Bobcats Football
The Bobcats gather to sing the Alma Mater following their 33-31 loss to Marshall on September 14, 2019. PHOTO: Ben Weilgopolski/WOUB

Ohio Football: 3 Takeaways from the Bobcats’ Loss to Marshall

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ATHENS, OH — For the first time in four years, the victory bell will not reside in Athens. The Bobcats fell to Marshall 33-31 on Saturday night in Huntington, West Virginia and there were as many negatives to take away from the game as positives.

Here are a few of my takeaways from the game.

The Defense Got Gashed

Last week, I devoted a portion of this article to praising the defense for showing some improvement from the early season games of 2018. This week, the Bobcats did all they could to prove my analysis wrong in the first half.

The Thundering Herd had absolutely no issue moving the ball up and down the field in the first 30 minutes of play, and they did it any way they wanted. 205 yards on the ground, with Marshall’s Brenden Knox going for 133 yards in the first half alone. Add in the 131 passing yards the Herd got and you have a staggering 336 yards and 27 points given up by the Bobcats defense in the first half. 

That simply can’t happen if the Bobcats expect to beat good teams.

Ohio was able to tighten up in the second half, only allowing 175 yards and six points, but the damage had been done.

One of the major factors in the Bobcats defense becoming a great unit as the season went on in 2018 was their ability to force turnovers. Through three games last year, the ‘Cats already had generated eight takeaways. This year the turnover belt has only been brought out once and that was late in the game against FCS Rhode Island.

One takeaway is currently tied for last among FBS teams.

The defense has also only registered one sack in the last eight quarters of play against Pitt and Marshall, and that one came on the first play of the game against the Panthers. That totals out to 65 consecutive dropbacks for opposing quarterbacks without a sack. Getting more pressure on the QB usually leads to more takeaways, so Ohio will have to figure out both going forward.

After what happened last season, I’m not ready to count out the Bobcats defense just yet. They looked pretty bad last year in non-conference games only to turn that around completely during MAC play. Some better tackling and a few QB pressures, and the ‘Cats could be right back to playing solid defense.

Rourke Breaks the TD Record

Not lost in the outcome of the game was Nathan Rourke. After a lackluster showing in Pittsburgh, some of which may have been due to an illness, the senior quarterback bounced back in a big way.

215 yards and three touchdowns through the air and 118 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Only the second time in his Bobcat career that he has topped 200 passing and 100 rushing yards in the same game.

His third-quarter touchdown toss to Ryan Luerhman also gave Rourke sole possession of the all-time touchdown record for Ohio Football with 83, passing Tyler Tettleton.

That wasn’t even his most impressive play of the night, though. Early in the fourth, he busted out on a speed option play and went 72 yards untouched for a touchdown. The speed he showed to beat angles downfield is not only impressive but something he seemed to be missing last week in Pittsburgh.

When it’s all said and done at the end of the season, Rourke has a very good chance to have become the first Bobcat ever to score 100 touchdowns in his career.

Rourke may once again have to keep the Bobcats in the game with the offense next week when Louisiana comes to Athens. The Ragin’ Cajuns are coming off of a 77-point, 700+ yard performance against Texas Southern and facing an Ohio defense that has not been able to get stops consistently.

Prepare for a shootout in Peden next Saturday.

Injuries Piling Up for Bobcats’ Offense

Prior to the game’s start Saturday night, a couple of surprise scratches for the Bobcats were announced. The offense would be without starting center Steven Hayes and starting wide receiver Cam Odom. Tyler Tupa, another receiver, would also not see the field despite being dressed for the second straight week with a shoulder injury.

While the losses at WR didn’t appear to affect the Bobcats all that much, the loss of their starting center could have played a role in the offense’s struggles in the early going. In their first two possessions, the Bobcats only gained 12 yards.

As the game went on, the offense was able to get going, particularly on the ground, but then the running backs started dropping.

O’Shaan Allison went out in the third quarter with what head coach Frank Solich called an upper-body injury that looks to sideline him for at least a couple weeks. De’Montre Tuggle also limped off the field at one point, but he returned shortly after and finished out the game.

With Julian Ross already missing with a shoulder injury, the ‘Cats are down to Tuggle and Ja’Vahri Portis to carry the ball. Tuggle has done well in the first three games as a change of pace from Allison and Ross, but now he has to step into the bulk of the carries.

As I mentioned earlier, next week against Louisiana has all the makings of a shootout, so the Bobcats will need all the players they can get on the offensive side of the ball.