the 2018 regular season by playing four of its final six contests at Peden Stadium.
• In its first matchup against a MAC West Division team this season, Ohio suffered its first conference loss, falling to Northern Illinois, 24-21, on Oct. 13 at Huskie Stadium in DeKalb, Ill. The Huskies scored 15 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to earn the victory over the Bobcats.
• Redshirt freshman wide receiver Isiah Cox put together a breakout performance at Northern Illinois, racking up a career-high 147 receiving yards and scoring a career-long 56-yard touchdown. He also recorded a career-long reception of 70 yards in the second quarter. Cox became the third different Ohio wide receiver to achieve a 100-yard receiving performance in 2018.
• Ohio opened up MAC play with a thrilling 27-26 come-from-behind win over East Division rival Kent State on Oct. 6 at Dix Stadium in Kent, Ohio. Ohio trailed 20-7 in the third quarter before storming back to earn the win. Junior quarterback Nathan Rourke kept it himself and scored the go-ahead touchdown with 1:28 to go, then redshirt senior safety Javon Hagan sealed the win for the Bobcats with 30 seconds left by coming up with an interception. The Bobcats have now won eight-straight MAC openers.
• The victory at Kent State gave 14th-year head coach Frank Solich his 100th win at Ohio. Solich is now 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. The Bobcats have gone 102-74 (.580) during Solich's tenure -- including 67-41 (.620) in MAC play. Solich has guided Ohio to four MAC East Division titles (2006, '09, '11, '16) and three bowl victories in nine appearances.
• All five of Ohio's victories have been of the comeback variety in 2018. The Bobcats trailed Howard 22-10 in the second quarter before rallying for a 38-32 win on Sept. 1 at Peden Stadium. Ohio trailed UMass by a 21-7 score in the first quarter before fighting back for a 58-42 win to close out non-conference play on Sept. 29 at Peden Stadium. Against Bowling Green, the Falcons scored a touchdown on their opening drive of the game before Ohio outscored them 49-14 the rest of the way. Last Thursday against Ball State, the Cardinals led 7-0 after the first quarter before Ohio exploded for 52 points that went unanswered until Ball State scored a touchdown late touchdown in the fourth quarter.
With a win over Western Michigan, Ohio will become bowl eligible for the 10th year in a row.
ONE IS ALL IT TAKES
Ohio's 27-26 win at Kent State marked the first one-point game and victory for Ohio since a 24-23 win on Dec. 17, 2011, over Utah State in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.
Quarterback Nathan Rourke 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, though, Rourke has completed 102 of his 163 pass attempts (62.6 percent) for 1,576 yards and 14 touchdowns with five interceptions. He has also run for 553 yards and six touchdowns over the last seven games.
Rourke got the job done with both his arms and his legs in the victory over UMass, rushing for a career-high 189 yards and a touchdown on 16 attempts. He also passed for 270 yards and three touchdowns, going 27-of-32 through the air with one interception. Rourke earned MAC East Division Offensive Player of the Week honors for the fourth time in his career for his performance against the Minutemen. He was also recognized as one of the Davey O'Brien Award's "Great 8" honorees for his efforts against UMass.
Rourke followed up the performance against the Minutemen with another strong outing at Kent State. He 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 on the ground on 15 rushing attempts -- including the game-winning touchdown. He was recognized as the MAC East Division Offensive Player of the Week for the second week in a row for his efforts against the Golden Flashes.
Rourke earned his third MAC East Division Offensive Player of the Week nod in the month of October on Oct. 22 for his performance against Bowling Green.
Rourke enters week 10 of the 2018 season ranked third in the nation with 15.40 passing yards per completion, sixth with 9.40 passing yards per attempt and 15th with a passing efficiency rating of 161.1. His 273.3 yards per game of total offense is good for 31st in the country.
Rourke, who entered his junior season with his name appearing on the Manning, Maxwell and O'Brien award watch lists, is ranked third in program history with 31 career passing touchdowns. He needs eighth more passing touchdowns to pass Boo Jackson (38; 2008-10) for second in program history. His 59 career touchdowns responsible for rank as the third most in the history of the program.
AIR CANADA (WITH GROUND SUPPORT)
Quarterback Nathan Rourke 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.
