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Bobcats win shootout over Minutemen, 58-50

Rourke passes for 181 yards, runs for 113 yards

AMHERST, Mass. – Nathan Rourke accounted for 294 yards and two touchdowns to lead Ohio to a shootout win over UMass, 58-50, on Saturday at McGuirk Alumni Stadium.

Rourke threw two touchdown passes and rushed for 113 yards and two touchdowns, while A.J. Ouellette carried for 125 yards on just 12 carries as the Bobcats racked up 292 yards rushing and coach Frank Solich earned his 150th career win.

Andrew Ford was 32-of-54 passing for 390 yards and five touchdowns with an interception, but it was not enough for the Minutemen to pick up their first win of the season. Tight end Adam Breneman had 12 catches for 131 yards and two scores.

Ohio’s defense did not get many stops, but the Bobcats kept UMass off the board the first three possessions of the second half to build a lead after the game was tied at 27 at the break.

Rourke connected with Brendan Cope for a 48-yard gain on the first play from scrimmage in the second half, and that helped set up a 5-yard Ouellette touchdown run. After a Minutemen punt, Rourke orchestrated another touchdown drive, completing a 15-yard pass to Cope on a third-and-10 and then throwing to Ouellette on a swing pass that went for a 12-yard score to make it 41-27.

After another UMass punt, Ohio had a chance to pull away, but a snap over Rourke’s head resulted in a safety. The Bobcats came through on defense by stopping the Minutemen with an incomplete pass on fourth-and-11 from the Bobcats 25-yard line. Ouellette broke a 60-yard run on the next play, and Dorian Brown scored on the next snap on a 15-yard run to give the Bobcats their biggest lead, 48-29, with 13:41 remaining.

"Our offense is just experienced,” Ouellette said. “Whatever teams are going to throw at us we have an answer for. Every single one of big runs, our offensive line stepped up. We're just doing our job and executing."

Ford helped the Minutemen stay in it, though. They converted a fourth-and-1 with a roughing the passer penalty and scored a touchdown on a 19-yard pass from Ford to Marquis Young on fourth-and-6. The two-point conversion try failed, leaving the score at 48-35.

Louie Zervos’ 34-yard field goal with 6:10 remaining extended Ohio’s lead to 51-35, but UMass came back to lead a 74-yard touchdown drive that included a fourth-and-10 conversion pass to Breneman. Ford threw a 14-yard touchdown pass to Jessie Britt with 3:22 remaining, and Ford’s conversion pass to Andy Isabella made it a one-score gam, 51-43.

Cope recovered UMass’s onside kick try, and with 1:51 remaining, Ohio faced a third-and-5 at the UMass 42. Dorian Brown broke a tackle and took it to the end zone to push the advantage back to two scores, 58-43. The Minutemen scored one more time on a 16-yard Ford pass to Brennon Dingle with 11 seconds left, but Cope again recovered the onside kick attempt.

UMass threatened to take command early, but special teams and turnovers turned the game in Ohio’s favor. After the Bobcats held the Minutemen to a 35-yard Logan Laurent field goal that made it 13-6, the Bobcats moved in front by taking advantage of Julian Ross’ 67-yard kick return. Cope caught a 16-yard touchdown pass to put the Bobcats ahead 14-13.

On UMass’ ensuing possession, Ford completed a short pass to Andy Isabella, who lost control. The ball went straight up in the air and came down into the arms of defensive lineman Andrew Payne. Two plays later, Rourke scored on a 17-yard touchdown run to make it 21-13.

One of Ford’s few mistakes happened on the following third down on a pass intended for Breneman. While under pressure, Ford seemed to guess wrong on where his top target pressure would be and instead threw right to linebacker Chad Moore, who returned the ball to the UMass 7-yard line. The Minutemen were fortunate to hold the Bobcats to a 25-yard Zervos field goal.

Then it was UMass’ turn on special teams. Young returned the ensuing kickoff 81 yards and barely was tripped up just short of the end zone. It was no matter. Ford threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to Breneman on the next play.

The Minutemen defense then came up with a rare stop, and the offense converted two third downs on another touchdown drive, including a third-and-8 that went for a 30-yard score from Ford to Dingle to rally UMass back into the lead, 27-24. Zervos knotted the game at 27 before the break with a 23-yard Zervos field goal.

Laurent’s 24-yard field goal on the game’s opening possession had UMass in the lead early. Rourke scored on a 5-yard touchdown run, and the Minutemen answered with a 2-yard touchdown run by backup quarterback Ross Comis, who played only one possession.

Cope finished with seven catches for 126 yards. Ouellette had three receptions for 26 yards. The rest of the team combined for three catches for only 29 yards.

UMass spread the ball around. After Brenneman, Britt had five catches for 70 yards, Dingle made four grabs for 59 yards, and Sadiq Palmer and Isabella both had four catches. Bilal Ally and Young combined for 27 carries for 113 yards.

Ohio’s struggle on defense was fourth down. UMass converted 6 of 8 in the game after failing on 13 of 18 third downs. The Minutemen totaled 30 first downs and 550 yards.

The Bobcats had two players ejected for targeting: defensive tackle Cleon Aloese in the first half and cornerback Ilyaas Motley in the second half on a special teams play. Starting safety Kylan Nelson was questionable to play, started, but did not finish the game. Defensive end Will Evans left the game with a concussion, and freshman offensive lineman Hagen Meservy exited with an ankle injury.

Linebacker Quentin Poling racked up 19 tackles, while Moore had 12.

Ohio hosts Central Michigan at 2 p.m. Saturday in its homecoming game at Peden Stadium.

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