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Ohio's offensive struggles continue in 35-6 loss at Northwestern

Bobcats score on final play to avoid shutout

EVANSTON, Ill. – Winless Ohio’s offensive struggles continued as it was shut out until the final play of the game in a 35-6 loss to Northwestern on Saturday at Ryan Field.

If not for a 55-yard Armani Rogers touchdown run with no time left on the block, the Bobcats would have finished with less than 300 yards. As it was, Northwestern ran for more yards (373) than Ohio had total yards (348).

Evan Hull led the way for the Wildcats (2-2) with 216 yards, including a 90-yard burst for a touchdown in the first quarter. He had already scored on a touchdown run of 17 yards.

Charlie Kuhbander had field goals of 24 and 26 yards, one late in the first half and another early in the fourth quarter that put Northwestern up 20-0. The Wildcats got a pair of touchdown runs in the final six minutes to pull away.

Ohio’s Kurtis Rourke was 20-of-29 passing but for only 169 yards with one interception. He was sacked three times playing behind an offensive line that saw injuries continue to mount.

The Bobcats (0-4) never mounted a steady rushing attack, with Rogers leading the way with 68 yards on seven attempts, though he was at just 13 yards before his final run. De’Montre Tuggle (42 yards) and O’Shaan Allison (35 yards) combined for 77 yards on 15 carries.

Kicking troubles also continued for Ohio, which had a long drive to start the game end with no points when Tristian Vandenberg missed a 31-yard field goal. It was his first attempt of the season after Stephen Johnson had gone just 3 of 6 on field goals with also a missed extra point in the first three games.

"First half for sure we had drives," Ohio coach Tim Albin said. "I think we had more plays in the first half then they did. They did not finish.”

A Rourke fumble following a 12-yard scramble led to Northwestern’s first points with 3:38 left in the first quarter. Jonah Wieland’s punt following Ohio’s next possession downed the Wildcats at the 10-yard line, but on the first play, Hull broke through the middle and raced all the way to the end zone to make it 14-0.

Northwestern blew a chance on its next possession, false starting on fourth-and-goal from the 1. Kuhbander then missed a 24-yard field goal for Northwestern, but he ended up connecting from the same distance with less than a minute to go before halftime to make it 17-0 and hit a 26-yard field goal eight seconds into the fourth quarter for a 20-0 Wildcats lead.

A Rouke pass was tipped and intercepted on the next possession, but Northwestern returned the turnover favor back to Ohio with a fumble recovered by Cannon Blauser.

Trailing by three touchdowns, the Bobcats opted to go for it on fourth-and-1 from their own 32-yard line, but Rogers was stuffed for no gain on a quarterback keeper. That set up a short touchdown drive for Northwestern that culminated in an Anthony Tyus III 7-yard touchdown run. Stephon Robinson Jr. added a two-point conversion run to make the score 28-0 with 6:00 left.

Rogers had a pass intercepted by Bryce Jackson on the next possession to set up a Jake Arthurs 5-yard touchdown run.

Ohio scored just its sixth offensive touchdown of the season when Rogers got loose down the left sideline. The extra point was not attempted.

“We are beat up, up front, and we are caught, as a staff, from trying to have schemes to take advantage of some of the strength that they have in the O-line and D-line,” Alban said. “And then you get it mixed in with young guys, and it's a tough spot. With the youth that we have playing right now up there and trying to do too many things at the line of scrimmage with those guys, so we're going to have to look at that as a staff."

Ty Walton had four catches for 44 yards, while Cameron Odom finished with five for 42 yards.

Making the first start of his career, Ryan Hilinski completed 12 of 20 passes for 88 yards for Northwestern. Former Bowling Green running back Andrew Clair had eight carries for 71 yards.

Blauser led Ohio’s defense with seven tackles, including 1.5 for loss.

"The offense could not help the defense today," Albin said. "I'm proud of the defense. They come out in the second half and got to stop. We challenged them at halftime and they're able to do that."

Ohio opens Mid-American Conference play at 3:30 p.m. Saturday against Akron at InfoCision Stadium.

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