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Bobcats get key defensive stop to win shootout over Golden Flashes

Rourke passes for a career-high 342 yards

ATHENS – Nathan Rourke accounted for four touchdowns, and Ohio won a shootout over Kent State 45-38 on Saturday afternoon at Peden Stadium.

Rourke went 19 of 28 passing for a career-high 342 yards and two touchdowns, and he ran for another 79 yards and two more touchdowns on 14 carries as the Bobcats racked up 571 yards on the day.

But it almost wasn’t enough as the much-improved Golden Flashes offense had 476 yards as Dustin Crum did his best Rourke impression with 262 passing yards and four touchdowns and another 96 yards on the ground. It wasn’t over until Ohio (3-4, 2-1 Mid-American Conference) recovered an onside kick with 31 seconds remaining.

"It was a real statement game for us," Rourke said. "We had to show that we're better than what we've shown so far, and we need to show this in more games with good opponents like Kent."

With neither defense able to get many stops, the score differential didn’t grow bigger than one score until back-to-back Bobcats scores in the fourth quarter.

Crum’s 27-yard touchdown pass to Raymond James on a third-and-6 play with 9:28 remaining tied the game at 31, but Ohio answered, converting a couple of third downs on the way to Rourke’s 7-yard touchdown run with 5:51 to go.

Ohio’s defense then came through by forcing a three-and-out, thanks in part to a Javon Hagan third-down breakup.

"I was in cover one, and everyone was manned up, and Kent actually had a miscommunication on their part," Hagan said. "I was covering deep middle and was following the eyes of the quarterback, and I just made a play, a big play that meant something to the team and got us off the field."

After a shanked Derek Adams punt of just 26 yards, the Bobcats started just across midfield. A 29-yard pass from Rourke to Isiah Cox set up a 19-yard De’Montre Tuggle rushing touchdown to make it 45-31 with 2:49 to go.

Luckily for the Bobcats, a Golden Flashes kick return for a touchdown was negated by a penalty for a player participating after his helmet came off, but Kent State (3-4, 2-1 MAC) still gave itself a chance with Crum’s 8-yard touchdown pass to Mike Carrigan with 31 seconds left. Adam Leuhrman, though, recovered the onside kick attempt.

“It kind of turned into one of those games where we're going back-and-forth and whoever can kind of break serve first was going to have an advantage,” Kent State coach Sean Lewis said.

The teams traded points in the first half, beginning with Crum’s 23-yard touchdown pass to Carrigan only 1:07 into the game. Louis Zervos put the Bobcats on the board with a 35-yard field goal, and they took the lead on Rourke’s 49-yard touchdown pass to Cox.

Crum threw a 12-yard touchdown pass to Kavious Price late in the first quarter, and Rourke answered with a 51-yard scoring toss to Jerome Buckner 1:06 into the second quarter, making it 17-14. The Golden Flashes came up a yard shy on third down and settled for a Matthew Trickett field goal to tie the score at 17.

Zervos missed on a 43-yard field goal try, and Kent State took a 24-17 lead on Will Matthews’ 2-yard rushing touchdown with 2:40 left in the half. But that was just enough time for the Bobcats to answer, with Rourke scoring on a 3-yard touchdown run with 13 seconds left.

About 10 seconds ran off the clock after an injury timeout in the final minute, which did not seem like a big deal after Ohio scored anyway, but Michael Farkas’ line drive kickoff deflected off a Kent State player and was recovered by Camryn Snow at the Bobcats 45-yard line. But with only 10 seconds and one timeout left, nothing came of it.

Ohio’s solution to its defensive struggles in the second half was a long drive to begin the second half. The Bobcats went 75 yards on 13 plays to begin the third quarter, going on top on a Tuggle 1-yard run to cap a drive that took more than seven minutes.

Both teams punted on their next two possessions before James’ touchdown catch that knotted the score at 31 early in the fourth quarter.

Tuggle finished the game with 19 carries for 80 yards, while Cox had the biggest day among the receivers with four receptions for 115 yards. Ty Walton had four catches for 59 yards.

“We all go out there knowing that we have to execute on every play and every drive,” Cox said. “Offense did good today, and we just kept creating opportunities.”
Kavious Price led Kent State’s receivers with five catches for 85 yards. Matthews ran 14 times for 85 yards.

Making his first career start, Keye Thompson paced Ohio’s defense with 10 tackles. Kai Ceasar and Austin Conrad had sacks.

"I think as you go through the season, you are fortunate if you don't have guys banged up and you don't have to have guys step in and play crucial roles for you. We have guys that are doing that, and that's all a huge plus for us,” Solich said.

Ohio faces the last unbeaten team in MAC play, Ball State, at 2 p.m. Saturday at Scheumann Stadium.

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