[Ayden Crowley | WOUB]

Kurtis Rourke’s career day powers Bobcats past Florida Atlantic in season opener

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ATHENS, Ohio (WOUB) – The Ohio Bobcats opened up the season at home for the second consecutive season as they welcomed in the Florida Atlantic Owls (1-0). The Owls came in fresh off a Week Zero win over Charlotte, putting up 43 points.  

This meeting marked the first time these two teams faced off in their history. It was also the first time they would be playing at the newly named Frank Solich Field.  

FAU took advantage of getting the ball first, driving 75 yards for the score. N’Kosi Perry hit Je’Quan Burton on the corner route from 20 yards out. There wasn’t much resistance as they marched down the field in 10 plays, using just 3:50 of the clock.  

Ohio’s response drive didn’t gain much traction, but on the ensuing punt the Owl returner muffed the ball. The Bobcats jumped on it, getting the ball inside the FAU 20. The offense would sputter again, setting up a 29-yard field goal, which was knocked through by Nathanial Vakos.  

On their next possession, the Owls drove down the field again. Perry was fantastic, going 5-7 on the drive for 58 yards. However, the Ohio defense stood tall, holding FAU to a field goal, making it a 10-3 ball game in favor of the Owls.  

The Bobcats answered with a nine play, three-and-a-half-minute drive that saw Kurtis Rourke find Sam Wiglusz not once, but twice. The first connection was a beautiful dime on a slot fade to set Ohio up inside the FAU redzone. They connected again from six yards on the jail break screen to tie up the game at 10. 

Ohio Quarterback Kurtis Rourke is on the phone speaking with his coordinators.
Ohio Quarterback Kurtis Rourke calls up to his coordinators. [Maria Monesi | WOUB]
It wouldn’t stay that way for long, as on the third consecutive drive the Owls found points. On this drive they did it by converting on third down three different times. The final third down conversion went for 16 yards and another Perry passing touchdown. It was a busted coverage for the Bobcats and Jahmal Edrine was the beneficiary, catching his first pass of the game and putting the Owls up 17-10.  

Ohio managed three more points right before the half. Rourke started the drive 5-5 for 69 yards before missing his receiver on third down. Vakos drilled his second field goal of the night to pull the Bobcats within four before half.  

The defenses struggled in the first half. There was a combined 30 points and 458 yards of offense between the two teams. Majority of those yards came through the air. FAU entered halftime with 176 passing yards to Ohio’s 145. The Owls ran 12 more plays than the Bobcats, which lead to a +3-minute time of possession for FAU.  

Coming right out of the half, the Bobcats wasted no time taking the lead. It was the Kurtis Rourke show as he threw for 61 yards and ran for another 18, as Ohio took the 20-17 lead.  

The defense then forced a three and out on the next FAU possession, and the offense wouldn’t let it go to waste. They drove 78 yards, picking up chunk plays, including a 15-yard personal foul penalty on FAU. On third and goal from the one, Rourke found Miles Cross for his third passing touchdown of the game.  

The defense at the start of the second half was about as good as head coach Tim Albin could have asked for. They forced a fumble and multiple punts. The forced fumble allowed the offense to tack on to their lead with a Kurtis Rourke rushing touchdown. That marked the 24th unanswered point for the Bobcats.  

Coach Albin said teams make their biggest jump from game one to game two, but he wanted his team to make that jump from the first half to the second half.

“We’ve got nine super seniors, 23 other seniors….we’re making [the jump] right now,” Albin said. “We’re gonna play our best football in the second half of this game. We got the ball first, [we] challenged them, they were in. They went out there and executed.” 

The Owls would not go away, though, as one the ensuing drive, Perry found Tony Johnson for the nine-yard score. A targeting penalty on the Ohio defense gave FAU 15 free yards and a first down to set that score up.  

The Bobcats needed an answer and Rourke gave it to them finding James Bostic twice on their way to a score. The first one was a 54-yard connection on third and seven on a post route off of play action. Rourke found him again on a wide receiver screen a couple of plays later to increase the score to 41-24. 

Ohio Running Backs Coach and Passing Game Coordinator Brian Smith speaks with his team on the sidelines
Ohio Running Backs Coach and Passing Game Coordinator Brian Smith speaks with his team on the sidelines. [Maria Monesi | WOUB]
Rourke said that gutsy third down play call was all about trust.

“It all goes back to the trust that we have with the coaching staff believing in us and that we’ll be able to execute and that’s exactly what we did,” he said.

The Owls scored with ease on their next drive, only using one minutes work of clock. It started with a busted coverage down the opposing sideline and then a slant route from seven yards. That would be passing touchdown number four for Perry. 

A huge special teams mistake would make the Bobcats start their drive from their own one. They were stuffed on three straight plays and forced to punt from the one yard line. The punt was executed cleanly, but the return from Lejohtay Wester gave the Owls the ball at the Ohio seven. He scored the very next play on a reception from Perry. That cut the lead to just three for the Bobcats. 

It took another defensive stop for Ohio, but they were able to get it done. They moved to 1-0 on the season with the 41-38 win.  

The offense was huge today, getting great play from everyone. The defense stepped up when it really mattered, making key plays to seal the deal for the Bobcats. Making those key plays was something they struggled with last season, but Senior captain, Bryce Houston says it was something they worked on heavily. 

“That’s what we focused on in this offseason,” Houston said. “We knew that it was always gonna come down to the defense in tight games. We knew we were going to have to go on the field and get a stop to get the win….We built on that every single day at practice.”  

Rourke finished the day with the eighth most passing yards in school history. He was 27-of -34 for 345 yards and five touchdowns, four through the air, and one on the ground.  

It’s a big jump, something that Coach Albin challenged him to do this season.

“I really like where he’s at,” said Albin. “I got a little frustrated with him on a couple things, but he had great answers…last year that was not the case. [He] took a big step. He knew some things…some things that I didn’t see that he saw.” 

Other big offensive performances came from Sieh Bangura and James Bostic. Bangura ran for 114 yards on 23 carries. Bostic finished with six receptions, 136 yards, and a score. Defensively, Ben Johnson was the standout. The newly converted safety tallied 15 tackles tonight.  

The next test for the Bobcats is traveling to State College to take on the Penn State Nittany Lions. That game is slated for a noon kick on Saturday.