Nathan Roure in a game against Kent State in 2017. He scored his first career touchdown earlier that season against Hampton. PHOTO: Joe Medlen/WOUB

Ohio Football Looks to Finish Record-Breaking Campaign Strong in Bahamas

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13 years ago, Frank Solich brought a pedigree of consistency to Ohio Football (8-4, 5-3). Almost 100 wins and nine bowl trips later, the only thing looming over his coaching legacy is the Bobcats record in December.


That represents Solich’s head-scratching postseason record during his time in Athens, something he hopes to turnaround when he takes one of the most talented Ohio teams in recent memory into Thomas Robinson Stadium for a Bahamas Bowl matchup with the University of Alabama at Birmingham Blazers (8-4, 6-2).

The 2017 season was an offensive showcase for Ohio Football, the team set school records for points per game (38.9), points in a season (467), yards per carry (5.6), and rushing touchdowns (40). Individually, three players set new bars in the Ohio program. Breakout transfer QB Nathan Rourke set records for rushing touchdowns (21), points in a season (132), and touchdowns scored (22). While on the defensive side, CB Bradd Ellis set the team record for season pass breakups (18) and LB Quentin Poling set the career mark for solo tackles (219) and tackles for loss (44).

In early November it seemed like Ohio was destined for consecutive trips to the MAC Championship game but crucial mistakes down the stretch robbed them of any chance at their first conference title since 1968. Now they have an opportunity to salvage a once-promising season with a victory over a UAB team that won’t go down lightly.

Two years ago, the Blazers didn’t have a team to field let alone send to a bowl game.

The university cut the program in 2014 due to financial reasons but following a round of local fundraising, UAB announced the program would return for the 2017 season. What a return season it turned out to be, the Blazers set a school-record for wins and narrowly missed out on a chance to play Lane Kiffin and FAU in the Conference USA Championship Game.

Blazers fans can look to head coach Bill Clark as the biggest reason for success, he stayed with the program following its cancellation and turned UAB into one of the best stories of the season. In a similar offensive fashion as Ohio, UAB is ranked 38th nationally in rushing yards per game (189.7). The Blazers can thank RB Spencer Brown for the majority of that production. The freshman ran for 1,292 yards and 10 touchdowns on 237 carries this season.

QB A.J. Erdely and his arm weren’t called on often this season but he made the most of each throw accounting for 29 total touchdowns and just four interceptions.

Ohio QB Nathan Rourke’s accuracy struggles in the final month of the season (45.8% completion) could follow him to Nassau. The Blazers own the 22nd ranked pass defense in the nation.

The Bobcats are treating this game as the official start to the 2018 season and a third straight loss isn’t how any of the Bobcat faithful want to ring in the holiday season.

Ohio arrived in the Bahamas on Dec. 18 and kickoff against UAB is set for Dec. 22 at 12:30 p.m. from Thomas Robinson Stadium, coverage can be seen on ESPN.