DEKALB, Ill. -- Redshirt freshman wide receiver Isiah Cox (Jasper, Ala.) racked up a career-high 147 receiving yards and scored a career-long 56-yard touchdown, but the Ohio football team (3-3, 1-1 MAC) fell to host Northern Illinois, 24-21, today at Huskie Stadium as the Huskies scored 15 unanswered points in the fourth quarter.
The Bobcats suffered their first conference loss of the 2018 season and first loss in DeKalb since a 23-20 overtime setback on Oct. 4, 2003.
Junior quarterback Nathan Rourke (Oakville, Ontario, Canada) completed 15 of 23 passes for 275 yards with two touchdowns but also threw an interception, lost a fumble and was sacked four times in the loss. Cox set his career high for receiving yards on just three receptions. The Bobcats were limited to just 46 yards on the ground, with redshirt senior running back Maleek Irons (Chilliwack, British Columbia, Canada) leading the way with 30 yards on 11 carries.
Redshirt sophomore quaterback Marcus Childers went 17-of-33 for 145 yards but did the bulk of his damage on the ground, rushing for a game-high 169 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries to lead the Huskies to the win.
Starting its second drive of the game in the shadow of its own end zone, Northern Illinois marched 77 yards in 16 plays and 5:42 but was forced to settle for a 36-yard field goal by redshirt senior kicker Andrew Gantz. The Huskies were kept out of the end zone as Childers' pass intended for redshirt senior wide receiver Jauan Wesley on 3rd-and-13 was broken up by redshirt senior strong safety Kylan Nelson (Lexington, Ky.).
The Huskies led 3-0 after the first quarter, but Rourke moved the Bobcats 92 yards in nine plays on Ohio's first drive of the second quarter. He connected with Cox for a 70-yard pass to put the ball on Northern Illinois 15. Two pass interference penalties on the Huskies on two 3rd-and-goal situations helped Ohio keep the drive alive. The Bobcats then capped off their longest scoring drive of the season when Rourke pitched to redshirt senior running back A.J. Ouellette (Covington, Ohio), who scored from two yards out on 2nd-and-goal.
Northern Illinois answered right back on the ensuing drive. Childers completed a 15-yard pass to Wesley on 3rd-and-9 from the Huskies' 27, then scampered 30 yards down the sideline two plays later. That set up a 28-yard touchdown run by senior wide receiver D.J. Brown that put the Huskies back in front. Northern Illinois was forced to settle for a 9-7 lead, however, as a fumbled snap caused the extra point attempt to fail.
Ohio turned the ball over on its first two drives of the second half, but the Huskies could not take advantage of the turnovers, punting on both of the subsequent drives.
On the first play of Ohio's third drive of the third quarter, Rourke completed a 20-yard pass to redshirt sophomore wide receiver Cameron Odom (Bedford, Ohio). Fifteen more yards were tacked on to the end of the play as redshirt junior safety Trayson Foster was flagged for targeting and subsequently ejected from the game Three plays later, Rourke threw a 56-yard touchdown pass to Cox on 3rd-and-16 to put Ohio back in front.
After forcing Northern Illinois to punt it away again, Ohio marched 90 yards in 11 plays. The Bobcats were aided by Northern Illinois being penalized three times for 45 yards on the drive, helping Ohio move the ball to the Huskies' 45. Rourke completed a 12-yard pass to redshirt senior wide receiver Papi White (Seminole, Okla). Runs of seven yards and two yards by redshirt senior running back Maleek Irons (Chilliwack, British Columbia, Canada) set up a 3rd-and-1 from the six. A delay of game penalty moved the Bobcats back five yards, but Rourke found redshirt senior tight end Connor Brown (Miamisburg, Ohio) for an 11-yard touchdown, helping extend the Ohio lead to 21-9 after three quarters of play. The touchdown reception marked the first of Brown's career.
Northern Illinois trimmed the Bobcats' lead to five with 10:38 to play, moving 77 yards in 12 plays on the opening drive of the fourth quarter. A pass interference penalty on Ohio set the Huskies up with a first down at the Bobcats' 11. Two plays later, Childers tucked it and ran for a 10-yard touchdown.
Ohio's next drive began with promise, as Irons reeled off a 23-yard run and Rourke completed a 21-yard pass to White and then scampered for a 13-yard gain two plays later to put the ball on the Northern Illinois 40. The tide of the contest turned two plays later, though, as redshirt junior defensive end Sutton Smith produced a strip sack of Rourke and recovered the fumble to give the Huskies the ball.
Childers opened the ensuing drive with a 21-yard completion to Wesley and ran for 20 yards to move the ball to the Ohio 40. A pass interference penalty on the Bobcats on 3rd-and-six gave Northern Illinois a fresh set of downs at the Ohio two, and redshirt junior tailback Marcus Jones scored on the next play to give the Huskies the lead. Northern Illinois then converted on a two-point try that saw redshirt senior offensive tackle Max Scharping score and make it a 24-21 for the home team.
The Bobcats got the ball back with 4:51 to go but were forced to punt. Northern Illinois was then able to run the clock out, with a 32-yard run by Childers on 3rd-and-seven effectively ending the game.
Ohio will look to bounce back next weekend when it returns to Peden Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 20, to welcome MAC East Division rival Bowling Green for a Homecoming showdown. Kickoff is slated for 2 p.m., and the contest will be streamed live on ESPN3.