Jerome Buckner (8) reaches the ball out to cross the goal line during the Bobcats’ 45-38 win over Kent State on October 19, 2019. PHOTO: Ben Weilgopolski/WOUB

Ohio Football: Takeaways and Gameballs from the ‘Cats Win over Kent State

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ATHENS, OH — What a strange season it has been so far for Ohio and the rest of the Mid-American Conference. Pre-season favorites have not been impressive and teams projected to finish towards the bottom have surprised.

That’s why every conference win the Bobcats can get is all that much more important, especially within their division. Ohio was able to check off both with their victory over Kent State on Saturday.

Here are a few of my takeaways from the 45-38 win for the ‘Cats.

Nathan Rourke

If there was any doubt out there that Nathan Rourke is the best quarterback in the MAC, Saturday’s performance went a long way to silencing those doubters.

Rourke quite simply looked like he was on another level against Kent State’s defense for nearly the entirety of the game, standing tall in the pocket and picking apart their secondary as if it was the scout team during a Wednesday afternoon practice.

On the day, he threw for 342 yards, completing 19 of his 28 pass attempts, and two touchdowns. It was the first time the redshirt senior tossed for over 300 yards in a game. He also added 79 yards and two scores on the ground to bring his career touchdown record to 94.

He is currently on pace to have his best season throwing the ball as well. Through seven games, Rourke is averaging 230.3 passing yards per game, over 43 yards better than his career-best 2018 campaign. He’s also on pace to have his most accurate season, completing 60 percent of his passes.

For the better part of the last three years now, Rourke has been one of, if not THE, best offensive players in the MAC, but has finished second in Offensive Player of the Year voting twice. He’s certainly making a strong case to win that award again in 2019.

But even if he doesn’t win that award that has eluded him twice, one thing is for sure. As long as Nathan Rourke is taking snaps for the Bobcats, they can’t be counted out of any game they play.

He’s that good.

Offensive Consistency

In the first few games of the season, both the Bobcats offensive and defensive units were plagued by inconsistency. They would either look good or bad on any given possession and it was hard to predict which one you would get.

While the defense still has a long way to go to figure out some of its issues, the offense may have figured out theirs.

In their last two games, the Bobcats offense has racked up over 1,000 yards of offense and 81 points. Both the air attack and the ground game have been working in high gear as well, totaling 602 passing yards and 409 rushing yards in the previous two games.

It was easy to think early in the season that the injuries and inexperience that bit the offense from all sides would limit them all season, but as players have gotten healthy and young guys have gotten more snaps, the problems have melted away.

The offense has scored on 12 of their last 21 meaningful possessions and 11 of those were touchdowns. Scoring on nearly 60 percent of your drives is definitely going to win you some games. They’ve also dominated opposing defenses on third down, converting 13 of their last 23.

Nathan Rourke has been sacked just twice in their last two games and the offense has not turned the ball over in that span. The line is opening holes for any of the ballcarriers that are given a rush attempt.

Everything is working right now for the ‘Cats and it may have to stay that way with how the defense has performed.

Defense Makes Big Plays

It’s no secret the defense has struggled all season. Statistically, it is the worst defense that Frank Solich has presided over in his time in Athens.

Saturday was no different as they allowed Kent State to move up and down the field for much of the game. 

They did, however, step up in the second half.

When the team needed a couple of defensive stops to hold a slim lead or keep the game tied in the second half, the defense was able to force Kent State to punt three times including a pair of three and outs.

With 5:19 to play in the game, Javon Hagan made an incredible play to knock down a pass that would have easily gone for a 75-yard, game-tying touchdown.

On Kent State’s next possession, Kai Caeser pulled down Dustin Crum for a sack and a nine-yard loss.

It wasn’t much, but all the defense had to do was make a handful of plays to give their offense a chance to win the game.

They did just that.


Nathan Rourke

This one is obvious. The Bobcats QB lit up the Golden Flashes on Saturday for over 400 yards and four touchdowns. He fit passes in tight spaces, was accurate on his deep balls and was still able to run over and around the Kent State defense when he needed to.

Frank Solich called it his most complete game and it was hard to disagree.

Watch out, MAC. Nathan Rourke is better than ever.

Offensive Line

A big reason for Rourke’s big day was the five guys that protect him. If he weren’t a runner, Rourke would have left the field with a clean jersey after the game.

He was given all day to throw and picked apart the Flashes’ secondary. Rourke was sacked just once and the Flashes didn’t register as much as a QB hurry on any of his 28 other dropbacks.

Not to leave out what they did for the ground game, the line consistently made holes for whoever was in the backfield. On the ground, the Bobcats produced their best game since the season-opening win against Rhode Island, rushing for 229 yards and four touchdowns. Ballcarriers for the ‘Cats averaged five yards per rush.

The O-Line ate all day long.