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Bobcats blow out Zips 52-3 to gain bowl eligibility

Rourke accounts for 5 TDs, Ohio outgains Akron 603-74

AKRON – If it was his last game for Ohio, Nathan Rourke went out in style – but the Bobcats’ dominating 52-3 victory against Akron on Tuesday night makes them bowl eligible for the 11th straight season.

Rourke completed 20 of 28 passes for 308 yards and four touchdowns, with another score on the ground, and Ohio outgained winless Akron 603-74. By comparison, three different Zips quarterbacks combined to go 4 of 27 for 33 yards and two interceptions at InfoCision Stadium.

Now Ohio (6-6, 5-3 Mid-American Conference) will wait to see if its season continues with a bowl game.

"I love this football team," Ohio coach Frank Solich said. "They can play great football, and I'd be glad to take them anywhere and play anybody. They're an excellent group of guys. They've prepared well every week for their competition."

The victory against Akron (0-12, 0-8 MAC) followed a 66-24 victory against Bowling Green last week and set a two-game scoring record for Ohio of 118 points.

Rourke’s 53-yard touchdown pass to DL Knock gave the Bobcats a 7-0 lead, but on the next possession, Rourke was fumbled on a hit by Davon’te Jest, who also recovered the ball, leading to the Zips’ only points on Cory Smigel’s 25-yard field goal.

Shane Hooks beat the defense deep for a 39-yard touchdown catch to make it 14-3, and Louis Zervos kicked a 40-yard field goal on the first play of the second quarter.

Ryan Leuhrman caught a 9-yard touchdown pass and Hooks made his second touchdown grab of the first half from 11 yards out to make it 31-3 before halftime.

O’Shaan Allison scored on a 7-yard touchdown run to begin the second half, and early in the fourth quarter, Rourke scored on a 1-yard touchdown run. Ja’Vahri Portis wrapped up scoring with a 3-yard run into the end zone.

"We had some good drives there and some explosive plays, which is good to see," Rourke said. "Fifty-two points speaks for itself."

De’Montre Tuggled led Ohio’s rushing attack with 78 yards on nine carries, while Allison had seven carries for 71 yards but fumbled for the fourth time this season in the first half.

Ty Walton made five catches for 82 yards, and Hooks had five receptions for 81 yards.

“In terms of bowls looking at us, we’ve got an exciting offense, and we’ve proved that,” Solich said. “… Our defense is starting to play really well, and we’ve got excellent special teams play.”

Akron starting quarterback Kato Nelson was just 1 of 14 for 10 yards. He was replaced by Zach Gibson, who went 3 of 11 for 23 yards. Robbie Kelley also was 0 for 2. Alvin Floyd and Isaac Gill had fourth-quarter interceptions for Ohio.

The Zips were not much better on the ground, finishing with 41 yards on 25 carries. Peter Hayes-Patrick had 14 catches for 42 yards.

Backup Joe Mischler got playing time at quarterback in the fourth quarter, going 1 for 2 for 23 yards, and after Mischler was injured, quarterback-turned-receiver Drew Keszei came in and completed a 21-yard pass. True freshman Kurtis Rourke is out because of shoulder surgery.

Bowl game announcements likely will not happen until after conference championship games Dec. 7.

"It just feels like we're rolling and we don't want to call it quits," Solich said. "Obviously, everyone in the program would love to play another game. I know the kind of effort they'll take to the bowl site and what they'll be all about at the bowl site and will really represent Ohio and the MAC conference very strongly. In saying all of that, we just wait and see now."

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