Ohio Game Notes (PDF)
ATHENS, Ohio -- The Ohio football team (2-2, 0-0 MAC) opens up the Mid-American Conference portion of its 2018 schedule this Saturday (Oct. 6), visiting Kent State (1-4, 0-1 MAC) in an East Division showdown at Dix Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 3:30 p.m.
Saturday's contest will be broadcast live on ESPN+. Michael Reghi and JeRod Cherry 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.
• The Bobcats closed out their non-conference schedule with a 58-42 triumph over UMass last Saturday (Sept. 29) at Peden Stadium. Ohio exploded for a program-record 664 yards en route to the win. The Bobcats did the bulk of their damage via the ground game, racking up 394 rushing yards.
• Ohio dropped a 34-30 heartbreaker to in-state foe Cincinnati on Sept 22 at Nippert Stadium. The Bobcats raced out to a 21-0 lead and led 24-7 at the half, but the Bearcats clawed back with 27 second-half points to earn the comeback victory.
• The loss to Cincinnati marked Ohio's second-straight defeat away from Athens. Ohio lost to Virginia, 45-31, on Sept. 15 at Vanderbilt Stadium in Nashville, Tenn. The Bobcats battled back from a 35-7 second-quarter deficit to make it a 10-point game with just over nine minutes to play in the third quarter but could not quite complete the comeback. Virginia piled up 552 yards of total offense.
• The Bobcats opened the 2018 season with a 38-32 victory over Howard on Sept. 1 at Peden Stadium. Ohio outscored the Bison, 21-10 in the second half en route to the win.
• Ohio is coming off of a 2017 campaign in which it went 9-4 overall and finished second in the Mid-American Conference East Division with a 5-3 mark in league play.
• The 2017 season saw Ohio earn bowl eligibility for the ninth-straight season and make its eighth bowl appearance during that span. The Bobcats ended the year on a high note, rolling to a 41-6 triumph over UAB in the Bahamas Bowl.
• Frank Solich is back on the Ohio sidelines as head coach for a 14th season in 2018. The Bobcats have gone 99-73 (.576) during Solich's tenure -- including 64-40 (.615) in MAC play. One more victory will put Solich 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. Solich has guided Ohio to four MAC East Division titles (2006, '09, '11, '16) and three bowl victories in nine appearances.
• Ohio was tabbed MAC favorite in the league's preseason media poll, which was announced in late July. The Bobcats were picked first in the East Division with a league-best 140 total points. Ohio was also selected to win the 2018 Marathon MAC Football Championship Game, which will be held at Ford Field on Friday, Nov. 30 at 7 p.m. The contest will be televised nationally on ESPN2.
Quarterback Nathan Rourke (Oakville, Ontario, Canada) 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 51 of his 90 pass attempts for 694 yards and six touchdowns with two interceptions. He has run for 326 yards and two touchdowns over the last three 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, who entered his junior season with his name appearing on the Manning, Maxwell and O'Brien award watch lists, currently ranks seventh in program history with 23 career rushing touchdowns and ranks sixth in program history with 23 career passing touchdowns.
AIR CANADA (WITH GROUND SUPPORT)
Quarterback Nathan Rourke (Oakville, Ontario, Canada) 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 Maleek Irons (Chilliwack, British Columbia, Canada) scored a pair of one-yard touchdown runs in Ohio's loss to Virginia. 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 Saturday's victory over UMass, Irons rumbled for a career-high 140 yards and matched his career high with two rushing touchdowns on 13 carries.
Through four games in 2018, Irons ranks second 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.
Redshirt senior wide receiver Papi White (Seminole, Okla.) 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.
Through five weeks of the 2018 season, White ranks 17th in the NCAA with 98 receiving yards per game. In Saturday's win over UMass, he caught six passes for 84 yards and set a new career high with two touchdown receptions.
KEEPING IT 100
Redshirt sophomore wide receiver Cameron Odom (Bedford, Ohio) 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, with the streak ending last Saturday against UMass.
FIRST THING'S FIRST
In the loss to Virginia, redshirt freshman wide receiver Isiah Cox (Jasper, Ala.) caught his first career pass, which went for 36 yards and a touchdown. Freshman wide receiver Jerome Buckner (Columbus, Ohio) also hauled in his first two career receptions and finished the game with 44 receiving yards.
