Papi White runs with the ball against Kent State. Photo Credit: Joe Medlen

Bobcats Finish on Wrong Side of Windy Battle Against Buffalo

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With the score tied and a little over eight minutes remaining in the Ohio Bobcats (8-4, 5-3) 31-24 defeat at the hands of the Buffalo Bulls (6-6, 4-4), Michael Farkas booted a line drive punt from his own end zone.

The blustery 25-30 mph wind knocked the ball into the hands of Buffalo returner K.J. Osborn, who proceeded to knife through Ohio’s special teams unit all the way to the six-yard line. two plays later, Buffalo took a 31-24 lead they wouldn’t relinquish.

Ohio quarterback Nathan Rourke (15-of-30, 265 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT, 16 carries, 49 yards, 2 TD, 1 fumble) led his team down the field on the ensuing drive, setting up a do-or-die-fourth-down throw in the Buffalo red zone. Rourke eluded the Bulls pass rush but couldn’t thread the needle on a pass intercepted by star Buffalo linebacker Khalil Hodge.

The interception moved Ohio’s turnover ratio to -10 in four losses this season.

Rourke’s second crucial turnover of the day sealed the result against Buffalo, but it wasn’t all bad news for Ohio’s breakout quarterback. His 20th and 21st rushing scores of the season made him Ohio’s all-time leader in single-season rushing touchdowns.

Constant 25-30 mph gusts made the wind a key factor and the field position battle even more crucial. 38 of the 55 points scored in the game came with the wind at the backs of the respective teams. Buffalo took advantage of the elements right from the start.

Buffalo sophomore quarterback Tyree Jackson (19-of-30, 294 yards, 2 TD) gashed the Bobcats early on with a 30-yard score to his number one option, Anthony Johnson (6 catches, 155 yards, 2 TD). The burner lit up the Ohio secondary for two touchdowns in the first quarter and would’ve had an even bigger day had he not dropped a deep touchdown throw during the third quarter.

Ohio steadily chipped away at a 24-10 halftime deficit, forcing the Bulls to punt on five straight drives in the second half. Another dominant third quarter from the Ohio offense tied the game up at 24-24, the Bobcats have now outscored opponents 146-32 in third quarter’s this season.

Rourke played a huge role in the comeback, operating without wide receiver Brendan Cope (ankle) and running back A.J. Ouellette (separated shoulder), the sophomore rallied his troops, most notably wide receiver Cameron Odom (2 catches, 85 yards, 1 TD). Ohio offensive coordinator Tim Albin’s addition of a fake to the speed option led to the Odom strike, but it wasn’t enough to finish the regular season on a high note.

With an 8-4 record, the Bobcats are going bowling next month, although the exact game remains to be seen. The most likely candidates are the Popeyes Bahamas Bowl or The Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.

Ohio can start game planning for their postseason opponent when the full slate of bowls is released following next Saturday’s conference title games.