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Ohio can't finish drives, falls 29-9 to Syracuse

Bobcats come up short in Albin's first game as head coach

Lonnie McMillan Photo
ATHENS – Ohio’s offense produced yards but not touchdowns in a season-opening 29-9 loss to Syracuse to begin the Tim Albin coaching era on Saturday night at Peden Stadium.

The Bobcats had 346 yards of offense and moved inside the Orange 35-yard line six times but settled for only three field goals.

It was the first game as head coach for Alban after Frank Solich stepped aside after 16 years at the helm less than two months ago because of health issues. Solich was honored before the game, which was the first in two years to feature fans – a near capacity crowd of 23,904 was on hand – because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Awesome crowd. Wow,” Albin said. “It was great to see the hill packed, and the student section was awesome. I wish we got them the victory, but that was pretty cool. For the game, hats off to Dino (Babers) and Syracuse; they did a great job.”

Syracuse got 181 yards rushing from Sean Tucker and another 49 yards from quarterback Tommy Devito and threw the ball just enough to finish drives.

That trend began right away at the start of the game when an Ohio drive stalled at the Syracuse 33-yard line, and Stephen Johnson was short on a 50-yard field goal attempt.

Tucker got the Orange in business when he busted a 47-yard run, and that led to a Devito 6-yard touchdown run to make it 7-0.

De’Montre Tuggle muffed the ensuing kickoff, picked it up in the end zone and only escaped to the 1-yard-line. He could have stayed in the end zone for a touchback. On the next play, he was tackled in the end zone for a safety.

“He’ll learn from it,” Albin said.

After a Syracuse punt out of bounds at the 4-yard line, Ohio faced a long field and marched almost the entire length of it, keyed by a trick-play pass from Cam Odom to quarterback Kurtis Rourke for 38 yards. A roughing the passer penalty gave the Bobcats two sets of downs from there, but they managed only a 22-yard Johnson field goal to make it 9-3 early in the second quarter.

Will Evans had a third-down sack to stop Syracuse’s ensuing drive, and the Orange answered with a field goal of their own, a 29-yarder from Andre Szmyt that brought the advantage back to nine. Just before halftime, the Bobcats got those points back with a 30-yard field goal from Johnson, making it 12-6 at the half.

Lonnie McMillan Photo
After forcing a Syracuse punt to start the third quarter, Ohio had a chance to take the lead but instead went three-and-out and had its only punt of the night. Trebor Pena returned it 32 yards to the Ohio 26, leading to yet another short Szmyt field goal, a 20-yarder that made the score 15-6.

Ohio turned it over on downs at the Syracuse 27-yard line on the next drive when Jerome Buckner could not hang on to a third-down pass. Tucker had a 28-yard run that eventually led to his own 6-yard touchdown run to give the Orange a 22-6 cushion in the final minute of the third quarter.

"I thought we moved the ball pretty well throughout the whole game no matter the situation," Rourke said. "And that's just a sense of what our team is like. We don't give up and I think that we just didn't finish, but we tried."

One more time, the Bobcats went on the move on offense but could not finish. A 39-yard completion to Buckner started a drive that stalled inside Syracuse’s 10-yard line and resulted in a Johnson 25-yard field goal.

The Orange pounded out on the ground and put the game away with a final touchdown drive, capped by a Cooper Lutz 11-yard run. Ohio’s final drive reached the Syracuse 26 before Rourke was intercepted by Darian Chestnut for the game’s only turnover.

"It's about having more awareness of where to throw the ball, where to run the ball,” Rourke said. “... I've got to be able to do some more things.”

Rourke was 21 of 28 passing for 142 yards. Armani Rogers completed a 32-yard play-action pass while subbing in on a few occasions in place of Rourke. Buckner had a career game with seven catches for 102 yards.

Tuggle led the Bobcats on the ground with 65 yards on 16 carries. O’Shaan Allison had 43 yards on nine attempts.

Syracuse’s Devito threw for just 92 yards but did so efficiently, going 11 of 17 passing.

Jarren Hampton, Alvin Floyd and Bryce Huston had 10 tackles apiece to lead Ohio’s defense.

“Fun, electric for us,” Hampton said. “We wanted to show out for everybody, and we just didn’t get it done.”

Albin said he is confident the loss will not have a negative effect on the rest of the season.

“We’re going to have a great product; I really believe that,” he said.

Ohio hosts Duquesne at 2 p.m. Saturday at Peden Stadium.

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Photos  (BobcatAttack.com)

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