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Pittsburgh's defense shuts down Ohio 20-10

Sick Rourke, Bobcats unable to establish running game

PITTSBURGH – Sickness and a top-notch Pittsburgh defense were more than Nathan Rourke and Ohio could handle.

The Panthers held the Bobcats to 212 yards of offense in a 20-10 victory against the Bobcats on Saturday at Heinz Field.

Dealing with an illness, Rourke was 15 of 27 passing for 177 yards but was a non-factor in the running game, netting negative-43 yards on nine attempts. Pittsburgh had six tackles for loss.

Pittsburgh (1-1) found enough offense through the air, getting 321 yards passing from quarterback Kenny Pickett, who was 26 of 37 passing. Maurice Ffrench caught 10 passes for 138 yards and a touchdown.

Ohio’s defense stood tough for most of the game, but eventually, the offense’s inability to move the ball and stay on the field led to points for the Panthers, who got a 27-yard Alex Kessman field goal on their second possession.

The score remained 3-0 until the first play of the second quarter when busted coverage led to a 74-yard Ffrench touchdown catch from Pickett. Pittsburgh extended the lead to 17-0 on its next possession, taking advantage of a short field following an Ohio three-and-out. Vincent Davis scored on a 3-yard run at the 9:28 mark in the second quarter.

Ohio (1-1) responded with its first successful drive of the game but failed to get in the end zone. Passes of 19 yards to DL Knock and 45 yards to Jerome Buckner moved the ball to the Pittsburgh 13-yard line, but Buckner dropped a ball in the end zone, and the Bobcats settled for a Louis Zervos 23-yard field goal.

Kessman missed from 45 yards out for Pittsburgh, and a 22-yard completion to Cam Odom got Ohio across midfield but Ohio stalled there. The teams went to the locker room with the Panthers leading 17-3.

Early in the second half, the Bobcats’ defense gave the offense great field position by stopping the Panthers on fourth-and-1 with a 3-yard loss to the Pittsburgh 48. But Ohio could not take advantage and punted.

Kessman connected on a 41-yard field goal with 6:23 left in the third quarter to make it 20-3. Ohio got back into it with completions of 27 yards to Isiah Cox and 34 yards to O’Shaan Allison leading to De’Montre Tuggle’s 7-yard touchdown run.

That was all the scoring either team managed. The Bobcats constantly were backed up deep in their own territory and never threatened to score again.

After scoring on its first seven possessions in the season opener against Rhode Island, Ohio could not get into a rhythm against Pittsburgh’s elite defense and simply could not establish the running game. The Bobcats netted just 35 yards on 29 carries, led by Allison’s 14 carries for 47 yards.

Michael Farkas punted 10 times for Ohio. He did not attempt a punt last week.

The Panthers were not strong on the ground either but had just enough success to provide some balance to their passing game. A.J. Davis had 89 yards on 13 carries, and Pittsburgh finished with 160 yards rushing as a team on 37 attempts.

Ohio did not make the plays it had to for a chance to spring an upset of an Atlantic Coast Conference opponent – like it did the last time the Bobcats and Panthers met, a 16-10 overtime victory in 2005 at Peden Stadium.

This time, Jared Dorsa dropped an interception that could have prevented Pittsburgh’s early field goal. One first-quarter Ohio drive moved inside the Pittsburgh’s 25-yard line but ended with a punt after lost yardage. Buckner dropped a potential touchdown catch, and there were other drops and misfires on third downs that could have extended drives.

Dylan Conner showed well for Ohio’s defense with 11 tackles. Jarren Hampton and Javon Hagan had 10 tackles each. Eric Popp had nine tackles, including 1.5 for loss and one sack. Amos Ogun-Semore made seven tackles and had two quarterback hurries.

Ohio lost running back Julian Ross and safety Alvin Floyd to injuries in the first half and Allison in the second half.

The Bobcats take on rival Marshall at 6:30 p.m. Saturday at Joan C. Edwards Stadium in game to be shown on Facebook.

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