Ohio has gotten off to a good start and figures to contend in the MAC East Division. The Bobcats surely got a boost before they begin their MAC season with Saturday’s game at Bowling Green.
The boost occurred during this past Saturday’s 10-7 home win over Iowa State. Any win for a Group of Five school over a Power Five squad should be savored. Even though these have been turbulent times for Iowa State, it was still an impressive victory.
Then again, Iowa State wasn’t very good last year, going 4-8, but good enough to trounce Ohio 43-10.
The other factor that went against Iowa State in the game was that a field goal that was called no good raised an argument for a different outcome.
That said, it should take nothing away from Ohio’s effort.
It was the Bobcats’ first Power Five victory since 2017 when they defeated Kansas 42-30. That was a Kansas team that went 1-11 and lost six games by 30 or more points. As hard as it is to believe, the Jayhawks of 2017 weren’t actually as good as the record suggested.
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Ohio Bobcats’ Challenges
Back to the present, it’s not as if Ohio hasn’t gone through adversity.
Last November, quarterback Kurtis Rourke tore his ACL. It didn’t stop him from eventually being named the MAC Offensive Player of the Year.
And it also didn’t stop him from playing in this season’s opener, a 20-13 loss at San Diego State. Rouke left the opener due to injury in the first quarter after completing 8 of 10 passes for 75 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions. He then missed the next game against Long Island, but he has played in the last two.
Against Iowa State, Rouke completed 16 of 32 throws for 135 yards, one touchdown, and no interceptions. He also rushed for 58 yards on just seven carries. The offensive standout was wide receiver Sam Wiglusz, who had five receptions for 53 yards and a touchdown.
This season’s stats would suggest that Rouke is still shaking off the rust. In three games, Rourke has completed 59.1% of his passes for 413 yards, two touchdowns, and two interceptions. A 6-foot-5, 213-pound graduate student, Rourke has also rushed for 74 yards. Last season in 11 games, Rourke completed 69% of his passes for 3,256 yards, 25 touchdowns, and four interceptions. He rushed for 249 yards and four scores.
The Bobcats went 10-4 last year, the winningest season in school history. They won the MAC East Division, lost to Toledo 17-7 in the conference championship game, and earned a 30-27 overtime win over Wyoming in the Arizona Bowl.
So to be 3-1 with their quarterback still gaining his footing has to be considered a positive development.
Defense Stands Out For Ohio Football
Another positive has been the play of the defense.
Ohio is tied for 14th nationally with Notre Dame in scoring defense, allowing 11.75 points per game. Last year, the Bobcats allowed 28.29 points per game.
Against Iowa State, sixth-year linebacker Bryce Houston had 15 tackles. Redshirt sophomore cornerback Torrie Cox Jr. had four tackles and an interception.
Now, the Bobcats appear intent on making a return to the MAC Championship. Losing on the road to a 2-2 San Diego State team is nothing to be ashamed about, especially considering SDSU’s two losses were to Pac-12 teams, No. 22-ranked UCLA and No. 14 Oregon State.
The win over Iowa State will no doubt provide Ohio momentum for the MAC season. It also shows that, with this defense, the Bobcats can win when their quarterback doesn’t play like Superman.
And one would figure that, with more games, Rourke will get more comfortable.
The Bobcats were picked to repeat as East Division champions in the MAC preseason poll for good reason. With a quarterback still capable of taking over games and a vastly improved defense, Ohio looks more than ready as it prepares to defend its East Division title.