[Maria Monesi | WOUB]

Rourke shines as Ohio takes over sole control of the MAC East

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ATHENS, Ohio (WOUB) — Midweek Mid-American Conference action is officially back.

Tuesday night conference play, also known as “MACtion,” separates the season and brings a different feeling to the Ohio football team, but not a different feeling of winning.

Peden Stadium was a sea of black Tuesday evening as thousands of students showed up to cheer on Ohio Football’s annual “Blackout” game.

“Shoutout to the student section who showed out today,” head coach Tim Albin said. “Offense, defense, the energy of the stadium complemented each other all night. I truly believe it.”

The Ohio University faithful catapulted the Bobcats to a convincing 45-24 win over the MAC East leaders, the Buffalo Bulls.

Fast start puts Ohio in front early

The first quarter could not have gone any better for Bobcat faithful.

The expectation was that the scorching hot Buffalo Bulls, on a five game winning streak by an average margin of 17 points, would stroll into Peden Stadium and hand Ohio its first loss on Frank Solich Field.

Within those first 15 minutes, Ohio definitively set the tone and executed all aspects of the game to near perfection.

Ohio linebacker Bryce Houston (32) celebrates a sack in Athens, Ohio, on Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2022.
Ohio linebacker Bryce Houston (32) celebrates a sack in Athens, Ohio, on Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2022. [Alex Eicher | WOUB]
The very first play of the game Buffalo quarterback Cole Snyder launched a rocket that fell incomplete which gave Ohio a scare, yet eventually the drive was a three and out.

From there, Ohio’s offense began its domination. Bookended by Kurtis Rourke to Sam Wiglusz passes, the five play 70 yard drive gave the Bobcats an early lead in under two minutes.

Just two minutes later, the ball was back in Rourke’s hands and it was back-to-back three and outs for Buffalo.

Although the methodical drive didn’t end in a touchdown Ohio put points on the board to push the lead to ten.

Possession three for the Bulls was somehow worse.

Negative yards, a sack, then an ugly interception. Snyder commited the number one fatal flaw for a quarterback: scrambling to his right then throwing back across the middle of the field to the left sideline.

The play resulted in Ohio safety Tariq Drake catching the ball like a punt. Another five play drive and Rourke TD later, Ohio extended its lead, entering the second quarter up 17-0.

The Rourke-Wiglusz connection and dominating display

For five weeks, Buffalo displayed their dominance and clearly wasn’t going to let Ohio take control of the MAC without a fight.

They strung together a couple of methodical possessions and somewhat responded to the Ohio attack, yet the chemistry between Rourke and Wiglusz overwhelmed the Bulls.

Paired together, the two put up almost video game numbers in the first half. A perfect six for six, 131 yards, and two TD’s, including a 49 yard dime.

The Ohio State transfer Wiglusz has scored multiple TD’s in four out of the teams nine games, and three out of the last four. An elusive and shift receiver, Wiglusz has become Rourke’s go-to guy as the season has progressed. Wiglusz knows the bond they have is special.

Ohio tight end Will Kacmarek (87) runs after the catch against two Buffalo defenders
Ohio tight end Will Kacmarek (87) runs after the catch against two Buffalo defenders in Athens, Ohio, on Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2022. [Alex Eicher | WOUB]
“One of the most important things about being a receiver is the trust in the quarterback. I’ve been fortunate to have trust with Kurtis,” he said.

Rourke’s first drop back of the second half was exactly what Ohio needed him not to do: throw a pick six.

By now, Ohio’s lead was seven with minimal optimism for the team to hold on. Yet Rourke’s mindset was unfazed after the interception.

“We haven’t really done that this season at all,” Rourke said. “We can respond and have been put in some big adversity moments. Mentally, personally, I had to shake it off.”

And that makes what Rourke did even more impressive. After the jury was wavering on Rourkes last two performances, Tuesday evening was a Maple Missile masterclass.

He went from pick six to plus six, this time frequently targeting tight end Will Kacmarek. The Redshirt junior demonstrated his mental toughness. Not only did he bounce back with a score, but also efficiently went six-for-six for 63 yards to try and put the Bulls away.

Incredible QB Showing has Rourke and Ohio Soaring

Buffalo scored one last time, yet it was already wrapped up, and Rourke made sure of it.

Both of the final two touchdowns for Ohio were all on Rourke, doing so through the air and ground. The former, a cleverly executed run-pass option in which Rourke pitched the ball to running back Cam Dorsey for six. But the true exclamation point on the night was a stunning back shoulder fade from Rourke to Miles Cross over the defenders outstretched hands.

20/29, 5 TDs and 317 yards, Rourke ended Tuesday night’s matchup sitting at 2,725 passing yards on the season, or third in the entire nation. The jaw-dropping performance from Ohio’s star quarterback has him marking up record books and racking up wins. But as Rourke has done all season, he credited his impressive numbers to others.

“We got a lot of great weapons,” he said. “They’re making plays. I wouldn’t have the stats without these guys.

Dethroning the MAC East leaders was the goal for Ohio, and they did so with a bit of intensity. The Bobcats knew the result of the 45-24 win and the momentum it would carry as they looked towards the ever important “Battle of the Bricks” with rival Miami.

“Buffalo sat over there across the river with a big bullseye on its chest,” he said. “We earned it. Now it’s on our chest.”

That matchup with the Redhawks is Nov 8 at 7:30 p.m.