BY Pete Nakos
OhioBobcats.com Feature Writer
BUFFALO, N.Y. – Despite a 14-point, third quarter comeback to tie the game, the Ohio football team (8-4, 5-3) fell to Buffalo (6-6, 4-4), 31-24, on Friday afternoon (Nov. 24) at UB Stadium.
Sophomore quarterback Nathan Rourke rushed for two touchdowns and threw for another in the loss. He now owns the single-season record for rushing touchdowns in a season with 21 and is one away from tying the total touchdown's responsible for mark of 38.
Freshman running back Julian Ross rushed for a career-high 82 yards on 19 carries, leading the rushing attack for the Bobcats. Rourke added 49 yards on 16 carries.
Redshirt freshman wide receiver Cameron Odom finished the game with two receptions for 85 yards, the long coming on a 57-yard touchdown reception from Rourke in the third quarter. Redshirt junior Papi White and redshirt senior tight end Morgan Mason each finished with 49 yards.
Redshirt senior cornerback Bradd Ellis finished the game with six tackles to lead the team. Redshirt senior linebacker Chad Moore, redshirt sophomore safety Javon Hagan and freshman cornerback Marlin Brooks each contributed five tackles in the loss.
"It's a very proud football team," head coach Frank Solich said. "They are a group of guys who just continue to fight. Throughout all our games, there has been a lot of never giving up and coming back."
Buffalo struck first in the first quarter. On their first drive, it took Buffalo three plays to go 69 yards to take a 7-0 lead on a touchdown pass from Tyree Jackson to Anthony Johnson.
Buffalo added-on on moments later when Rourke fumbled the ball on a sack. Chuck Harris scooped the ball up and returned it 20 yards into the end zone, putting the Bulls up 14-0 with 11:28 left in the first quarter.
The Bobcats responded on their next drive. After starting on their own 25-yard line, the Bobcats drove down the field going 75 yards in 14 plays. The drive was capped off by seven-yard rushing touchdown by Rourke, cutting the lead to 14-7.
Buffalo responded on their next drive, taking the ball 70 yards on three plays on Johnson's second touchdown of the game, increasing the UB lead to 21-7. Then after Ohio went three-and-out, Buffalo added on three points when Adam Mitcheson hit a wind-aided 49-yard field goal to increase the lead to 24-7 at the end of the first quarter.
In the second quarter, the Bobcats defense stepped, holding UB off the board for the 15 minutes. Ohio drove down the field, going 53 yards in 10 plays and setting up a 44-yard field goal from Louie Zervos to cut the UB lead to 24-10 at the end of the second.
At the half, Rourke was 8-of-15 for 103 yards and one rushing touchdown. White led Ohio in receiving with three catches for 35 yards and Ross led Ohio on the ground with 10 carries for 53 yards.
As a team, Ohio had 103 total receiving yards and 99 yards on the ground. Meanwhile, Buffalo registered 192 yards in the air and 29 rushing yards.
Ohio started to close the gap midway through the third quarter, when on their second drive of the second half, the Bobcats put together an eight-play 73-yard drive that would end when Rourke kept the ball at the one-yard-line and pushed his way into the end zone to make the score 24-17 with 6:05 left in the quarter. The drive was highlighted by a 40-yard reception by redshirt junior wide receiver Andrew Meyer, setting up the score for the Bobcats.
After stopping UB, the Bobcats tied the game up on their next drive. Ohio started the drive on their own eight-yard line, the Bobcats picked up two first downs from solid receptions from White and a 23-yard catch from redshirt senior tight end Mason Morgan. Then on the next play, Rourke would fire the ball down the field to Cameron Odom for a 57-yard touchdown. After Zervos connected on the extra point, the Bobcats headed into the fourth with the score tied. In total, the drive went 92-yards in four plays and only took a 1:31 off the clock.
Buffalo took the lead midway through the fourth quarter. After the Bobcats were stopped deep in their own territory, redshirt sophomore punter Michael Farkas got off a 38-yard punt into the wind and UB's KJ Osborn returned the ball to the five-yard line. Two plays later, Emmanuel Reed punched it in for a touchdown, putting the Bulls up 31-24.
"We just came out and couldn't get it going," redshirt junior safety Kylan Nelson said. "It was just hard to keep guys out of the end zone early. As we kept going though, we kept fighting back."
Ohio will wait to hear where it will play its bowl game, which will be announced in the coming weeks. Make sure to stay tuned to OhioBobcats.com for updates.