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Bobcats slow down high-flying Eagles for 34-26 victory

Rourke, Cox help Ohio win 2nd straight

YPSILANTI, Mich. Ė Ohio scored on big plays and prevented Eastern Michiganís high-powered offense from getting them to take its second straight victory 34-26 on Tuesday night at Rynearson Stadium.

Kurtis Rourke threw three touchdown passes, and Isiah Cox had a pair of touchdowns for the second game in a row, but the big story was the defense holding the Eagles in check after they scored 52 and 55 points in their last two games.

"I'm just so excited and happy for this football team," Ohio coach Tim Albin said. "It was an absolutely great team win [and an] unbelievable job. I think coming in nobody really gave us much of a chance; the staff did a fabulous job and I could not be prouder of a bunch of guys coming on the road against a quality opponent and finding a way to get it done."

Cameron Odom recovered an onside kick attempt after a Sampson Evans 1-yard touchdown run with 2:36 remaining, and Ohio (3-7, 3-3 Mid-American Conference) picked up the one first down it needed to run out the clock.

Rourke connected with Cox for a 33-yard touchdown pass on the gameís opening possession, and after Eastern Michigan (6-4, 3-3 MAC) tied the score on an Evans 1-yard touchdown run, the Bobcats needed just two plays to go back on top. Rourke scrambled for 35 yards and then hooked up with DeíMontre Tuggle for a 40-yard touchdown pass.

Kaieem Caesar knocked down a fourth-down pass to stop Eastern Michiganís ensuing drive, giving the Bobcats a chance to add to their lead. Armani Rogers was stuffed on a third-and-goal option play from the Eastern Michigan 1-yard line, and Ohio settled for a Stephen Johnson 21-yard field goal to make it 17-7.

Chad Ryland answered with a short field goal of his own for the Eagles, and with time winding down in the half, a Bobcats drive stalled inside the 10-yard line again. Johnsonís 27-yard field goal was good, but once more, it was answered by one from Ryland, who hit from a school-record 55 yards on the last play of the half to make it 20-13.

Eastern Michigan tied the score on the opening drive of the second half with Ben Bryant throwing a 5-yard touchdown pass to Dylan Drummond. Once again, Ohio responded.

Cox put Ohio back on top 27-20 with a wide receiver sweep to the right from 20 yards out, and a Tariq Drake interception gave possession back to the Bobcats. After a punt by both teams, on the first play of the fourth quarter, Odom got a step on a defender down the left sideline and caught a pass in stride from Rourke on the way to a 66-yard touchdown that made it 34-20.

"I think the vertical passing game, as far as our offense, it fits our personnel and we're good at it. We're protecting better," Albin said. "I think the last three weeks we've protected pretty well. I know Miami had the four sacks, but if you look at where we were in the Akron game in the first half to where we are today, I think we're protecting better and the quarterbacks are having time."

Jack McCrory and Bryce Houston combined for a sack to force a punt on Eastern Michiganís ensuing possessions, and although the Bobcats did not score, they were able to run off more than three minutes of clock despite the Eagles calling timeouts.

Rourke went just 9-of-17 passing but made the most of those completions with 230 yards and three touchdowns. Cox had four catches for 66 yards. Tuggle ran for 78 yards on 14 carries, and Rogers had 10 carries for 66 yards while sharing time with Rourke, who added 55 yards rushing.

Bryant threw for 354 yards, but it took 57 pass attempts and 41 completions to rack up those numbers. Tanner Knue had 11 catches for 127 yards, Hassan Beydoun made nine receptions for 85 yards, and Drummond finished with nine catches for 73 yards.

"They come to work everyday," Albin said. "They keep investing in what we're doing as a staff and investing in each other and our culture."

Ohio has its final home game of the season when it hosts Toledo next Tuesday night at Peden Stadium.

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