FINDING THE END ZONE
Redshirt senior running back A.J. Ouellette scored his first touchdown of the 2018 in Ohio's 34-30 loss at Cincinnati on Sept. 22, running into the end zone from nine yards out. In the win over UMass, he raced 49 yards for a touchdown on Ohio's first drive of
the second half. At Kent State, Ouellette led the Bobcats on the ground with 72 yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries in the win over the Golden Flashes. At Northern lllinois, Ouellette scored his fifth rushing touchdown of the season. After adding two more rushing touchdowns to his total last Thursday against Ball State, Ouellette has now scored 27 rushing touchdowns in his Ohio career, which is tied for the fourth-most in program history with his teammate, junior quarterback Nathan Rourke, and Chad Brinker (27; 1999-02). He needs three more rushing touchdowns to pass Steveland Hookfin (29; 1995-98) for the third-most in program history.
Ouellette, who ranks third on the team with 538 rushing yards on 120 carries through eight games, has moved up into fourth place in school history with 3,016 rushing yards and is one of four backs in the history of the program to surpass 3,000 career rushing yards. His 626 career carries also rank as the sixth-most in program history, and his 10 career games with at least 100 yards rushing are tied for the seventh-most in the history of the program.
Redshirt senior running back Maleek Irons scored a pair of one-yard touchdown runs in Ohio's 45-31 loss to Virginia on Sept. 15 in Nashville, Tenn. 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. In the victory over UMass, Irons rumbled for a career-high 140 yards and matched his career high with two rushing touchdowns on 13 carries. He missed the win over Kent State due to an injury but returned to the lineup at Northern Illinois, rushing for a team-high 30 yards on 11 carries. Last Thursday's win over Ball State marked his third effort of the season with multiple touchdown runs.
Through eight games in 2018, Irons ranks second on the team with 547 rushing yards on a team-high 84 carries. He is also tied for second on the team with six rushing touchdowns. In the loss at Cincinnati, he hauled in a 12-yard touchdown reception in the first quarter for his first career receiving touchdown.
PAVING THE WAY
Ohio's rushing attack ranks 15th in the nation and second in the MAC with 233.9 yards per game. Over the last two games, Ohio is averaging a whopping 401.5 rushing yards per contest. The solid play of the offensive line is owed a large amount of credit for that success, with redshirt junior right tackle Austen Pleasants, redshirt senior right guard Durrell Wood, sophomore center Brett Kitrell, redshirt senior left guard Joe Anderson and redshirt senior left tackle Joe Lowery paving the way. Last Thursday against Ball State, junior Steven Hayes filled in at center for an injured Kitrell.
Redshirt senior wide receiver Papi White 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.
White enters Thursday's matchup at Western Michigan ranked fifth in MAC with six receiving touchdowns. His 667 receiving yards rank third in the MAC while his 83.4 receiving yards per game rank third in the MAC. In the win over UMass, he caught six passes for 84 yards and set a new career high with two touchdown receptions.
KEEPING IT 100
Redshirt sophomore wide receiver Cameron Odom enjoyed a breakout performance at Cincinnati, producing his first career 100-yard receiving game by finishing with a career-high 114 yards on five receptions. Ohio had at least one receiver record at least 100 yards in four-straight games dating back to the 2017 Bahamas Bowl, a streak that ended in the victory over UMass.
IGNITING THE COMEBACK
Redshirt senior wide receiver Andrew Meyer gained a team-high 90 receiving yards on four receptions and hauled in his third career touchdown in the comeback win at Kent State. With the Bobcats trailing the Golden Flashes 20-7 in the third quarter, Meyer helped ignite Ohio's comeback when he caught a pass from junior quarterback Nathan Rourke in stride and raced 59 yards for a touchdown. The reception marked the longest of Meyer's career. A finance major, Meyer was recognized as the MAC Male Scholar Athlete of the Week on Oct. 10 after his performance against Kent State.
Meyer has caught three touchdowns over the last four games. He hauled in a 24-yard scoring reception in the second quarter against Bowling Green, then snatched a 21-yard touchdown with two seconds left in the first half last Thursday against Ball State.
