CINCINNATI –- The Ohio football team (1-2) dropped a 34-30 heartbreaker to in-state foe Cincinnati (4-0) today 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.
"We played a good football team," said 14th-year head coach Frank Solich. "They're undefeated, they're 4-0. They played well for parts of the game, we played well for parts of the game. We showed a lot of character and having a chance at the end. I feel good about our football team in that regard. Obviously, they are tremendously disappointed. They're down. But we've got to show some resolve, and we have to bounce back. It's been a hard first part of the season for us in a lot of different ways. But they are hanging in there, and I think that we will be ready to go next week."
Junior quarterback Nathan Rourke (Oakview, Ontario, Canada) 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. Redshirt sophomore wide receiver Cameron Odom (Bedford, Ohio) produced his first career 100-yard receiving game, finishing with a career-high 114 yards on five receptions.
Sophomore running back Michael Warren II ran for 124 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries for Cincinnati. Redshirt freshman quarterback Desmond Ridder went 19-of-29 for 274 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. Junior wide receiver Rashard Medaris caught three passes for 104 yards and a touchdown.
After Ohio and Cincinnati traded punts on their opening drives, the Bobcats took advantage of a big passing play and a couple of penalties by the Bearcats to help them get on the scoreboard first. Cincinnati forced Ohio to punt on 4th-and-1 from the Bobcats' 25 yard line. Ohio got a first down, though, when redshirt junior punter Michael Farkas (Mishawaka, Ind.) drew a roughing the kicker penalty. On the next play, Rourke connected with Odom for a 38-yard pass to move the ball down to the Cincinnati 21. An unnecessary roughness penalty on the Bearcats set Ohio up with a 1st-and-goal at the nine, and redshirt senior A.J. Ouellette (Covington, Ohio) scored his first touchdown of the 2018 season two plays later to put the Bobcats in front.
The Bobcats forced the Bearcats to punt again, and Rourke and redshirt senior running back Maleek Irons (Chilliwack, British Columbia, Canada) combined to carry Ohio down the field and extend the lead to 14-0 for the visitors after a quarter of play. Rourke turned a 2nd-and-20 from the Ohio 26 into a first down at the 48 after following up a run of four yards with one that went for 18. The Bobcats gave the ball to Irons on the next three plays to earn 12 more yards and set up a first down at the Cincinnati 40. Rourke completed a pass to Irons for eight yards, then kept it himself to gain 19 more and put the ball on the 13. Two plays later, Rourke completed a 12-yard touchdown pass to Irons to make it a two-score lead for Ohio.
Ohio's lead grew to 21-0 with 11:12 to play in the first half. Rourke completed passes of seven yards to Odom and 10 yards to redshirt senior wide receiver Papi White (Seminole, Okla.) to set up shop for the Bobcats at Cincinnati 34. Irons then rumbled for 22 yards to the 12. After rushes of five yards by Rourke and four by Irons, Rourke kept it himself for a three-yard touchdown.
The Bearcats got on the scoreboard with 5:44 remaining in the first half, driving 80 yards in nine plays. Facing a 3rd-and-11 on his own 19, Ridder found junior wide receiver Thomas Geddis for a 14-yard completion. Ridder and Warren combined to pick up 15 yards on the ground over the next four plays. After Ridder connected with senior wide receiver Kahlil Lewis for a gain of 13 on 3rd-and-7, the Bearcats picked up another first down when Ohio was penalized for pass interference. Warren then scampered 24 yards for a touchdown to cut Ohio's lead to 21-7.
Ohio got the ball back and took advantage of two roughing the passer penalties and unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Cincinnati to set up a first down at the Bearcats' 14. On 3rd-and-13, Rourke scrambled 12 yards. The Bobcats went for it on fourth down, and Ouellette moved the chains with a two-yard plunge to put the ball on the Cincinnati three. Three penalties on the Bobcats stalled the drive, but redshirt junior kicker Louie Zervos (Tarpon Springs, Fla.) drilled a 25-yard field goal to make it a 17-point lead for Ohio.
