Ohio University RB Maleek Irons tries to shake a tackle by Howard University DB Tye Freeland during the Bobcat’s season opener at Peden Stadium on Saturday, September 1, 2018. (Haldan Kirsch/WOUB)

Ohio Football: Bobcats’ Defense Struggles in Loss to UVA

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NASHVILLE, TENN – Defense was a weak spot in their home opener against Howard, and it would continue to be a problem again Saturday for the Ohio Bobcats. The Virginia Cavaliers (2-1, 0-0 ACC) had their way with Ohio’s (1-1, 0-0 MAC) defense, as they would win this one 45-31.

The Bobcats’ defense couldn’t get many stops, as they allowed 552 total yards of offense. After being benched a week ago, quarterback Nathan Rourke had a comeback performance to keep them in the game. Rourke went 16-31 for 256 yards and two touchdowns while adding 41 yards on the ground.

The start of the game couldn’t have gone worse for the Bobcats, as Rourke fumbled on a sack that led to a touchdown on the next play from Virginia’s Jordan Ellis on a 18-yard touchdown run.

It wouldn’t get any better, as after the offense stalled on the next drive and the Cavaliers would increase their early lead. Bryce Perkins found Olamide Zaccheaus for a 86-yard touchdown to make it 14-0 just two minutes into the game.

The Bobcats wouldn’t answer back until 6:17 left in the first quarter, when running back Maleek Irons scored from one-yard out. Virginia still led 14-7 late in the first quarter.

The Bobcats’ defense put the team in an early hole and Saturday was the same story. Virginia would score touchdowns on their next three drives to make it 35-7 with 2:57 left in the first half.

However, the Bobcats forced a momentum swing on a fumble and onside kick recovery — both by junior linebacker Eric Popp that led to two quick touchdowns to end the half. Rourke connected with Papi White and Isiah Cox to get the Bobcats back within 14.

Virginia however added a field goal right before the half to increase the lead to 38-21 at the half.

The Bobcats used the momentum to cut the lead to 10, but that’s as close as it got. With 6:02 left in the fourth quarter, Perkins found Zaccheaus again for a big 77-yard touchdown that put the game out of reach at 45-28.

The Bobcats hope to  bounce back next week on the road in an inter-state matchup with the Cincinnati Bearcats on Saturday Sept. 22nd. at 12:00 p.m.