Ohio closes out the regular season with a 25-14 comeback victory over Akron

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ATHENS, Ohio (WOUB) – A second half surge lifts Ohio over Akron 25-14 for back-to-back nine win regular seasons.

The opening drive for Ohio looked promising. 

Sophomore running back Sieh Bangura picked up right where he left off after his season-high 126 yard performance against Central Michigan with four carries for 49-yards. The Bobcats marched down to the red zone with ease, but the drive stalled after a couple big drops forcing them to settle for a field goal.

Gianni Spetic knocked one in from 26-yards out to give the Bobcats a 3-0 lead. 

The next drive for the Ohio offense was historic.

It ended unceremoniously in a punt, but not before quarterback Kurtis Rourke completed a pass to Tyler Walton to pass his older brother Nathan as the second leading passer in program history.

“It’s awesome whenever you can get an achievement like that, especially because he’s your brother,” Rourke said. “He’s done so much for this program so to be able to pass one of his records is one of the things I’ll cherish for the rest of my life.”

Akron found some life in the second quarter.

After a missed 52-yard field goal attempt by Spetic, the Zips took over with good field position and were able to convert with it. Quarterback Tahj Bullock hit his running back Lorenzo Lingard on a screen pass that went 43 yards for a score to give Akron a 7-3 lead.

Ohio needed a response and it looked like it might get one midway through the second quarter. The offense found its groove again going 40 yards down the field but once again it wasn’t able to convert on third down.

The Bobcats elected for another long field attempt, this one from 48 yards, but Spetic pushed it wide right for his second miss of the game.

Once again, Akron was in favorable field position, and once again it took advantage. 

The Zips strung together a 10 play drive that went 69 yards in just under three minutes. The two quarterback system seemed to cause problems for the Bobcats. Jeff Undercuffler was able to move the chains with his arm, and Bullock with his legs.

Bullock capped off the drive on the ground. A five-yard QB draw led to another touchdown for Akron who took a commanding 14-3 lead into the locker room.

“I challenged them,” head coach Tim Albin said. “I probably can’t repeat some of the things I said but I’m not going to apologize for them. Our first half play falls solely on me, I didn’t have them ready to go.”

Out of the break, Ohio got exactly the start it and coach Albin were looking for.

The defense came out and forced Akron to punt, giving the Bobcats the ball with some momentum.

The offense took over and carried that momentum into its drive. Rourke was strong on the drive completing three passes for 42 yards leading Ohio down to the red zone for the fourth time in the game. This time, Rourke was able to take advantage with a four yard touchdown run. Ohio went for a two point conversion attempt and were successful to cut the lead to three, 14-11 Akron. 

The Bobcats added another score on their very next drive. Rourke through the air to Miles Cross to recapture the lead, 18-14 Ohio. It seemed like the Bobcats chose a direction for the second half.

Rourke finished the contest going 19-for-30 for 208 yards and a pair of touchdowns. 

Sieh Bangura tacked on another touchdown for Ohio in the fourth quarter to put the game away. Bangura finished the contest with 23 carries for 121 yards and the touchdown to make it a 25-14 ballgame.

“We just executed on important downs,” Rourke said. “Throughout the whole game we moved the ball really well into their territory but then we faltered and slowed down in the first half. … We knew we were better than that.”

That score held and Ohio came out with a 25-14 victory for back-to-back nine win seasons.

“Couldn’t be happier for our seniors,” Albin said. “We put ourselves in position as a program, once the bowl selection comes out, to get to ten wins back-to-back seasons, it’s never been done in school history.”

The Bobcats now wait for their bowl game to be announced in what will be the last contest for one of the best senior classes in program history who have the chance to continue to leave a legacy.