ATHENS, Ohio — Back in the win column and back on top of the standings.
The Ohio football team bounced back from its Homecoming loss with a 45-38 victory over visiting Kent State on Saturday at Peden Stadium, putting the Bobcats and Flashes in a tie with Miami atop to Mid-American Conference East Division.
Kent State (3-4, 2-1 MAC) took a 7-0 lead 1:07 into play, with Dustin Crum tossing a 23-yard touchdown pass to Mike Carrigan, and Matthew Trickett making his first of five point-after kicks.
The Bobcats (3-4, 2-1) covered 58 yards in seven plays on their first offensive drive, and were forced to settle for a 35-yard field goal from Louie Zervos.
The Green and White forced a three-and-out then took their first lead of the game with a 49-yard touchdown pass from Nathan Rourke to Isiah Cox. Zervos made his first of six-point after kicks to make the hosts’ edge 10-7 with 7:31 left in the opening quarter.
Kent State responded with a 16-play, 83-yard drive, and went up 14-10 with a 12-yard touchdown pass from Crum to Kavious Price.
The hosts were back in front by a 17-14 count 1:06 into the second quarter, with Rourke finding Jerome Buckner for a 51-yard touchdown pass.
After 10 plays and 66 yards, the Golden Flashes tied the game at 17 with a 27-yard field goal from Trickett at the 10:45 mark of the second period.
The Bobcats missed a 43-yard field goal attempt on the ensuing possession and the Flashes took advantage. KSU covered 74 yards in eight plays and 3:40, with Will Matthews giving the guests a 24-17 lead with a two-yard touchdown run.
Ohio had enough time to tie the game at 24 before the break, going on a nine-play, 72-yard drive, capped off by a three-yard touchdown run from Rourke with 13 seconds left. The Bobcats recovered an onside kick, but couldn’t capitalize and headed into the break tied at 24.
Out of the half, Ohio moved 75 yards in 13 plays, with De’Montre Tuggle scoring on a one-yard run to give the hosts a 31-24 edge with 7:55 left in the third.
Defense controlled the remainder of the period and the early part of the fourth, as the game’s next four drives resulted in punts.
Kent State was finally able to match the Bobcats’ score with 9:28 to play, as Raymond James caught a 27-yard touchdown from Crum.
Ohio, however, went 75 yards in nine plays, and Rourke rushed in from seven yards out to give the Bobcats a 38-31 lead with 5:51 remaining.
The Flashes were forced into a three-and-out on the ensuing drive, with a pass break-up from OU senior safety Javon Hagan on third down.
The Bobcat offense started around midfield, and four plays later, Tuggle broke a 19-yard touchdown run to make the Ohio lead 45-31 with 2:49 to go.
Kent State came up with an eight-yard touchdown pass from Crum to Carrigan with 31 seconds left, but couldn’t recover the onside kick attempt and fell by a 45-38 count.
The Bobcats earned a 31-to-27 advantage in first downs, with a 571-to-476 edge in total offense. The Green and White gained 229 of their yards on the ground, while Kent State rushed for 214. The Golden Flashes committed the game’s lone turnover on the onside kick before the half. Ohio was penalized nine times for 105 yards, while KSU was sent back eight times for a total of 86 yards.
Rourke — who carried the ball 14 times for a net gain of 79 yards and two touchdowns — had a career-best 342 yards on 19-of-28 pass attempts, with two more touchdowns.
Following the victory, Ohio head coach Frank Solich talked about Rourke’s importance to the Bobcats.
“The teams that really win, who are really good football teams that have great offenses, have really outstanding quarterbacks, and we’re fortunate to have one,” Solich said. “He had a great day, and I am so proud of that young man in terms of how he has contributed to this program from day one when he showed up here.”
Leading the hosts on the ground, Tuggle had 80 yards and two touchdowns on 19 tries, while also catching three passes for 24 yards. O’Shaan Allison picked up 51 yards on six carries, while Julian Ross added 19 yards on five tries.
Leading the OU receiving unit, Cox caught four passes for 115 yards and one score. Ty Walton — who ran once for a gain of one yard — caught four passes for 59 yards. Ryan Luehrman had three receptions for a total of 42 yards, while Shane Hooks grabbed two passes for 30 yards. Buckner’s lone reception was his 51-yard touchdown, K.J. Minter caught a 14-yard pass, while Cameron Odom hauled in a seven-yarder.
Ohio’s defense was paced by Keye Thompson 10 total tackles, and Marlin Brooks with six solo tackles. Austin Conrad had a sack and two tackles for a loss, Kai Caesar also had a sack, while Will Evans also claimed two tackles for a loss.
Crum — who led Kent State on the ground with 96 yards on 16 attempts — was 24-of-35 passing for 262 yards and four touchdowns. Carrigan and Isaiah McKoy caught seven passes apiece for KSU, gaining 72 and 65 yards respectively, with Carrigan earning two touchdowns.
Qwuantrezz Knight led the Flashes on defense with 12 tackles, including two for a loss.
The Bobcats hit the road for their final Saturday game of the season next, as they visit MAC West leading Ball State.
Alex Hawley can be reached at 740-446 2342, ext. 2100.