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Cooper, Cephas help fumble-plagued Flashes top Bobcats in OT

Ohio's defense torched again, giving up 736 yards

KENT – Marquez Cooper and Dante Cephas could not be stopped, and they willed mistake-filled Mid-American East Conference favorite Kent State over Ohio 31-24 in overtime on Saturday at Dix Stadium.

Cooper ran 40 times for 240 yards and two touchdowns, with Cephas making 13 catches for 246 yards and a score as the Golden Flashes racked up 736 yards of offense on 98 plays, eventually wearing out a Bobcats defense that stood tough until the fourth quarter.

Kurtis Rourke had another impressive game, completing 25 of 39 passes for 322 yards and two touchdowns, but it was not enough for the Bobcats (2-3, 0-1 MAC). He was off the mark on his final three passes, including on a fourth-and-goal from the Kent State 5-yard line when Ohio needed a touchdown to extend the game in overtime.

"We are obviously disappointed with the outcome," Ohio coach Tim Albin said. "I don't have any magic words to make the team feel better, but I think moving forward we can win with the effort and 'over-believing' that this football team continues to show."

The underdog Bobcats took the lead in the second quarter and did not allow Kent State (2-3, 1-0 MAC) to take it back until overtime. Kai Ceasar’s block of Andrew Glass’s 47-yard field goal try at the end of regulation kept it that way.

But on the first play of overtime, Cephas broke tackles across the middle to the 1-yard line, and Cooper ran the ball in on third down to put Ohio in position where it had to match Kent State’s touchdown.

Rourke’s 13-yard completion to Sieh Bangura put the Bobcats in position to do that with a first-and-goal from the 6-yard line, but after a Bangura run gained just a single yard, Rourke was off the mark on three straight passes to give Kent State the stop it needed for the win.

The Golden Flashes fumbled six times and were fortunate to lose only two of them. They also were penalized nine times for 80 yards, with many of them shutting down promising drives that the Bobcats defense otherwise seemed to have no answer for.

Ohio led 10-7 at halftime, with Glass hitting from 50 yards out at the 9:51 mark in the third quarter to tie the score. Glass missed a potential go-ahead 47-yard attempt on Kent State’s next possession, and the Bobcats instead took the lead with a Bangura 50-yard run up the middle to make it 17-10 with only 47 seconds left in the third quarter.

Kent State turned the ball over on downs after extended drives on its next two possessions, with the latter possession including a run by quarterback Collin Schlee in which he fumbled around midfield with the ball bouncing right back into his arms in stride for an additional gain of about 10 yards.

On multiple occasions, the Bobcats had a chance to go up by more than one score but could not get it done. They reached the Kent State 39-yard line but had to punt after a Bangura was tackled for a loss on third down with seven minutes remaining.

With Kent State pinned at its own 10-yard line, Cephas got free for a 45-yard completion on a third-and-6 play, and then Cephas scored the tying points on a 29-yard completion on third-and-16 with 4:11 remaining.

Rourke immediately answered for Ohio with a perfect deep strike to Sam Wiglusz for a 71-yard touchdown that put the Bobcats back in front. Kent State wasted little time in tying the score again, with Schlee scoring on a 2-yard run to make it 24-24 with 1:44 to go.

The Bobcats converted one first down on the possession that followed but had to punt, giving the ball back to the Golden Flashes at their own 14-yard line with 28 seconds left. Cephas again got free over the middle and went 54 yards to the Ohio 32, giving Kent State chance to win. Caesar got a hand on the Glass field goal try to send the game to overtime.

"Every day, every game we want to give more and that's how we got better at this game,” Caesar said. “Obviously, we wanted to win but we didn't come up with this game. We'll be watching the film and be making adjustment so that next week we'll come up with that fire. You can always learn win or lose, and the positive thing is we kept on them tonight.”

Things started as expected with Kent State scoring on its first possession in the first quarter on a Cooper 3-yard touchdown run, but those were the only points of the first half for the Golden Flashes. Their second possession moved to the Ohio 11-yard line, but a Schlee fumble lost 24 yards and knocked them out of field goal range.

The Bobcats got a second chance on a fourth-and-2 play from the Kent State 6-yard line when a trick play attempt was inadvertently blown dead by the officials. Ohio attempted a pass to lineman Hagen Meservy, but he could not make the catch. The ball bounced back into his arms, and it was determined the Bobcats should have been able to continue because the pass actually was a lateral.

Given another chance at fourth down, Rourke threw to Nolan McCormick for a game-tying 6-yard touchdown pass.

Schlee fumbled on Kent State’s next possession. Though Ohio did not recover, the loss of 13 yards led to a punt, and the Bobcats took their first lead with a 28-yard field goal by Nathanial Vakos with 3:46 left in the first half.

The Golden Flashes were in position to at least tie the game before the break after driving to the Ohio 13-yard line, but Schlee fumbled again when he was sacked by Cannon Blauser, and this time, Bradley Weaver recovered.

Schlee completed 24 of 37 passes for 398 yards and ran the ball 16 times for 77 yards. Devontez Walker made six catches for 107 yards.

For Ohio, Bangura picked up 99 yards on 18 carries in his return after sitting out last Saturday. Wiglusz caught six passes for 115 yards, and Miles Cross made five receptions for 63 yards.

The Bobcats will try to bounce back in their homecoming game against Akron at 2 p.m. Saturday at Frank Solich Field at Peden Stadium on ESPN3.

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