By Pete Nakos
OhioBobcats.com Feature Writer
AKRON, Ohio—Despite multiple comeback efforts, the Ohio football team (8-3, 5-2 MAC) fell to Akron (6-5, 5-2), 37-34, on Tuesday night (Nov. 14) at InfoCision Stadium–Summa Field.
Sophomore quarterback Nathan Rourke finished with 110 passing yards on 9-of-22. He led the team in rushing, too, with two touchdowns for 165 yards on 15 carries. His two touchdowns put him at 19 rushing touchdowns this season, tying the single-season program record set by Kalvin McRae.
Redshirt junior wide receiver Papi White led the Bobcats in receiving with six receptions for 68 yards.
Redshirt sophomore safety Javon Hagan finished the day with a career-high 14 tackles. Redshirt senior linebacker Chad Moore contributed eight tackles and redshirt senior linebacker Quentin Poling added seven tackles and a pass break up.
"Obviously, we gave up some big plays in the first half," head coach Frank Solich said. "Where the breakdowns were, I'm not sure. We just did not play well. Obviously can't point any fingers because neither side of the ball played well."
The Bobcats didn't take long to strike in the game. After forcing Akron to go three and out on their first possession, the Bobcats took over on their own 24-yard line. Then on the second play of the drive, Rourke took off, slipping through a tackle and taking it 68-yards for his 18th rushing touchdown of the season, putting Ohio up 7-0 early.
Akron cut into the score on their next drive, taking it 75-yards down the field, setting up the 19-yard field goal from Nick Gasser, making the score 7-3 with 5:45 left in the first quarter.
On the next Bobcat drive, Rourke was picked off by Shawn Featherstone on the Akron 29-yard line who returned it to the Ohio 26-yardline. Akron then scored on a Kato Nelson pass to A.J. Coney to put Akron up 10-7 with 4:13 left in the first quarter.
Ohio came roaring back, when on the next drive they took the ball 57-yards, capping the drive off with a reverse pass from redshirt senior wide receiver Brendan Cope to Rourke in the end zone, putting Ohio up 14-10. Ohio wasn't done, after forcing Akron to go three-and-out again, redshirt junior safety Tyler Gullett blocked Gasser's punt. The ball was recovered by redshirt junior running back Dylan Wears on the Akron six-yard line, setting up the drive. On the first play of the second quarter, Brown took the ball five yards for the score, giving Ohio a 21-10 lead with 14:45 left in the second quarter.
Then with 11:23 left in the quarter, Akron cut the Ohio lead to 21-17 after the Zips needed one play to score after Nelson connected with Kwad Smith on a 71-yard pass. On the ensuing kickoff, the Bobcats fumbled, Akron would score on the first play of the drive, a 23-yard completion from Nelson to Austin Wolfe, putting Akron up 23-21 with 10:56 left in the second quarter.
On Ohio's next drive, the Bobcats started at their own 25-yard line and then drive it down the field, setting up a 19-yard field goal from redshirt sophomore placekicker Louie Zervos, tying the game at 24-24.
On the next drive for the Zips, Nelson connected with Smith for a 54-yard touchdown reception. After they failed to connect on the extra point, Akron t took a 30-24 lead with 5:01 left in the half and carried it into the break
At the half, Rourke was 4-of-12 with 64 yards. Rourke also led the Bobcats on the ground with 115 rushing yards, a rushing touchdown and a receiving touchdown. White led in receiving, catching four passes for 64 yards.
After both sides traded the ball to start the third quarter, Ohio put together a drive during their second chance of the quarter. After starting on their own 32-yard line, the Bobcats mounted a drive, that was helped by an Akron pass interference call. The drive would end with Zervos draining a 46-yard field goal to cut the Akron lead to 30-27 with 3:17 left in the third quarter. The drive went eight plays, 58 yards and took 4:51 off the clock.
Akron took advantage of an Ohio turnover, starting their drive on the Ohio 24-yard line. They ran five plays and cap the drive off with an eight-yard rushing touchdown by Manny Morgan, increasing Akron's lead to 37-27.
Ohio would score one last time, as Rourke led the Bobcats down the field on an 11 play, 71-yard drive. Rourke ran the ball in from the Akron 13-yard line to cut the Zips lead to 37-34. Despite a three and out that forced Akron to punt on its next series, Ohio was unable to close the gap further.
"Just not communicating well," Hagan said. "It's not an excuse, we just have to communicate more. We thought we could bounce back in the second half and we didn't."
Ohio returns to play on Friday, Nov. 24 at Buffalo. Kickoff time has yet to be announced, make sure to check on OhioBobcats.com in the coming days.