Photo Credit: Joe Medlen

Ohio Football: Bobcats Bully Broncos in Kalamazoo

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ATHENS, Ohio – Nathan Rourke and Ohio marched down the field on their opening drive wasting no time: Nine plays, 78 yards, four minutes and some change.

The ESPN broadcasting crew called the opening drive “The Nathan Rourke drive.” The rest of the game shortly after the first drive became “The Nathan Rourke Show.”

Rourke and the Bobcats (6-3, 4-1 MAC) embarrassed the Western Michigan Broncos (6-4, MAC 4-2) 59-14 Thursday night in Kalamazoo.

45 points, five forced turnovers, and a blocked punt returned for a touchdown — in the first half alone. Ohio had a complete football game – all three phases – in two quarters.

Rourke played as close of a perfect game as you can play. He went 12-for-14 for 149 yards and three touchdowns and added another 68 yards and two more touchdowns.  His five first half touchdowns earned him a nice spot on the sidelines – Quinton Maxwell played the entire second half under center for Ohio.

The defense made just about every play there was to make: they recovered four fumbles – two of them off of back-to-back kickoff returns as well as an interception. The defense wreaked havoc and the offense cashed in: 31 points off of turnovers for Ohio.

The Ohio special teams paid their dues as well. DL Knock blocked a kick and Alvin Floyd caught the ball in mid-air, with a bunch of Broncos just looking at him like they had no idea what to do, but Floyd did. He walked into the end zone to make it 21-0 before the end of the first quarter.

Rourke, as he did so effortlessly the first two drives, led three more Ohio touchdown drives. A 13-yard scamper and then two touchdown throws to tight end Adam Luehrman and receiver Isiah Cox.

Rourke’s total yardage even seems low given the fact the offense scored five touchdowns. The turnovers helped Ohio start inside Western Michigan’s 20-yard line on three of the five possessions that resulted in touchdowns.

Any doubts about the defense being a question mark for Ohio have been wiped away the past three games. The defense has given up 14 points in each of it’s last three games.  Ohio won the turnover margin Thursday by six and now are tied with MAC East leading Buffalo for turnover margin in the conference.

A team’s season is defined in November and Thursday night was the start of a critical four-game stretch for the Bobcats. With Buffalo beating Miami 51-42 Tuesday night, the margin of error continued to get slimmer for Ohio.

Buffalo holds a one-game lead over the Bobcats. Their remaining games are against Kent State and Bowling Green, two teams that Ohio beat that are at the bottom of the conference.

So, barring an unlikely upset, Ohio needs to continue to win out – resuming next Wednesday against their rival, the Miami RedHawks. A win against the RedHawks could set-up a De Facto MAC East championship game when the Bulls come to Peden in two weeks.

For Ohio’s final two games at Peden to be meaningful, they must take care of business in Oxford first. The Battle of the Bricks 2018 addition is on Wednesday with kick-off TBD.