A 14-yard run by Warren and a 22-yard pass from Ridder to Medaris gave the Bearcats an opportunity to send out freshman kicker Cole Smith to attempt a 49-yard field goal before time expired in the first half. His try was blocked by redshirt sophomore defensive lineman Will Evans (Augusta, Ga.), however, and Ohio took a 24-7 advantage into halftime.
The Bearcats wasted little time landing the first punch of the second half as Ridder completed a 77-yard touchdown pass down the sideline to Medaris on the third play of the half to make it a two-score game again.
After Ohio and Cincinnati traded punts on the next two drives, Rourke found Odom for a gain of 41 yards on the first play of the Bobcats' second drive of the second half. A holding penalty on the Bearcats gave Ohio a 1st-and-goal at the eight, but the drive stalled from there. Zervos knocked in a 33-yard field goal to extend the Ohio lead to 13 points.
Ohio forced Cincinnati to punt again on the next drive, but the Bearcats got ball back after White fumbled following a 13-yard completion from Rourke. Sophomore safety Darrick Forrest recovered for Cincinnati at Ohio's 28. Warren picked up gains of 10 and two yards on the next two plays. After Ridder rushed for nine yards to make it a 1st-and-goal, he scored from seven yards out on the next play, allowing the Bearcats to cut Ohio's lead down to six with 3:31 left in the third quarter.
The fourth quarter began with Zervos making a third field goal -- this one from 48 yards out -- to cap off an eight-play, 28-yard drive for Ohio.
The Bearcats answered right back, though, and made it a four-point game with 12:37 remaining on the clock. With the drive starting at the Cincinnati 29, Ridder completed a 15-yard pass to junior tight end Josiah Deguara on first down. An illegal use of hands penalty on Ohio on 3rd-and-5 gave the Bearcats a fresh set of downs at the Bobcats' 36. After Ridder found Deguara for 10 more yards, he threw a 26-yard touchdown pass to freshman wide receiver Jayshon Jackson.
After Ohio's next drive stalled at its own 45, Ridder engineered a 13-play, 92-yard drive that chewed 5:02 off of the clock. Backed up on their own eight, Ridder completed passes of three yards and 21 yards to Deguara. Ridder then scampered for nine yards, and Warren ran for one more yard to move the chains again. A seven-yard pass from Ridder to Lewis and a four-yard run by Warren moved the ball to the Ohio 47. Warren picked up four yards, then seven more on the next two plays. Ohio's defense stuffed Warren and Ridder to set up a crucial 3rd-and-11 at the 28, but Ridder kept the drive alive by completing an 11-yard pass to Deguara to put the ball on the three. Warren then scored his second touchdown of the day on the next play to give Cincinnati its first lead of the game.
The Bobcats got the ball on their own 25 with 3:18 to go. Rourke scrambled 37 yards on the first play of the drive to put Ohio in business at the Cincinnati 38. The Bearcats followed up a holding penalty with a pass interference to give the Bobcats a first down on the 13. Ouellette gained eight yards on first down, then three more on second to make it 1st-and-goal at the two. He was stopped a yard short of the end zone on his next carry, then was pushed back for a loss of three on second down. Rourke attempted to throw a touchdown to White on 3rd-and-goal, but the pass was intercepted by Cincinnati sophomore safety James Wiggins with 52 seconds left. The Bearcats were able to run out the clock when Warren picked up five yards on 2nd-and-9 and four more on third down to end the game.
"It was just a situation where the throw didn't get to where it needed to get," said Solich of the late interception.
Ohio returns home to Peden Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 29, when it hosts UMass for a Parents Weekend matchup. Kickoff is scheduled for 2 p.m., and the contest will be streamed live on ESPN3. Click here for ticket information or call 1-800-575-CATS (2287).