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Turnovers, Louisiana's rushing attack too much for Ohio

Ragin' Cajuns pull away for 45-25 victory at Peden Stadium

ATHENS – Louisiana forced five turnovers and ran for 285 yards in beating Ohio 45-25 on Saturday at Peden Stadium.

The Ragin’ Cajuns exploded for 35 points in the second half after both defenses stood tough early. Both pro prospects, Elijah Mitchell and Trey Ragas ran for 143 and 129 yards, respectively, on 17 and 15 carries. Mitchell had three touchdowns.

"We've got work to do. That's clear," Ohio coach Frank Solich said. "The good part is that they're willing to put in the work. They will stick together and be a team that has shown flashes on both sides of the ball, and we're going to have to get it done in all areas."

Shane Hooks’ 21-yard touchdown catch from Nathan Rourke with 7:54 to go got Ohio to within 31-25, but Louisiana answered with a game-clinching score and then forced Nathan Rourke into a pair of turnovers in the final minutes.

With the Louisiana defense keying on Ohio’s run game, Rourke was 18 of 38 passing for 277 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions. He ran nine times for 37 yards.

The only turnover by the Ragin’ Cajuns gave the Bobcats (1-3) some hope late. Down 31-12, the Bobcats got a fumble recovery from Jaron Hampton after a bobbled snap to set up a Ja’Vahri Portis 3-yard touchdown run with 11:04 to go.

After Louisiana’s Steve Artigue missed a 37-yard field goal try, Ohio wasted little time in putting another touchdown on the board. A defensive holding penalty and a 49-yard pass from Rourke to Hooks came before Hooks’ touchdown catch.

But on a third-and-4 play for the Ragin’ Cajuns, Ragas broke a tackle in the backfield and picked up 33 yards. Mitchell followed with a 22-yard run, and two plays later, Mitchell scored from 2 yards out to make it 38-25 with 4:30 to go.

On the first play after for Ohio, Rourke fumbled while being sacked by Joe Dillon, and it was recovered by Ja’Quan Nelson at the Bobcats 12-yard line. That led to a Levi Lewis 3-yard scoring pass to Ja’Mar Bradley.

Asjlin Washington wrestled away a pass intended for Tyler Tupa in the end zone on a first-and-goal play for Ohio, and Kam Pedescleaux picked off Rourke in the final minute.

Louisiana (3-1) entered the game as one of the leading offensive teams in the country, especially with its running attack, but the first half played out as a defensive affair.

An Ohio turnover led to the only touchdown of the first half. Returner Jerome Buckner let a bouncing punt get past him, and rather than let it go and give up the yards, he tried to chase it down and picked it up on the run. The ball bounced off of his fingertips, and T.J. Wisham jumped on the ball at the 2-yard line, leading to Mitchell’s first score at the 2:19 mark in the first quarter.

Louis Zervos kicked field goals of 48 yards and 49 yards in the second quarter, making it 7-6, but the Bobcats left enough time for the Ragin’ Cajuns to answer with an Artique 27-yard field goal on the final play of the first half for a 10-6 score.

The Bobcats even got a stop on the opening possession of the second half, but there were few of them after that. Lewis completed a 35-yard pass to Ja’Mar Bradley, and then Mitchell had runs of 19, 12 and 6 yards before a 2-yard touchdown run to make it 17-6.

Ohio moved inside the Louisiana 30 on the next possession, but Kam Greenhouse picked off Rourke on a deflected pass, and that led to Lewis’ 2-yard touchdown pass to Nick Ralston to make it 24-6 with 4:13 left in the third quarter.

Completions of 26 yards to Rourke and 29 yards to Isiah Cox helped set up a Portis 1-yard touchdown run. The two-point conversion try failed, leaving the score 24-12 with 18 seconds left in the third quarter. But the Ragin’ Cajuns came back with a quick touchdown drive, capped by a Ragas 15-yard run to make it 31-12 early in the fourth quarter.

Portis had nine carries for 35 yards. With both O’Shaan Allison and Julian Ross injured, De’Montre Tuggle started and had 10 carries for 31 yards.

Hooks’ three catches went for 96 yards, while tight end Ryan Luehrman had four receptions for 69 yards.

Lewis was 19 of 29 passing for 188 yards and two touchdowns for Louisiana. Bradley had five catches for 75 yards, and Jamal Bell made five grabs for 59 yards.

Safety Javon Hagan led Ohio’s defense with 12 tackles, including one for loss. Cole Baker and Austin Conrad had sacks.

"We have to come up with a way to stop the run," Solich said. "We have to find a way to force more turnovers and put more pressure on their offense. We can't give up 5 yards in the linebacking area and expect to have a good tackling day. We have to get things stopped better up front. We will go to work. I like their attitude, I like their talent level we have, and we'll find a way to put it together."

Losers of three straight, the Bobcats have a bye week before beginning Mid-American Conference play at 3:30 p.m. Oct. 5 against Buffalo at UB Stadium.

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