ATHENS, Ohio -- Redshirt junior running back Ja'Vahri Portis (Cincinnati, Ohio) scored his first two career rushing touchdowns, but the Ohio football team (1-3) dropped a 45-25 decision to Louisiana (3-1) on Saturday (Sept. 21) at Peden Stadium.
The Bobcats suffered their third loss in a row. The loss halted a school-record home winning streak at 10 games.
The Ragin' Cajuns outgained Ohio, 489-380. The Bobcats could not overcome five turnovers. Ohio trailed by just six with under eight minutes to play, but the Bobcats turned the ball over three times and the Ragin' Cajuns scored two touchdowns over the final four-plus minutes.
"We've got work to do. That's clear," said 15th-year head coach Frank Solich. The good part is that they're willing to put in the work. They will stick together and be a team that has shown flashes on both sides of the ball, and we're going to have to get it done in all areas. I think our special teams can help us, but we can't have a turnover in special teams and expect things to turn out in our favor. We have to come up with a way to stop the run. We have to find a way to force more turnovers and put more pressure on their offense. We can't give up five yards in the linebacking area and expect to have a good tackling day. We have to get things stopped better up front. We will go to work. I like their attitude, I like their talent level we have, and we'll find a way to put it together."
Louisiana landed the game's first punch late in the first quarter after Ohio fumbled a punt that the Ragin' Cajuns recovered at the Bobcats' two yard line. On the next play, junior running back Elijah Mitchell scored to put the visitors in front.
Ohio cut Louisiana's lead to one thanks to two successful long-distance field goal tries from redshirt senior kicker Louie Zervos (Tarpon Springs, Fla.) in the second quarter. Zervos connected from 48 yards out with just over 10 minutes left in the half to match his season high, then set a new season high by knocking one in from 49 yards away with just under two minutes to play.
The Ragin' Cajuns scored on the ensuing drive, however, marching 67 yards in 10 plays and closing out the half with redshirt senior kicker Stevie Artigue converting a 27-yard field goal on the final play, sending Louisiana into the locker room with a 10-6 lead.
Louisiana added on to its lead on its second drive of the second half, marching 74 yards in five plays and capping it off with another two-yard touchdown run by Mitchell.
On the ensuing drive, the Bobcats moved the ball to the Louisiana 27 in six plays, but redshirt senior defensive back Kamar Greenhouse came up with an interception and returned the pick 45 yards to the Ohio 35. An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on the Ragin' Cajuns backed Louisiana up to the 50 to the start the next drive, but the guests converted the takeaway into points when junior quarterback Levi Lewis found graduate transfer tight end Nick Ralston for a two-yard touchdown pass, extending their lead to 24-6 with just over four minutes to go in the third quarter.
The Bobcats responded with a nine-play, 75-yard drive. Senior quarterback Nathan Rourke (Oakville, Ontario, Canada) opened the drive up with a 26-yard completion to redshirt freshman wide receiver Shane Hooks (Orlando, Fla.). Four plays later, Rourke found redshirt sophomore wide receiver Isiah Cox (Jasper, Ala.) for a 29-yard completion to give the Bobcats a 1st-and-goal. Portis then scored his first touchdown on 4th-and-goal from the one. Ohio went for the two-point conversion, but the try failed.
The Ragin' Cajuns countered with a five-play, 65-yard scoring march that culminated in a 15-yard touchdown run by redshirt junior Trey Ragas, giving Louisiana a 19-point lead with just under 14 minutes to play.
After being forced to punt on the next drive, Ohio got a break when redshirt junior safety Jarren Hampton (Fostoria, Ohio) recovered a fumbled snap by the Ragin' Cajuns, giving the Bobcats the ball on the Louisiana 28. Three plays later, Portis scored from three yards out.
Louisiana drove to the Ohio 20 on the ensuing drive but was forced to settle for a field goal attempt. The 37-yard try by Artigue missed wide right, though. Ohio made the Ragin' Cajuns pay for the miss, with Rourke completing a 49-yard pass to Hooks, then finding him again for a 21-yard touchdown. The extra point by Zervos made it a six-point game with 7:54 to go.
The Ragin' Cajuns answered back with a six-play, 75-yard scoring drive. Runs of 33 yards by Ragas and 22 yards by Mitchell set up a two-yard touchdown run by Mitchell to extend Louisiana's lead to 38-25.
Ohio's next drive resulted in a lost fumble on the first play. Two plays after the turnover, Lewis threw a three-yard scoring strike to redshirt senior wide receiver Ja'Marcus Bradley to make it a 20-point lead for the Ragin' Cajuns. The Bobcats' final two drives of the contest resulted in interceptions, sealing the win for Louisiana. Sophomore defensive back Asjlin Washington and redshirt freshman defensive back Kam Pedescleaux came away with the picks for the Ragin' Cajuns.
Rourke finished 18-of-38 passing for 277 yards and a touchdown and three interceptions. He also led Ohio in rushing with 37 yards on nine attempts and lost a fumble.
Portis gained a career-high 35 yards and scored two touchdowns on nine attempts.
Hooks caught his second touchdown in as many games and finished with a career-high 96 receiving yards on a career-high three receptions. Redshirt junior tight end Ryan Luehrman (Athens, Ohio) matched his career high with four receptions and recorded a career-high 69 receiving yards.
Louisiana finished with 285 yards on the ground thanks in large part to Mitchell and Ragas. Mitchell piled up a game-high 143 rushing yards on 17 attempts and scored three touchdowns while Ragas picked up 129 on 15 attempts and found the end zone once.
Lewis completed 19 of his 29 pass attempts for 188 yards and two scores. Bradley led all receivers with five receptions, gained a team-high 75 receiving yards and caught a touchdown.
Following a bye week, Ohio opens Mid-American Conference play on the road at East Division rival Buffalo on Oct. 5. Kickoff is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. ET.