ATHENS, Ohio -- Redshirt senior running back A.J. Ouellette (Covington, Ohio) rumbled for a career-high 196 yards and two touchdowns on 26 carries and also caught a touchdown to pave the way to a 52-17 blowout win for the Ohio football team (7-4, 5-2 MAC) over Mid-American Conference East Division rival Buffalo (9-2, 6-1 MAC) tonight at Peden Stadium.
The Bobcats kept their hopes of a MAC East Division title alive heading into the final week of the 2018 regular season.
"It's a great feeling," said 14th-year head coach Frank Solich. "These guys deserve this kind of a win. They've played hard all year; practiced hard all year long. I really love the way they prepared, but sometimes, we get off to slow starts. Sometimes we didn't play the first quarter. Sometimes that went into the second quarter. When we've put together four quarters of football we're a really good football team. It was good to show that."
Ohio piled up 646 total yards -- including a season-high 437 on the ground -- and dominated the time of possession, 43:42-16:18. In addition to Ouellette's big night, redshirt senior running back Maleek Irons (Chilliwack, British Columbia, Canada) rushed for 92 yards and a touchdown on 12 touches. Junior quarterback Nathan Rourke (Oakville, Ontario, Canada) accumulated 77 yards and a touchdown on the ground on seven rushes. Rourke also went 17-of-26 for 209 yards, three touchdowns and one interception through the air. Redshirt senior wide receiver Papi White (Seminole, Okla.) hauled in eight receptions for 84 yards and a touchdown.
The Bobcats also came up big on defense, limiting Buffalo to 277 total yards -- including just 172 through the air -- and forcing four turnovers. Redshirt senior safety Kylan Nelson (Lexington, Ky.) intercepted a pass and forced a fumble that was recovered by redshirt junior safety Javon Hagan (Jacksonville, Fla.). Redshirt sophomore safety Jarren Hampton (Fostoria, Ohio) and redshirt freshman cornerback Tariq Drake (Leavittsburg, Ohio) also came away with interceptions. Senior linebacker Evan Croutch (Youngstown, Ohio) led the team with five total tackles (two solo, three assisted).
Buffalo landed the first blow on the opening drive of the contest. A 48-yard completion from junior quarterback Tyree Jackson to Johnson on 3rd-and-2 gave the Bulls a first down at the Ohio 19. After runs of nine yards and six yards by freshman running back Jaret Patterson, Jackson kept it himself two plays later for a four-yard touchdown.
Ohio evened the score on the ensuing drive. The Bobcats moved 75 yards in 12 plays. Ouellette picked up 39 yards on the ground, and Rourke completed two passes of eight yards to White to help put the ball on the Buffalo 14. A nine-yard run by Rourke set the stage for a two-yard touchdown run by Irons two plays later.
On Buffalo's second drive, an ineligible man downfield penalty negated a 25-yard completion from Jackson to junior wide receiver K.J. Osborn. Two plays later, Nelson picked off Jackson to give Ohio the ball back at its own 34.
The Bobcats then turned the Buffalo turnover into points. Ouellette got the ball on the first four plays of the drive, picking up 50 yards -- including a scamper for 31 yards on the first play. After completing a five-yard pass to redshirt sophomore wide receiver Cameron Odom (Bedford, Ohio), Rourke tucked it and kept it himself on the next two plays, picking up nine yards and then two more, with the latter resulting in a touchdown that put Ohio in front.
After forcing Buffalo to punt, Rourke threw a 60-yard touchdown pass to freshman wide receiver Jerome Buckner (Columbus, Ohio) on 3rd-and-15, helping the Bobcats extend their lead to 21-7 with just under 14 minutes to play in the first half.
Ohio's defense then forced another turnover as Hampton picked off Jackson on the third play of Buffalo's next drive and returned the ball 12 yards to set up shop for the Bobcats' offense at the Bulls' 27. Ohio extended its lead to 24-7 with 10:29 to go when redshirt junior kicker Louie Zervos (Tarpon Springs, Fla.) connected on a 22-yard field goal attempt.
The Bobcats came away with another turnover on Buffalo's ensuing drive. On a 2nd-and-21 from his own 41, Jackson ripped off a 55-yard run down the sideline, but Hagan ran him down and jarred the ball free and wound up recovering for the Bobcats at the four.
Ohio then marched 96 yards in 13 plays and just over six minutes. A 42-yard run by Rourke put the Bobcats at the Bulls' 15. Rourke completed passes of 12 yards to redshirt senior wide receiver Andrew Meyer (Canal Winchester, Ohio), eight to Ouellette, five to White and another for eight to White, setting the table for an eight-yard touchdown run by Ouellette that helped the Ohio lead swell to 31-7.
The Bulls capped off a six-play, 46-yard drive to end the first half with a 40-yard field goal by senior kicker Adam Mitcheson as time expired, sending the Bobcats into halftime holding a 21-point lead.
Ohio drove right back down the field on the opening drive of the second half. Rourke completed passes of 17 yards to White and 18 yards to Meyer, then he and Ouellette combined to gain 22 yards on the ground to move the ball to the Buffalo eight. Rourke then threw an eight yard touchdown to pass to Ouellette to cap off the 10-play, 75-yard drive.
After the Bulls went three-and-out on their first drive of the half, Rourke capped off a five-play, 47-yard drive by throwing a 27-yard scoring strike to White to make it 45-10 in favor of the Bobcats.
The Bulls scored their second touchdown of the game with just over 13 minutes to play as redshirt freshman running back Kevin Mark punctuated a nine-play, 91-yard drive with a 13-yard touchdown run.
Fittingly, Ouellette accounted for the final touchdown of the night, racing 33 yards into the end zone to conclude a seven-play, 70-yard drive and make the score final.
Jackson finished the night 9-of-21 for 116 yards and two interceptions while adding a team-high 70 yards and a touchdown on three rushes for Buffalo. Senior wide receiver Anthony Johnson caught six passes for a game-high 95 yards. Defensively, the Bulls were led by senior safety Brandon Williams and senior linebacker Khalil Hodge, who each recorded 11 total tackles. Sophomore defensive end Taylor Riggins and sophomore defensive tackle Chibueze Onwuka each tallied sacks.
Ohio will close out the 2018 regular season by playing host to MAC East Division rival Akron in a nationally televised matchup on CBS Sports Network on Friday, Nov. 23. Kickoff of the Senior Day matchup is slated for noon at Peden Stadium. Click here for ticket information or call 1-800-575-CATS (2287).