WHAT CAN BROWN DO FOR YOU
In the loss at Northern Illinois, redshirt senior tight end Connor Brown caught an 11-yard touchdown pass from junior quarterback Nathan Rourke in the third quarter -- the first touchdown catch of Brown's career.
FIRST THING'S FIRST
In the loss to Virginia, redshirt freshman wide receiver Isiah Cox caught his first career pass, which went for 36 yards and a touchdown. Freshman wide receiver Jerome Buckner also hauled in his first two career receptions and finished the game with 44 receiving yards.
MAKING A STAND
Through the first four games of the 2018 season, Ohio's defense allowed the opposition to average 38.2 points and 518 total yards per contest. Since MAC play began, however, the Bobcats have buckled down, surrendering just 19.5 points per game and 357.8 total yards per game.
Ohio's defense has produced 17 takeaways through the first eight games of the 2018 season, which is good for second in the MAC and 17th in the country. 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.
Redshirt junior safety Javon Hagan ranks fifth in the MAC with a team-high two interceptions -- both of which sealed wins over UMass and Kent State for the Bobcats. With his second career interception and second of the season in the victory over Bowling Green, senior linebacker Evan Croutch is also tied with Hagan for fifth in the MAC with a team-high two interceptions.
In the win at Kent State, sophomore cornerback Marlin Brooks recorded his first career interception in the first quarter and recovered his second career fumble and his second of the season in the second quarter.
Sophomore cornerback Jamal Hudson recorded his first career interception at Cincinnati, picking off the Bearcats' redshirt freshman quarterback Desmond Ridder in the first quarter.
Redshirt defensive lineman Chukwudi Chukwu 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. In the fourth quarter, redshirt senior cornerback Cameron Gunnels 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 came up with the first big play of the year for the Ohio defense, forcing a fumble that redshirt senior cornerback Jalen Fox recovered. In the second quarter, redshirt sophomore safety Jarren Hampton forced a fumble that Brooks recovered. Senior linebacker Evan Croutch 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 came up with his first career interception to seal the victory for Ohio.
Redshirt junior kicker/punter Michael Farkas enjoyed another strong game in the 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.
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. In the loss 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. The win at Kent State saw Farkas post his highest punting average of the season, averaging his highest punting average of the season with 53 yards per punt -- including one in the first quarter that went for 59 yards and tied his season high. In the loss at Northern Illinois, Farkas punted five times for 199 yards. He matched his long punt of the season once again with another 59-yarder and placed two of his punts inside the opponent 20-yard line. Farkas was once again named MAC East Division Special Teams Player of the Week for his efforts.
Farkas ranks sixth in program history in career punting yards with 6,531. Through eight games in 2018, he has tallied 1,270 punting yards, good for an average of 45.4 yards per punt.
JUST FOR KICKS
Redshirt junior kicker Louie Zervos made all three of his field goal attempts at Cincinnati -- including a season-long 47 yarder in the fourth quarter. He then made three more field goals in the victory over UMass. He is 9-for-11 (81.8 percent) on the season and has made all 39 of his extra points. Zervos ranks second in program history with 53 career field goals made. He is one of just three kickers in the history of the program to make over 100 extra points, leading the way with 135. He passed Matt Weller (120; 2009-12) as the program's all-time leader in extra points made in the loss at Northern Illinois after making his third of the contest.
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 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 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 the loss at Cincinnati, redshirt sophomore defensive lineman Will Evans 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.
SERIES HISTORY VS. WESTERN MICHIGAN
Ohio is 28-33-1 (.460) all-time against Western Michigan -- including 1-4 under Frank Solich. The Bobcats and the Broncos last met in the 2016 Marathon MAC Championship Game, with then-No. 17-ranked Western Michigan prevailing, 29-23, at Ford Field in Detroit. Ohio last visited Kalamazoo on Oct. 25, 2014, with Western Michigan posting a 42-21 victory over the Bobcats. Ohio's last victory over Western Michigan came on Oct. 7, 2006, at Peden Stadium, with the Bobcats picking up a 27-20 win.
Ohio's final road game of the regular season will be a trip to Oxford, Ohio, next Wednesday (Nov. 7) to clash with MAC East Division archrival Miami in the Battle of the Bricks. Kickoff from Yager Stadium is to be announced, and the contest will be nationally televised on either ESPN2 or ESPNU.