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Rourke injured in Ohio win against Ball State

Bobcats still need to beat BG to win MAC East

MUNCIE, Ind. – Ohio won its sixth straight game, but it came at a potentially big cost.

Kurtis Rourke left the game with a knee injury and did not return as the Bobcats beat Ball State 32-18 on Tuesday night at Scheumann Stadium.

With Ohio leading 17-3, the Mid-American Conference’s leading passer went down on a pass attempt late in the first half and was on the sideline in the second half with a brace and ice on his knee.

Ohio (8-3, 6-1 MAC) turned to C.J. Harris at quarterback but ultimately relied on Sieh Bangura and its defense to hold its lead. Bangura finished with 148 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries.

"This evening was a hard fought game by both sides," Ohio coach Tim Albin. "Our football team continues to find ways to win games, and I thought all three phases complemented each other. Our guys just kept believing."

The Cardinals (5-6, 3-4 MAC) scored the game’s first points on a Ben VonGunten 21-yard field goal with 6:44 left in the first quarter, but the second quarter was all Bobcats.

Ohio converted a fourth-and-1 with a Bangura 11-yard run on its way to a Bangura 6-yard touchdown run to move in front 7-3 at the 13:14 mark.

Torrie Cox forced a Carson Steele fumble and then hopped on top of the loose ball to give the Bobcats possession just across midfield. That set up a Rourke 13-yard touchdown pass to Sam Wiglusz, making it 14-3. Nathanial Vakos added a 21-yard field goal at the 3:34 mark to make a two-touchdown advantage.

Led by Steele, the Cardinals threatened, but Steele lost the ball again just before he was down on an 18-yard gain, and Adonis Williams recovered with 1:19 left before the half. Steele seemed to suffer a concussion on the play and did not play again either.

Rourke had Ohio in position to add more points to its lead. His injury occurred on a 13-yard completion to Wiglusz to the 7-yard line. Harris and Bangura fumbled on a handoff on the next play, and the Bobcats came up empty.

Utilizing Harris’ running ability, Ohio’s opening drive of the second half moved to the Ball State 35-yard line. Opting to punt on fourth-and-6, the Bobcats downed the ball at the 1, and after a penalty moved the ball even closer to the goal line, Rodney Mathews and Alvin Floyd combined to bring down Vaughn Pemberton in the end zone for a safety that made it 19-3.

Ball State made a game of it after that. John Paddock threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to Tanner Koziol and then a two-point conversion pass to Brady Hunt, cutting the deficit to 19-11 with 1:13 left in the third quarter.

Wiglusz made a big 22-yard catch for a third-down conversion on the ensuing drive, and one play later, Bangura broke free for a 41-yard gain, leading to his own 7-yard touchdown, giving Ohio much-needed breathing room again with a 26-11 lead.

The Cardinals converted a fourth down on a defensive holding penalty and scored on a 7-yard strike from Paddock to Hunt. The extra point made it 26-18 with 9:47 remaining.

Ball State got it back with plenty of time to produce a game-tying touchdown, but Zack Sanders broke up a fourth-down pass near midfield. Harris had a 20-yard run on the next play, and that led to Vakos kicking a 37-yard field goal. Alvin Floyd intercepted Paddock on a fourth-down pass on the next drive, leading to one more Vakos field goal, this one from 23 yards out with one minute remaining.

Rourke was 12-of-16 passing for 169 yards and a touchdown before his injury. Harris went 5-of-8 passing for 34 yards and ran eight times for 38 yards. Jacoby Jones had five catches for 87 yards, and Wiglusz finished with six receptions for 80 yards.

"Once we decided we control our own destiny, it became really easy to go one game at a time," Wiglusz said . "We keep viewing each win as 1-0, and hopefully that will take us to Detroit."

Paddock was 29-of-48 passing for 273 yards, completing nine passes for 90 yards to Hunt. Steele had 14 carries for 96 yards in the first half, but Ball State completely abandoned the running game after his injury, finishing with 94 yards as a team for the night.

An Ohio win plus a Bowling Green loss would have clinched the MAC East for the Bobcats, but the Falcons scored in the final seconds to beat Toledo and set up what is essentially a division championship game next Tuesday. Ohio hosts Bowling Green at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Frank Solich Field at Peden Stadium.

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