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Ohio Football Suffers Tough Loss at Marshall in Battle for the Bell

Ohio Football Suffers Tough Loss at Marshall in Battle for the Bell

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HUNTINGTON, W. Va. -- Senior quarterback Nathan Rourke (Oakville, Ontario, Canada) threw for three touchdowns and 215 yards and ran for 118 yards and another score, but the Ohio football team (1-1) suffered a tough 33-31 loss to host Marshall (2-1) in a Battle for the Bell matchup tonight at Joan C. Edwards Stadium.

Ohio suffered its first loss to Marshall since a 44-14 defeat the hands of the Thundering Herd on Sept. 13, 2014, in the program's last trip to Huntington.

The Bobcats were outgained by the Thundering Herd, 511-438, including 305-223 on the ground.

"Marshall is a good offensive football team, big upfront," said 15th-year head coach Frank Solich. "They've got good backs. They've got a downhill type of running attack. The second half I thought we played much better, but there were crucial times in the second half too that they were able to gash us." 

Rourke's three touchdown passes and one rushing touchdown brought him to 84 career touchdowns responsible for, breaking the previous school record of 82 set by former quarterback Tyler Tettleton (2009-13). The contest marked the eighth time he was responsible for at least four touchdowns in a game. He threw for multiple touchdowns in a game for the 14th time in his career and tallied at least three passing touchdowns for the sixth time. His 45 career passing touchdowns rank rank second in program history while his 38 career rushing touchdowns rank third. The contest marked just the second time in his career that he threw for at least 200 yards and ran for at least 100 more. He passed Anthony Thornton (5,199; 1987-90) for the third-most career passing yards with 5,217.

"I think there is some good to take out of this, but I think we have to get started quicker," said Rourke. "Our special teams put us in some really good situations early, and we didn't take advantage of them. That's something that we still have to work on. It seemed like we were taking a long time to get going on offense, and that puts our defense in a tough spot when they're playing from behind. We have to be better at that. It was good to get a rhythm going, but we need to win games."

On the opening drive of the contest, Marshall redshirt sophomore quarterback Isaiah Green completed a 15-yard pass to redshirt freshman wide receiver Corey Gammage, then hit redshirt senior wide receiver Tavin Richardson for a gain of 29 yards. Redshirt junior tight end Xavier Gaines then checked in at quarterback, took the snap and raced 26 yards into the end zone to give the Thundering Herd the early lead.

The Bobcats and the Thundering Herd traded punts, with Ohio redshirt freshman Jerome Buckner (Columbus, Ohio) returning the punt by Marshall redshirt junior Robert LeFevre 19 yards. A personal foul by the Thundering Herd that was tacked on to the end of the play gave the Bobcats 15 more yards and put the ball on Marshall's 33 yard line. The Bobcats were unable to pick up a first down on the ensuing drive, but redshirt senior kicker Louie Zervos (Tarpon Springs, Fla.) converted a season-long 44-yard field goal attempt to make it a 7-3 score with just under eight minutes to go in the first quarter.

Marshall countered with a 10-play, 54-yard scoring drive that was highlighted by a 24-yard run by Gaines. The drive stalled out at the Ohio 21, though, forcing the Thundering Herd to settle for a 38-yard field goal by redshirt senior kicker Justin Rohrwasser that made it a seven-point lead again for Marshall. 

The Bobcats tied the game less than a minute into the second quarter with a 20-yard touchdown pass on a 3rd-and-4 from Rourke to redshirt freshman wide receiver Shane Hooks that capped off an eight-play, 59-yard drive. Hooks' first career touchdown reception was set up by five-straight runs by redshirt freshman running back O'Shaan Allison (Norristown, Pa.) that netted 33 yards, including a long run of 19 yards.

The Thundering Herd answered with a 10-play, 69-yard drive that ended with a two-yard touchdown by redshirt sophomore running back Brenden Knox, who picked up 52 yards on the ground on the scoring march.

The back-and-forth battle continued on Ohio's next drive. Junior running back De'Montre Tuggle (Channelview, Texas) recorded back-to-back runs of nine yards, then Rourke completed a pass to redshirt junior tight end Ryan Luehrman (Athens, Ohio), who picked up a career-long 36 yards on the play. On 3rd-and-7, Rourke found Tuggle out of the backfield, who raced to the pylon for an 18-yard touchdown reception and tied the game again. The receiving touchdown marked his first as a Bobcat and his fourth total touchdown in three games.

Marshall retook the lead on the next drive, ending a seven-play, 75-yard march with Green throwing a 22-yard touchdown pass to redshirt sophomore tight end Devin Miller. 

After forcing Ohio to punt on the next drive, the Thundering Herd extended its lead to 27-17 with 54 seconds left in the half, moving 45 yards in seven plays. Knox set up a 37-yard field goal by Rohrwasser by picking up 27 yards on the ground on the first play of the drive.

On the ensuing drive. Rourke completed passes of 12 yards to redshirt sophomore wide receiver Isiah Cox (Jasper, Ala.) and 32 yards to Buckner to set Zervos up with a 43-yard field goal attempt with one second left. His try went wide left, though, sending the Thundering Herd into halftime holding 10-point lead over the Bobcats.

Ohio and Marshall traded punts on the first two drives of the second half. On their second drive, the Bobcats drove to the Marshall 7 after Rourke completed a 14-pass to Luehrman, kept it himself and ran for a gain of 22 and completed a 22-yard pass to Cox. That set the stage for a seven-yard scoring strike to Luehrman, pulling the Bobcats to within three points of the Thundering Herd. The touchdown marked Luehrman's second of both his career and season. He finished the contest with a career-high four receptions and 60 receiving yards.

With 11:14 remaining in the contest, Rourke ripped off a 72-yard run for a touchdown to put the Bobcats in the lead, 31-27.

Unfortunately for Ohio, the advantage on the scoreboard did not last long. Marshall drove 75 yards in seven plays, with the march ending in Green connecting with Gaines for a 43-yard touchdown pass to put the Thundering Herd back in front.

Ohio got the ball back with 7:45 to play. Rourke completed a 10-yard pass to Tuggle on 3rd-and-8 to move the chains, but the drive stalled and the Bobcats were forced to punt the ball back to Marshall. The Thundering Herd then sealed the victory by driving to the Ohio two-yard line and kneeling down twice to run the clock out and end the game.

For Marshall, Green finished 17-of-28 for 206 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for 50. Knox led all rushers with 133 yards and a touchdown.

Defensively, four Bobcats finished with double-digit tackles. Redshirt senior safety Javon Hagan (Jacksonville, Fla.) led the way with total tackles while redshirt junior safety Jarren Hampton (Fostoria, Ohio), redshirt junior linebacker Dylan Conner (Fort Wayne, Ind.) and redshirt junior linebacker Jared Dorsa (Kings Mills, Ohio) all recorded 11.

Ohio closes out its 2019 non-conference schedule when it hosts Louisiana next Saturday (Sept. 21) in a Parents Day weekend contest at Peden Stadium. Kickoff is set for 2 p.m. ET. The game will be broadcast live on ESPN+ as well as on the radio on the Ohio Sports Network from Learfield IMG College.

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