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Ohio forces 6 turnovers in 59-14 blowout of Western Michigan

Rourke accounts for 5 first-half touchdowns

KALAMAZOO, Mich. – Ohio dominated its third straight opponent, but this time it was a thorough drubbing of a quality opponent.

After blowing out Mid-American Conference bottom-dwellers Bowling Green and Ball State the last two weeks, the Bobcats routed Western Michigan, 59-14, on Thursday night at Waldo Stadium.

Western Michigan (6-4, 4-2 MAC) committed five first-half turnovers and Ohio (6-3, 4-1 MAC) took advantage while building up a 45-0 lead at the break.

"It's coming like we had hoped," Ohio coach Frank Solich said. "We would have liked to start a little sooner, but they're really playing well now. They can't wait to get out to practice. They've been that kind of team."

After Broncos kicker Gavin Peddie missed a 39-yard field goal try on the game’s first possession, Nathan Rourke accounted for every yard on Ohio’s first drive either passing or rushing, capping it off with a 6-yard touchdown run for the first points of the game.

Western Michigan’s Jamauri Bogan bobbled a handoff, and Austin Conrad recovered, giving Ohio a short field that led to a Rourke 8-yard touchdown pass to Papi White. Then after the Bobcats forced a three-and-out, DL Knock blocked Nick Mihalic’s punt, and Alvin Floyd scored his first career touchdown by picking it up and returning it 13 yards to the end zone to make it 21-0 in the first quarter.

Louis Zervos missed a 39-yard field goal attempt on the next Ohio possession, but it did not matter. Jarren Hampton picked off Western Michigan freshman quarterback Kaleb Eleby. Two plays later, Rourke ran it in from 13 yards out to make it a 28-0 game.

Davon Tucker fumbled the ensuing kickoff, and Tariq Drake recovered for the Bobcats, leading to a 30-yard field goal by Zervos. On the next kickoff, Jayden Reed failed to cover up a kick that he let bounce in front of him. Alex Wolff recovered, and two plays later, Adam Leuhrman scored his first career touchdown on an 8-yard pass from Rourke, making it 38-0.

Ohio’s defense came up with a stop on fourth-and-2, holding Bogan to 1 yard. Rourke’s third touchdown pass was a 10-yarder to Isiah Cox. The Bobcats added one more turnover before the end of the half when Marlin Brooks hit Eleby on a corner blitz and caused a fumble that Will Evans recovered.

The win was Ohio's first in Kalamazoo since 1998 and the first over Western Michigan since 2006. It also made the Bobcats bowl eligible for the 10th straight season.

"It's fun to be a part of things like that," Rourke said. "It's fun to be a part of this because I know it's the first win here for a lot the coaches on this staff. This will definitely be a win we remember."

Rourke’s night was done at halftime. He finished 12 of 14 passing for 149 yards. He ran nine times for 68 yards and had five total touchdowns.

Andrew Meyer made four catches for 65 yards. A.J. Ouellette ended the night with 71 yards on eight carries, including a 32-yard touchdown run in the third quarter.

The Bobcats’ final touchdown came in fourth quarter on an 18-yard run by backup quarterback Quinten Maxwell.

Bogan had a 1-yard touchdown run for Western Michigan in the third quarter, and Jaylen Hall caught a 26-yard scoring pass from Eleby in the fourth quarter.

Kylan Nelson had a second-half interception of Eleby for the sixth and final turnover.

Eleby, who took over for injured starter Jon Wassink in the middle of the Broncos’ last game, was 10 of 19 for 152 yards. D’Wayne Eskridge had three catches for 50 yards. Chase Brown led the rushing attack with 52 yards on 15 carries.

It was Ohio’s first win at Waldo Stadium under coach Frank Solich. The win keeps the Bobcats in contention for the MAC East title and essentially eliminates Western Michigan’s chances in the West Division.

Ohio will have short rest before facing Miami on the road at 7 p.m. Wednesday in Oxford.

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