By Pete Nakos
OhioBobcats.com Feature Writer
NASSAU, Bahamas – Behind 152 yards and four touchdowns from redshirt senior running back Dorian Brown, the Ohio football team (9-4, 5-3 MAC) captured its third bowl win in program history with a 41-6 win over the UAB Blazers (8-5, 6-3 C-USA) in the 2017 Bahamas Bowl on Friday afternoon (Dec. 22) at Nathan A. Robinson National Stadium.
The win was the Bobcats first bowl win since the 2012 Independence Bowl and the first for the Mid-American Conference since 2015. The win also registers as the largest margin of victory in MAC bowl history.
Brown captured the offensive player of the game award, and teammate, redshirt sophomore safety Javon Hagan was named the defensive player of the game.
"It was a great win," 13th-year head coach Frank Solich said. "We certainly appreciate all this team has been about – the way they've gone through the season, the way they started to prepare for the Bahamas Bowl at home and then continue the preparation here. To end up playing a very, very good football game, I couldn't be any more pleased. They've been a great bunch to work with. I feel like eight wins were not enough with this football team, so this ninth win puts a little icing on the cake. It's been a great team and a great year. I had a lot of fun coaching this football team."
Helping in Brown's rushing attack was redshirt junior running back A.J Ouellette, who reached the 1,000 yard mark for the first time in his career. He's the first Bobcat to do so Beau Blakenship in 2012. Oulette logged 26 yards before leaving the game with an injury and finished the season with 1,006 rushing yards.
Sophomore quarterback Nathan Rourke surpassed Tyler Tettleton in total touchdowns in a single season with 39, tallying two on the day. Rourke passed for 185 yards and two touchdowns on 12 completions. He also ran for 30 yards on three carries.
Rourke connected with redshirt junior wide receiver Papi White for 106 yards on four completions, the long coming on a 56-yard touchdown catch. Redshirt junior wide receiver Andrew Meyer finished with six receptions for 50 yards.
As a team, Ohio totaled 10 quarterback hits and forced a fumble. Hagan led the charge with nine total tackles and a forced fumble, along with two pass breakups. Redshirt junior linebacker Evan Croutch followed up with eight tackles and redshirt senior linebacker Chad Moore had four tackles, including two tackles for loss.
"I missed two games last time we played," Brown said. "It actually motivated me. I give a lot of props to the O-Line as well, because they did a tremendous job blocking and making it easy for me to run the ball. It was very important [to go out on a high note]. A.J. [Ouellette] wasn't feeling so well in the first quarter, so I had to step up and take my role."
The Bobcats opened the game on fire, taking the ball 75 yards on 11 plays down the field. The drive was capped off by a two-yard touchdown pass from Rourke to DL Knock, putting Ohio up 7-0. During the drive, Rourke caught a 15-yard pass from Andrew Meyer on a reverse. Then two plays later, Rourke took off for an 18-yard gain.
After a defensive stop on UAB's first drive of the game, Ohio went back to work. White returned the punt for 23 yards to the Ohio 30-yard line. The Bobcats would strike again when Rourke found White in the middle of the field, resulting in a 56-yard touchdown. After Louie Zervos missed the extra point, Ohio would lead 13-0 with 3:40 left in the first quarter. During the drive. Ouellette surpassed the 1,000-yard mark on the season.
On UAB's next drive, the Blazers would drive down the field and attempt a 47- yard field goal, which the Ohio defense would block.
Later in the second quarter, Ohio struck again. With the Bobcats on their own 26-yard line to start the drive, Dorian Brown rushed along the sideline and take off untouched for the 74-yard score. After Zervos hit the extra point, the Bobcats went up 20-0 lead.
UAB finally got on the board later in the quarter when the Blazers put together a six play, 55-yard drive that was capped off with a 34-yard field goal from Nick Vogel, cutting Ohio's lead to 20-3.
However, the Bobcats responded immediately during the next drive. With the Bobcats starting on their 31-yard line, the Bobcats would get a first down on a 12-yard reception from Meyer. White would then register a 14-yard reception, followed by a 13-yard catch from Ouellette, setting the Bobcats up in the redzone. The nine play, 63-yard drive would be capped off by a nine-yard touchdown from Brown. Zervos hit the next extra point, putting Ohio up 27-3 going into the half.
At the half, Rourke was 8-for-11 with 112 yards with two touchdowns. Brown added 79 yards and two touchdowns on four carries, while Rourke has 30 yards on three carries and Ouellette recorded 26 yards on eight carries. In the air, White led Ohio with 79-yards and a touchdown on three catches.
As a team, Ohio had 272 total yards, with 127 passing yards and 145 yards on the ground.
UAB opened the third quarter with an 11 play 83-yard drive that was capped off with a 25-yard field goal from Vogel to cut the lead to 27-6.
On the Blazers' next drive, the Ohio defense forced a three-and-out. On the punt, Kylan Nelson got the ball on the Ohio 41-yard line and return it 34-yards to set the Bobcats up on the UAB 25-yard line. Then on the very first play, Brown would take it to the house for his third touchdown of the game, giving Ohio the 34-6 lead.
After forcing UAB to another three-and-out, the Bobcats would take over on their own 32-yard line. Ohio would then string together a six play 6-7-yard drive. During the drive, Rourke would complete a 24-yard pass to Troy Mangen setting up Brown's fourth touchdown of the day, a 14-yard scamper into the end zone. After Zervos hit the extra point, the Bobcats led 41-6.
"It was great to see so many people make the trip down," Rourke said. "All the chants that they make feel like we were at home even though we were down here. It goes to show the support that this program has, and that's why we're so successful is the support from our alumni, fans, parents and families. Them being here has made this experience so much more special."
Stay tuned to OhioBobcats.com for updates on recruiting and spring ball.