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Ohio Football Visits Northern Illinois Saturday In Early Season MAC Showdown

Ohio Football Visits Northern Illinois Saturday In Early Season MAC Showdown

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Ohio Game Notes (PDF)

ATHENS, Ohio -- The Ohio football team (3-2, 1-0 MAC) is set to play its second-straight road game to open its 2018 Mid-American Conference schedule, visiting DeKalb, Ill., on Saturday (Oct. 13) for a key early season matchup against West Division foe Northern Illinois (3-3, 3-0 MAC). Kickoff is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. at Huskie Stadium.

Saturday's contest will be broadcast live on ESPN+. Shawn Kenney and Al Groh 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 SEVEN: Saturday, Oct. 13, 2018 | Ohio (3-2, 1-0 MAC) at Northern Illinois (3-3, 3-0 MAC) | 3:30 p.m. | Huskie Stadium | DeKalb, Ill. | ESPN+Ohio IMG Sports Network | Live Stats

• The Bobcats opened up MAC play with a thrilling 27-26 come-from-behind win over East Division rival Kent State last Saturday (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.
• Last Saturday's 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 100-73 (.578) during Solich's tenure -- including 65-40 (.619) 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 three 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.

The Bobcats are looking to start MAC play 2-0 for the first time since 2016 and third time in the last four seasons. Ohio has started conference play 2-0 four times during the Frank Solich era.

Ohio's 27-26 win at Kent State last Saturday 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 off, though, Rourke has completed 69 of his 110 pass attempts (62.7 percent) for 978 yards and seven touchdowns with three interceptions. He has also run for 375 yards and three touchdowns over the last four 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.

Rourke enters week seven of the 2018 season ranked fifth in the country with 7.82 rushing yards per attempt and 50th with 78.2 rushing yards per game. He also ranks 15th in the nation with 14.39 passing yards per completion and 23rd with 8.66 passing yards per pass attempt. His 282.6 yards per game of total offense is good for 29th in the country.

Rourke, who entered his junior season with his name appearing on the Manning, Maxwell and O'Brien award watch lists, is tied for fifth in program history with 24 career passing touchdowns with Sammy Shon (1978-81) and is tied for sixth in program history with 24 career rushing touchdowns with teammate A.J. Ouellette and former running back Beau Blankenship (2011-13).

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.

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. Last Saturday 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. He has now scored at least one touchdown in three-straight games for the first time since 2014. Ouellette has now scored 24 rushing touchdowns in his Ohio career, which is tied for the sixth-most in program history.

Ouellette, who ranks second on the team with 306 rushing yards on 82 carries through five games, has moved up into seventh place in school history with 2,784 rushing yards. He needs 43 more yards to pass Chad Brinker (2,826 yards; 1999-02) to move into sixth place. His 588 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.

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 last Saturday's win over Kent State due to an injury.

Through five games in 2018, Irons ranks third on the team with 299 rushing yards on 45 carries. In the loss at Cincinnati, he hauled in a 12-yard touchdown reception in the first quarter for his first career receiving touchdown.

Ohio's rushing attack ranks 38th in the nation and first in the MAC with 204.4 yards per game. 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.

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 Saturday's matchup at Northern Illinois ranked 15th in the NCAA with 96.2 receiving yards per game. His 481 receiving yards rank third in the MAC and 31st in the nation. In the win over UMass, he caught six passes for 84 yards and set a new career high with two touchdown receptions.

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.

Redshirt senior wide receiver Andrew Meyer gained a team-high 90 receiving yards on four receptions and hauled in his third career touchdown in last Saturday's 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.

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.

Ohio's defense held a team under 30 points for the first time this season in the Bobcats' 27-26 victory at Kent State last Saturday. Ohio did not allow a touchdown after the first quarter.

Ohio's defense has produced 12 takeaways through the first five games of the 2018 season, which is good for third in the MAC and 15th 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 foruth in the MAC and 25th in the country with a team-high two interceptions -- both of which have come in the last two weeks and sealed wins over UMass and Kent State for the Bobcats.

In last Saturday's 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. Last Saturday's 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.

Farkas ranks sixth in program history in career punting yards with 6,152.

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 8-for-9 (88.9 percent) on the season and has made all 22 of his extra points. Zervos ranks second in program history with 52 career field goals made and third with 114 extra points made. He is one of just three kickers in the history of the program to make over 100 extra points and ranks second in program history with 118. He is three made extra points away from passing Matt Weller (120; 2009-12) as the program's all-time leader.

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.

Ohio trails the all-time series with Northern Illinois, 11-10. The two teams last faced off on Nov. 24, 2015, at Huskie Stadium in DeKalb., Ill., with the Bobcats prevailing by a score of 26-21. Ohio is 3-2 all-time against the Huskies in the Solich era and is a perfect 2-0 at Huskie Stadium in games played under Solich. Saturday's game marks the first time Ohio and Northern Illinois have not squared off in either November of December since a 35-23 win for the Bobcats over the Huskies on Sept. 9, 2006, at Huskie Stadium to open up conference play that season.

Ohio returns to Peden Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 20, when it welcomes MAC East Division rival Bowling Green for a Homecoming showdown. Kickoff is slated for 2 p.m., and the contest will be streamed live on ESPN3.


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