ATHENS, Ohio—Behind six touchdowns from sophomore quarterback Nathan Rourke, Ohio defeated arch-rival Miami 45-28 in the 94th meeting of the "Battle of the Bricks" on Tuesday night at Peden Stadium in front of 18,096.
Rourke accounted for all of the Bobcats touchdowns on the night, three coming on the ground and three through the air.
The three rushing touchdowns from Rourke increased his season total to 16, the most ever by a quarterback in a single-season in Ohio history. The single-season record of 19 is held by Kalvin McRae, a Bobcat hall of famer, and Rourke is now second in the country in rushing touchdowns.
Rourke finished with 54 rushing yards and 21 of 33 for 294 yards passing, a career-high.
"Obviously, we've had some pretty good quarterbacks," head coach Frank Solich said. "Tyler Tettleton was a productive quarterback for us, he did a lot on the ground and also in the air. He was a great guy, and Nathan I think has all those attributes and is capable of really being a copper lined quarterback, and I think his statistics are showing that. He might lead the country in rushing touchdowns [he's one off] He's right there. [most total touchdowns] he's getting some huge things accomplished."
The win improves the Bobcats' record to 7-2 on the year and 4-1 in the Mid-American Conference.
Overall, Ohio finished with 443 total yards of offense. Redshirt junior running back A.J. Ouellette ran for 80 yards on 20 carries while redshirt senior wide receiver Brendan Cope finished with 5 receptions for 89 yards and a touchdown to lead the Bobcats receiving corps.
With over 40 points for the sixth time in 2017, the Bobcats tied a record dating back to 1968.
As a defense, the Bobcats were able to hold Miami to just 98 yards of rushing. Redshirt senior linebacker Quentin Poling finished with 10 tackles, including one for loss, and took over as the program's all-time leader in solo tackles. Redshirt senior linebacker Chad Moore contributed nine total tackles, including two pass breakups and hit the quarterback once.
Ohio won the turnover battle, as redshirt sophomore safety Javon Hagan and redshirt junior cornerback Jalen Fox each came down with an interception. Ohio didn't turn the ball over once and turned the two turnovers into 14 points.
"That was Jalen making a play. Every quarterback has his quirks that make him what he is, and if you study enough film you can pick these things up. Jalen has really gotten better, and our coaches have worked hard to coach our guys well enough to catch any quirks."
The Bobcats jumped out to an early 14-0 lead in the first quarter.
On the opening drive of the game, Ohio drove the ball 75 yards down the field in nine plays over a 4:46 stretch. Ohio tallied 54 rushing yards on the drive, as Rourke capped the drive off by keeping it himself on a speed option for a three-yard touchdown run.
The Bobcats got the ball back quickly as Hagan's interception came on the first drive of the game for Miami's offense. Following the interception, Rourke hit redshirt senior tight end Troy Mangen for a 39-yard pickup off of a reverse flea-flicker and connected with Cope for a 40-yard touchdown pass the next play.
Miami responded with two of its own touchdowns to end the quarter, leading to a tie game at the end of the first quarter.
It marked the most points scored by Ohio in the opening frame this season and the most points the Bobcats had allowed in an opening frame in 2017.
In the second quarter, Fox intercepted Miami quarterback Billy Bahl at the RedHawks' 29-yard line and returned it to their four-yard line. It took Ohio just two plays to punch it in, again on a Rourke speed option keeper, putting the Bobcats on top 21-14.
They would go on to stretch their lead to 14 points later in the quarter when Ohio put together another lengthy drive, this one over a five-minute stretch and spanning 83 yards. Rourke found redshirt junior wide receiver Papi White in the back of the end zone for a 14-yard touchdown pass.
With 17 seconds left in the first half, Bahl connected with wide receiver James Gardner for a three-yard touchdown. It would be one of Gardner's three touchdown catches on the night.
Headed to halftime, the Bobcats led 28-21.
The Bobcats outscored Miami 17-7 in the second half. Early in the third quarter, the two teams exchanged punts for four series until Miami got on the board and tied the game at 28-28. The RedHawks put together their longest drive of the game, 10 plays over 95 yards. Bahl consistently hit Gardner, as the two connected for 38 yards of the drive including the touchdown to tie the game. After that drive, Miami wouldn't score a point the rest of the game.
Ohio responded right back, as Rourke passed for 38 yards, including an 11-yard touchdown strike to redshirt senior wide receiver Jerrid Marhefka. Rourke scored once more in the second half, punching it in himself in the fourth, a one-yard run, to give the Bobcats a 42-28 lead. Ohio's third and final score of the second half came on a 36-yard field goal by redshirt sophomore kicker Louie Zervos.
"We got off to a fast start, that's another thing that we talked about trying to play the four quarters and not have it be a slow start for us, and I thought we did. We went out there [with a] fast start, then we slowed down. I'm proud of what they accomplished, I thought the defense played better as the game went on. I thought the offense put together a lot of drives."
Ohio will host Toledo in its final home game of the season on Nov. 8. Kickoff will be announced on Friday after television selection is complete.