Nathan Rourke Ohio Football
WOUB: Ben Weilgopolski/WOUB

Ohio Football: 4 Plays That Changed the Course of the 2019 Season

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ATHENS, OH — There were a few tense moments in the days leading up to last Sunday’s bowl announcements. At 6-6, nothing was guaranteed and the Bobcats did not know for sure if they would get invited to their sixth consecutive bowl game.

Luckily, however, that streak would not come to an end in 2019 as it was announced late in the afternoon on Sunday that Ohio was invited to Boise, Idaho to play in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl against Nevada. 

But a 6-6 season that the team and its fans had to sweat out whether or not the ‘Cats would receive an invite to a postseason bowl game was not how many thought this season would go. 

Everyone in and around the Bobcats dreamed of MAC Championship and a 10+ win season only to see those dreams get snapped out of existence like the Avengers. What made it worse is that, ultimately, Miami was the one holding the Infinity Gauntlet when the RedHawks ended the ‘Cats chance at a trip to Detroit in Peden Stadium in early November.

In a recent interview with WOUB, Ohio Athletic Director, Julie Cromer, stated what a lot of Bobcats and their fans felt about the 2019 season.

“It was a play, here or there, or a tackle, here or there,” she said. “It would have been a different conversation.”

She’s right. There were a few plays, none of which lasted longer than 10 seconds, over the course of a 12 game season that may have made the difference between the Bobcats going 6-6 and them going 9-3 and heading to Detroit for a shot at a MAC title.

Let’s look back at some of those plays that cost the Bobcats in 2019.

Play 1

Ohio 31, Marshall 27

7:45 left in the 4th

Marshall Ball, 3rd & 5 at the Ohio 43

After playing from behind for the entire game, the Bobcats had finally taken a lead over the Thundering Herd on Nathan Rourke’s record-breaking 72-yard touchdown run. The Bobcat defense had actually been stout in the second half to that point as well despite giving up 27 first-half points. They had allowed the Herd just 31 yards in their four possessions after halftime.

But the Herd began to move following the Bobcat touchdown, picking up 32 yards in six plays to set up the 3rd & 5. Then this happened:

After the pocket collapses, the Bobcats fail to keep contain and Marshall QB Isaiah Green rolls left and finds a wide-open Xavier Gaines at the 16-yard line. 

Why was he so wide open? The Bobcat covering him, Marlin Brooks, had fallen down. Gaines turns around and goes untouched to the end zone. Falling down can just be chalked up to bad luck, but this instance came at the worst possible time. The Bobcats would go on to lose the game, 33-31, and the Victory Bell to fall to 1-2.

Play 2

Louisiana 31, Ohio 25

6:35 left in the 4th

Louisiana Ball, 3rd & 4 at the ULL 31

After being down by as much as 19 points to the visiting Ragin’ Cajuns early in the fourth quarter, the Bobcats mounted a furious comeback. With just four offensive plays, Ohio covered 108 yards and scored 13 points (a 2-point conversion was failed) in just 3:10 on the game clock. So, with just under eight minutes to play, the Bobcats had turned a game that looked over at 31-12 to a one-score game at 31-25.

After allowing six yards to Cajun RB Trey Regas on first down of the ensuing drive, the ‘Cats stopped him for no gain on second down to set up Louisiana with a 3rd and 4. Here’s that play:

Regas gets the handoff for the third consecutive play and Bobcat linebacker Dylan Conner is there to make the tackle short of the line to gain, but then Regas throws a nasty stiff arm and Conner misses the tackle.

The Cajun running back rumbled for 33 yards before going out of bounds and, three plays later, Louisiana was in the end zone. A fumble on the first play of the Bobcats’ next possession effectively ended their comeback bid and they would eventually lose 45-25 after an avalanche of turnovers led to easy points for the visitors.

If that tackle is made and the Bobcats get the ball back, would they drive down and score again? Who knows, but it was another big missed opportunity for the ‘Cats and they fell to 1-3 on the season.

Play 3

Ohio 21, Northern Illinois 10

11:02 left in the 3rd

NIU ball, 1st & 10 at the NIU 23

In their first six trips onto the turf of Peden Stadium, the Bobcats defense had put together their best defensive performance of the year to that point. The Huskies had only amassed 163 yards and three points on offense (their touchdown came via a blocked punt) and they didn’t look to be firing anything up to change that.

Then, all of a sudden, they did:

Northern Illinois backup QB/wildcat QB took the snap and burst through a massive lane up the middle and picked up 70 yards without being touched until he was inside the Ohio 15 yard line. Two plays later, the Huskies found the end zone and never looked back.

After that run, NIU woke up and scored 29 points while racking up 347 yards in just five possessions. The Bobcats were able to match them score-for-score, but the Huskies had the ball last and hit a game-winning field goal as time expired.

Sometimes, all it takes is one play to change the outlook of a game, and at the final whistle, the ‘Cats were 2-4.

Play 4

Ohio 0, Miami 0

8:45 left in the 1st

Ohio ball, 2nd & 13 at the Miami 16

Ohio had done nothing on their first possession of the game other than assert their dominance over the arch-rival. Over 10 plays, the Bobcats had run the ball eight times for 42 yards and had the ball in the red zone with relative ease.

Following a sack of Nathan Rourke on 1st down, the Bobcats went back to O’Shaan Allison, who had been the workhorse for them on that drive and this is what happened:

The running back makes a couple of cuts and looks to be powering towards the end zone, but as he is brought down, the ball is stripped away. The RedHawks pounced on the ball in the end zone and the Bobcats came away with no points on a dominating drive.

That drive would set the tone for much of the rest of the first half, as the Bobcats managed to pick up 134 yards on 25 plays on their first three drives of the game, but came away with no points. Those drives ended with a fumble, a missed field goal and another fumble.

Points on the first drive of that game could have made all the difference it was ultimately was a 3-point loss that essentially locked up the MAC East for Miami.

Football is often cited as a game of inches, and more times than not, that is absolutely the case. For the Bobcats in 2019, however, it was just a handful of plays that kept them from achieving the goals that they set out in the preseason. 

But despite some bad luck, Ohio was able to achieve at least one of their goals: going to a bowl game. A win in Boise on January 3 might just be a good omen for 2020.