Nathan Rourke of Ohio University is hit as he passes during the first quarter during a regular season game against Cincinnati at Nippert Stadium on September 22, 2018. (Nickolas Oatley/WOUB)

Ohio Football: Bobcats Cough Up Big Lead in 34-30 Loss To Cincinnati

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CINCINNATI, OH – Ohio quarterback Nathan Rourke had been in this spot before: down 34-30, inside the five-yard line with a chance to win the ballgame. Only this time he wasn’t able to deliver like he had so many times in 2017.

Ohio running back A.J. Ouellette was stuffed twice inside the five, then on third down, Rourke committed his only turnover of the day, and just like that the Ohio Bobcats fell 34-30 against the Cincinnati Bearcats. A Jekyll and Hyde performance across two halves of football kept Ohio from notching a signature non-conference win.

“It’s kind of funny because we talked this entire week about starting fast, and we did, but it’s about finishing,” Rourke said postgame.

Started fast is an understatement.

Ohio got the offensive train rolling early and often at Nippert Stadium, jumping out to a 21-0 lead in the first 20 minutes of the game. Rourke was a big factor on the ground, the Canadian’s 96 yards on nine carries led an Ohio rushing attack that finished with 234 yards on 5.2 yards per carry.

The Bobcats aerial attack was a different story, Rourke never found a rhythm through the air, finishing 12-of-27 for 178 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT. Through three games, Air Canada is completing 46.2 percent of his passes, a nine percent dropoff from 2017.

The Bobcats passing options were limited outside of Cameron Odom. The redshirt sophomore had a career day, finishing with highs in receptions (5) and receiving yards (114), but no other Bobcat caught three or more passes. Papi White opened the year with back-to-back 100-yard receiving games, those didn’t follow him to Cincinnati. White notched 23 yards on two catches and coughed up a  third-quarter fumble deep in Bobcat territory .

“We played a good football team, their undefeated, 4-0, they played well for parts and we played well for parts,” Coach Solich said. “It’s been a hard first part of the season for us in a lot of different ways, but their hanging in there and I think we’ll be ready to go next week.”

As for the other feline mascot, UC came out like a completely different team in the second half and they were led by the usual suspects: Desmond Ritter and Michael Warren II. The backfield combo led the Bearcats all the way back from a 24-7 halftime deficit.

Ridder injected life into the comeback three plays into the second half, the freshman uncorked a 77-yard touchdown pass to Rashad Medaris and never looked back. Ridder finished 19-of-29 for 274 yards, 2 TDs, and an interception while adding 10 carries for 28 yards.

The Bobcats neutralized one half of the UC ground attack but the other 50 percent proved to be too much. Running back Michael Warren II ran for 124 yards and two TDs on 23 carries, acting as the engine for the Bearcat comeback.

“Personally, I came here five, six years ago for camp and they told me I was too small to be a running back,” Ouellette said. “So I just wanted to shove it in their face but it looks like they got the last laugh.”

The Bobcats get their next crack at a victory smile next Saturday in a 2 p.m. ET matchup against the UMass Minutemen at Peden Stadium.