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Rourke's record-breaking day just enough in 59-52 win

QB throws for 537 yards, game-winning TD in final minute

ATHENS – Kurtis Rourke threw for a school-record 537 yards as Ohio racked up a program-best 692 yards of offense and needed every last one of them to rally past Fordham 59-52 on Saturday at Peden Stadium.

Unable to stop the Tim DeMorat-to-Fotis Kokosioulis connection of the Rams, the Bobcats fell behind 49-38 before the end of the third quarter. They scored the game-tying touchdown on a 5-yard pass from Rourke to Jacoby Jones with 52 seconds left, with a go-ahead Nathanial Vakos extra point following.

“I said last week, and I will say it again,” Ohio coach Tim Albin said. “One thing for certain is that this team has got fight. I challenged them at halftime. They took it well and our guys kept fighting. Unbelievable game at home with another outstanding crowd here on campus.”

Kokosioulis caught 13 passes for 320 yards and four touchdowns from DeMorant, considered a possible pro prospect, who went 27 of 35 for 503 yards and six scores. Their 84-yard connection with 53 seconds left in a third quarter dominated by the FCS-ranked Rams 28-7.

Rourke went 41 of 50 passing with four touchdowns through the air and another one on the ground, where he netted 45 yards on 10 carries.

James Bostic caught a 38-yard pass to set up a 21-yard scoring pass to Tyler Foster on a highlight reel one-handed catch while he was interfered with. The two-point conversion to Miles Cross made it 49-46 early in the fourth quarter.

Torched all game like, Ohio’s defense came up big in the fourth quarter. A Tariq Drake interception was negated by a personal foul penalty, but the Bobcats (2-2) nonetheless held the Rams (3-1) to a Brandon Peskin 36-yard field goal that extended the Fordham advantage to 52-46 with 10:36 to go.

Ohio failed on its first chance to regain the lead when Rourke was sacked and fumbled on a fourth-and-2 play from the Fordham 11-yard line. But the defense forced a punt to give the offense another shot with 4:11 remaining.

Once again, Rourke fumbled while being hit, and James Conway recovered for Fordham, which had just 3:19 of time on the clock to try to melt away from Ohio’s 34-yard line. While a field goal likely would have been enough to put the Bobcats away, the Rams went backward with consecutive penalties and then had to punt once more.

Rourke and Ohio started the go-ahead drive at its own 23-yard line and 2:24 remaining. A 20-yard completion to Cross on third-and-1 to the Fordham 36-yard line was followed by a Rourke run for 19 yards into the red zone. He followed with a 12-yard strike to Sam Wiglusz before throwing the game-winner to Jones.

Fordham’s offense, which had struck quickly over and over before that, had nearly a full minute to work with but was sabotaged by penalties again with a holding call and then an unsportsmanlike conduct infraction moving the ball back to its own 10-yard line.

On fourth down with five seconds left from the 25, DeMorat threw a short pass to Kokosioulis, who lateraled to Dequece Carter. He got rid of the ball as he was being tackled, but no one was there except for Ohio’s Bryce Houston, who scooped up the ball and returned it 42 yards for a punctuation touchdown with no time on the clock.

While action was plentiful for the final three quarters, the first quarter gave no indication to the shootout the game turned into. The Bobcats opened the game with a 14-play scoring drive, capped by a Rourke 1-yard run, and then went up 14-0 on a Rourke-to-Foster 39-yard touchdown strike on their next possession.

But Kokosioulis and the Rams exploded in the second quarter. He scored on a 33-yard reception to get Fordham on the board, and after a Vakos 34-yard field goal, Kokosioulis burned the defense for a 74-yard touchdown reception to make it a 17-14 game.

After Tyler Toledo put Ohio back on top with a 13-yard scoring run, Carter made a 9-yard touchdown reception with 1:50 left before the half. It was just enough time for the Bobcats to answer back. Rourke hit Jones for a 21-yard scoring pass to push the lead back to 10 points at 31-21 six seconds before the break.

Fordham was unstoppable in the third quarter. Kokosioulis’ 45-yard touchdown catch was answered by a Keegan Wilburn 98-yard kickoff return, but the Rams scored three straight times after that.

MJ Wright caught a touchdown pass of 25 yards, Julius Loughridge ran in a 2-yard score, and Kokosioulis burned the defense one last time for an 84-yard touchdown that put him over 300 yards before the end of the third quarter.

While DeMorat relied heavily on Kokosioulis, Rourke spread the ball around to nine different receivers. Jones had six receptions for 104 yards, Wiglusz had 10 catches for 73 yards, and running back Nolan McCormick picked up 81 yards on seven receptions.

With its top three running backs all out, Ohio turned to McCormick for most of its ground game, and he came through with 62 yards on 17 carries for 143 yards of offense total.

Trey Sneed had 19 carries for 88 yards to lead the Rams on the ground. Carter had four catches for 70 yards, and Wright’s four receptions were good for 64 yards.

Defensively, Drake, Ben Johnson and Keye Thompson had eight tackles each for Ohio. Despite all of the passing attempts, Ohio sacked DeMorat just once. Roman Parodie had three pass breakups.

The Bobcats face Kent State at 3:30 p.m. Saturday on the road on ESPN+.

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