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Ohio sputters in 2nd half of 23-13 loss at NIU

Bobcats' 5-game winning streak snapped

DeKALB, Ill. – Kurtis Rourke and the Ohio offense could not put it together, especially in the second half, and the Bobcats had their five-game winning streak snapped with a 23-13 loss to Northern Illinois on Saturday at Huskie Stadium.

The Bobcats (5-2, 2-1 Mid-American Conference) managed just 254 yards of offense, including just 63 after halftime when they were shutout as Rourke, who had been intercepted just two times before, was picked off three possessions in a row.

Ohio’s strong defense continued to play tough, but it gave up a pair of big plays to start each half, and that proved to be enough for Northern Illinois (3-4, 2-1 MAC). Gavin Williams scored on a 53-yard touchdown run to put the Huskies up 7-0, and after the Bobcats took a 13-7 lead at the break, Rocky Lombardi threw a 58-yard touchdown to a wide-open Grayson Barnes early in the third quarter that put the Huskies up for good.

Rourke was reasonably accurate, going 22-of-36 passing, but the Huskies limited him to 159 yards passing in addition to the late interceptions. They also held the Bobcats to only 95 yards on the ground – only 14 in the second half.

The best drive of the second half for Ohio was its opening one when it moved to the Northern Illinois 43-yard line but had to punt. Northern Illinois controlled the ball with a long possession that resulted in a Kanon Woodill 31-yard field goal for a 17-13 lead. Woodill added a 37-yard field goal with 10:31 to play to make it a touchdown game.

Rourke overthrew his intended target on a deep pass on the next play and was intercepted by Cyrus McGarrell on the next play. McGarrell had a 35-yard return, and a face mask penalty then moved the ball all the way to Ohio’s 20-yard line, which ultimately led to Woodill’s third field goal of the second half, a 32-yarder that gave the Huskies a two-possession lead with 8:09 remaining.

Nate Valcarcel picked off Rourke on Ohio’s next drive, but the defense stood to give the Bobcats some life with 5:40 to go. The Bobcats gained a pair of first downs to midfield before a JaVaughn Byrd interception ultimately clinched it for Northern Illinois.

The Bobcats’ offense seemed to find some rhythm on its second possession, but a drive stalled inside the 10-yard line, and they settled for a 27-yard Gianni Spetic field goal that made it a 7-3 game in the first quarter.

Ohio’s only touchdown of the day came after that when Rourke capped a long drive with a 1-yard run to put the Bobcats in front 10-7 with 10:22 left in the first half. The Bobcats moved the ball well again on their last possession of the second half, but once again, they settled for a field goal, a 37-yarder from Spetic that gave them a six-point lead at halftime.

Sam Wiglusz made four catches for 37 years, while Tyler Foster had four receptions for 30 yards to lead Ohio’s receivers. After a seven-catch, 125-yard game last week, Miles Cross was limited to three catches for 29 yards.

Running backs O’Shaan Allison (11 carries for 43 yards) and Sieh Bangura (10 attempts for 34 yards) did not get going.

Northern Illinois quarterback Rocky Lombardi got the job done for his team, going 15-of-23 passing for 172 yards. Williams finished with 66 yards on 10 carries.

Bryce Houston had 11 tackles for Ohio, while Rayyan Buell had 2.5 tackles for loss.

With losses by the Bobcats and Buffalo, Miami (6-1, 3-0 MAC) took sole possession of first place in the MAC East.

Ohio hosts Western Michigan at noon Saturday at Peden Stadium on CBS Sports Network.

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