FINDING THE END ZONE
Redshirt senior running back A.J. Ouellette (Covington, Ohio) scored his first touchdown of the 2018 at Cincinnati, running into the end zone from nine yards out. In last Saturday's win over UMass, he raced 49 yards for a touchdown on Ohio's first drive of the second half. He has now scored 22 rushing touchdowns in his Ohio career, which ranks as the seventh-most in program history.
Ouellette, who ranks third on the team with 234 rushing yards on 64 carries through four games, has moved up into seventh place in school history with 2,712 rushing yards. He needs 115 more yards to pass Chad Brinker (2,826 yards; 1999-02) to move into sixth place. His 570 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.
Ohio's defense has produced nine takeaways through the first four games of the 2018 season.
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.
Sophomore cornerback Jamal Hudson (Miami, Fla.) recorded his first career interceptions last Saturday at Cincinnati, picking off the Bearcats' redshirt freshman quarterback Desmond Ridder in the first quarter.
Redshirt defensive lineman Chukwudi Chukwu (Willingboro, N.J.) 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 (Loveland, Ohio) at the Virginia 29 yard line. In the fourth quarter, redshirt senior cornerback Cameron Gunnels (Cincinnati, Ohio) 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 (Lexington, Ky.) came up with the first big play of the year for the Ohio defense, forcing a fumble that redshirt senior cornerback Jalen Fox (Cincinnati, Ohio) recovered. In the second quarter, redshirt sophomore safety Jarren Hampton (Fostoria, Ohio) forced a fumble that sophomore cornerback Marlin Brooks (Miami, Fla.) recovered. Senior linebacker Evan Croutch (Youngstown, Ohio) 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 (Centerville, Ohio) came up with his first career interception to seal the victory for Ohio.
Redshirt junior safety Javon Hagan (Jacksonville, Fla.) sealed last Saturday's win over UMass with a fourth-quarter interception.
Redshirt junior kicker/punter Michael Farkas (Mishawaka, Ind.) 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 (Loveland, Ohio).
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. Last Saturday 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.
Farkas ranks sixth in program history in career punting yards with 6,046.
JUST FOR KICKS
Redshirt junior kicker Louie Zervos (Tarpon Springs, Fla.) 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 last Saturday's victory over UMass. He is now 8-for-9 (88.9 percent) on the season and has made all 18 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, joining Matt Weller (120; 2009-12) and Kevin Kerr (115; 1999-02).
SCOUTING KENT STATE
Saturday will mark the 71st meeting between Ohio and Kent State, with the Bobcats leading the all-time series, 43-25-2. The Bobcats are 8-5 against the Golden Flashes in the Frank Solich era and have won the last four meetings -- including a 48-3 romp in the last meeting between the two squads on Oct. 21 at Peden Stadium. Quarterback Nathan Rourke (Oakville, Ontario, Canada) threw for 132 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 59 yards and another score. Running back A.J. Ouellette (Covington, Ohio) rumbled for 91 yards on 11 carries and scored a touchdown.
Kent State is led by first-year head coach Sean Lewis. The Golden Flashes have lost three in a row and opened up MAC play with a 52-24 setback at Ball State last Saturday.
Sophomore quarterback Woody Barrett has thrown for 1,140 yards with five touchdowns and five interceptions. He has also picked up 161 yards on the ground and scored three rushing touchdowns. Junior running back Justin Rankin leads the team with 338 rushing yards and is tied with Barrett and junior running back Jo-El Shaw for the team lead with three rushing touchdowns. Junior wide receiver Mike Carrigan is Kent State's top receiving threat with 290 yards and two touchdowns.
Defensively, fifth-year linebacker Matt Bahr leads Kent State with 53 total tackles (29 solo, 24 assisted) and 4.5 tackles for loss. Senior defensive end Theo Eboigbe has tallied a team-high two sacks for the Golden Flashes while junior cornerback Jamal Parker has come up with a team-high two interceptions.
Ohio plays its second-straight road game to open up MAC play, visiting DeKalb, Ill., on Saturday, Oct. 13 for a 3:30 p.m. matchup against West Division foe Northern Illinois.