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Akron can't stop Ohio rushing attack in Bobcats' 49-28 win

Ohio finishes perfect at home for first time since 1968

ATHENS Ė Nathan Rourke ran for four touchdowns, and A.J. Ouellette and Maleek Irons both went over 100 yards rushing as the Bobcats totaled 381 yards rushing in a 49-28 victory against Akron to close out the regular season Friday at Peden Stadium.

With 169 yards on 15 carries, Ouellette reached 1,000 yards rushing for the second straight season and passed Kareem Wilson for third all-time in career rushing yards in Ohio history. Irons carried 18 times for 126 yards, while Rourke was just shy of 100 yards, finishing with 86 yards on 18 carries.

With the victory, the Bobcats (8-4, 6-2 Mid-American Conference) finished perfect at home for the first time since 1968 when they last won a MAC championship. They will not accomplish that feat this year, however. They were eliminated from East Division contention with Miamiís win Tuesday, and it will be Buffalo (10-2, 7-1 MAC) that represents the East against Northern Illinois after the Bulls beat Bowling Green today.

In contrast, the Zips (4-7, 2-6 MAC) were unable to run the ball, netting just 32 yards on 21 attempts and instead turned to quarterback Kato Nelson to provide all of the offense. He kept Ohio from pulling away after it built a 28-7 halftime lead by throwing for 356 yards and four touchdowns.

Though the Bobcats were unable to close out the victory until late in the fourth quarter, they scored the first 21 points to build a lead big enough lead in the first half for the Zips to never really make a game of it.

Rourke completed passes of 35 and 11 yards to Papi White on Ohioís first possession, with those two completions accounting for over half of the teamís passing yards in the game. It led to an Ouellette 6-yard touchdown run.

Austin Conradís interception of Cato gave the Bobcats a short field, and they cashed in on a fourth-and-goal 1-yard rushing touchdown by Rourke. Then after another quick stop by Ohioís defense, including a near safety on a tackle for loss by Jared Dorsa and Evan Croutch, Kylan Nelson returned a short punt 37 yards for a touchdown with 2:38 left in the first quarter, making it 21-0.

After netting minus-1 yards on their first four possessions, the Zips found some success by virtually abandoning the run altogether. Nelsonís 25-yard touchdown pass to Jonah Morris got Akron on the board early in the second quarter.

A second successful drive ended on Nick Gasserís missed 47-yard field goal try, and Ohio regained a three-touchdown lead with an Ouellette 16-yard touchdown run.

The teams traded touchdowns in the second half. Darian Dailey intercepted Rourke, eventually leading to a Cato 17-yard touchdown pass to Andre Williams.

Ouellette had runs of 25 and 44 yards on the next Ohio drive to set up a Rourke 1-yard touchdown run, which Akron answered with a Kato 6-yard touchdown pass to Brian Reinke. Rourkeís 5-yard touchdown with 8:21 left, though, kept the Bobcats out of reach, putting the score at 42-21.

The Zips scored one more time on a Mykel Bennet 12-yard touchdown catch, and the Bobcats scored with five seconds left on a Rourke 3-yard touchdown run.

Rourke was not sharp passing, finishing just 5 of 14 for 87 yards and an interception. Three of his completions went to White for 63 yards, making White Ohio's all-time leader in career receiving yards.

Jeremiah Knight led Akron with 94 yards on four catches, while Williams made seven receptions for 81 yards.

Both Rourke and Irons are over 800 yards rushing on the season.

Ohio now will await announcement of its bowl destination while Buffalo and Northern Illinois battle for the MAC title at 7 p.m. Friday at Ford Field in Detroit.

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