Note: This recap will appear in the Tuesday, Sept. 17 newspaper.
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — No one in the more than 100-year history of Ohio University football has accounted for more touchdowns than senior quarterback Nathan Rourke.
But in terms of what really matters, at least on this night, Rourke ended up with nothing.
Rourke posted 333 yards of offense (rushing and passing), and accounted for four touchdowns, but was left to stew about a 33-31 loss to Marshall inside Joan C. Edwards Stadium on Saturday night.
The four touchdowns gave Rourke 84 in his Ohio career, and the top spot in the Bobcat record book. Rourke slipped by Tyler Tettleton (82, 2009-13) for the top spot but didn’t even acknowledge it afterward.
Ohio fell to 1-2, and the Thundering Herd (2-1) reclaimed top billing in the Battle for the Bell.
“Wasn’t thinking about it,” Rourke said when asked about the record.
But Rourke and the Bobcats will have trouble forgetting about another near-miss in this rivalry series. Ohio trailed 27-17 at the half, and looked in danger of getting blown out.
But the ‘Cats rallied after halftime, and took their first lead with 11:14 left after Rourke kept the ball on a speed option to the left side, turned upfield, and steamed all the way for a 72-yard touchdown. Ohio led 31-27.
The lead didn’t even last four minutes. With a third-and-five from the Ohio 43-yard line, Marshall quarterback found H-back Xavier Gaines all alone — cornerback Marlin Brooks fell down earlier in Gaines’ route — and the easy pitch-and-catch went the distance for the game-winning touchdown.
Rourke hit 15 of 25 passes for 215 yards and three touchdowns. He notched the eighth 100-yard rushing game of his career with 118 yards on just nine carries with another score.
It was the eighth time in Rourke’s career that he accounted for at least four touchdowns in a game. It was just the second time in the last three seasons that Rourke finished with at least 200 yards passing and at least 100 yards rushing.
“He did everything that we’re asking of him, and he’s continually a player that just shows great courage, great athleticism every time he steps on the field,” said Ohio coach Frank Solich.
But he couldn’t do enough to get a tough road win. Ohio’s last offensive series ended after a pair of Rourke incompletions from inside the OU 40. Ohio punted the ball, down 33-31, with 5:42 remaining.
And the Bobcats never got the ball back.
Marshall ran out the clock with a steady diet of inside runs and QB keepers. The Herd took a pair of knees inside the 5-yard line over the final minute, then celebrated.
Green passed for 206 yards and two touchdowns for Marshall, and added 50 yards rushing. Lead back Brenden Knox had 133 yards rushing and a touchdown — all in the first half — and Sheldon Evans added 77 yards on 17 carries.
Marshall ran for 305 yards, and averaged 6.6 yards per carry.
“We just did not muscle up early in the game,” Solich said.
“The second half we played much better, but there were crucial times in the second half too where they were able to gash us.”
The Herd owned the first half behind Knox and an offense that was barely slowed over the first two quarters.
Marshall scored on five of its first six possessions. Gaines’ keeper on a read play went for a 26-yard touchdown on the Herd’s first drive and the tone was set.
Ohio landed some punches as well. Louie Zervos hit a 44-yard field goal, and then the Bobcats tied it 10-10 early in the second quarter when Rourke found Shane Hooks for a 20-yard touchdown down the right sideline. It was the first TD catch of Hooks’ career.
But the Herd, behind Knox, kept rampaging through the Ohio defense the rest of the half. Knox had 133 yards on 16 carries in the first two quarters and his 36-yard gain on third down — thanks to a ad-lib pitch from Green — led to his two-yard touchdown plunge later in the drive.
Ohio tied it again, 17-17, after Tuggle scored on an 18-yard catch-and-run from Rourke.
But the Herd got a 22-yard touchdown pass from Green to wide-open tight end Devin Miller, and Justin Rohrwasser’s 37-yard field goal to post the 27-17 lead.
Ohio had a chance for point just before the half, but Zervos pulled a 43-yard field goal attempt wide left. The miss came after two Marshall time outs called in order to ice the senior kicker.
Marshall had 336 of its 511 total yards in the first half, and picked up 7.8 yards per carry.
“We were just mis-communicating, not hitting on our right keys and that’s about it. We were not doing things right out there starting off,” said Ohio senior defensive end Will Evans.
“We just needed better technique on our tackling. We had some pretty good hits on him but he’s a pretty powerful runner. I’m not going to take that from him,” he added. “We got to come out and hit harder.”
Ohio flipped the script in the third quarter. Rourke broke Tettleton’s record with his third touchdown pass of the night, a 7-yard fade to tight end Ryan Luehrman, and the Bobcats pulled to within 27-24 with 8:03 left in the quarter.
The momentum was stunted, however, when redshirt freshman Jerome Buckner fumbled away a punt return. It was the only turnover of the game.
“Probably, at the end of the day, it came down to they had one turnover and we had none, and that’s what the difference in the game was,” said Marshall head coach Doc Holliday.
Ohio’s defense, however, started stacking up stops. In fact, the Herd was forced to punt four straight times to open the second half.
That opened the door for Rourke’s long TD run to threaten the turn what looked like a blowout into a dramatic comeback victory.
But Brooks slipped, Ohio punted, and the Herd iced it.
That left Rourke getting congratulations, and kind words, from about a third of the Marshall roster after the game. Holliday even looked him up in the postgame scrum and grinned at him like a proud grandfather.
Rourke had the respect of the opponent, and an Ohio record. But he didn’t have the Bell, and that mattered more.
“It’s cool to be singled out like that, but individual accomplishments are far less gratifying than team accomplishments,” Rourke said.
“Not bringing home this trophy is going to sting for a bit.”
Marshall 33, Ohio 31
Ohio 3 14 7 7 — 31
Marshall 10 17 0 6 — 33
Marshall — Xavier Gaines, 26-yard run (Justin Rohrwasser kick), 12:45, 1Q
Ohio — Louie Zervos, 44-yard field goal, 7:51, 1Q
Marshall — Justin Rohrwasser, 38-yard field goal, 3:55, 1Q
Ohio — Shane Hooks, 20-yard pass from Nathan Rourke (Zervos kick), 14:09, 2Q
Marshall — Brenden Knox, 2-yard run (Rohrwasser kick), 9:18, 2Q
Ohio — De’Montre Tuggle, 18-yard pass from Nathan Rourke (Zervos kick), 6:09, 2Q
Marshall — Devin Miller, 22-yard pass from Isaiah Green (Rohrwasser kick), 3:12, 2Q
Marshall — Justin Rohrwasser, 37-yard field goal, 0:54, 2Q
Ohio — Ryan Luehrman, 7-yard pass from Nathan Rourke (Zervos kick), 8:03, 3Q
Ohio — Nathan Rourke, 72-yard run (Zervos run), 11:14, 4Q
Marshall — Xavier Gaines, 43-yard pass from Green (kick failed), 7:45, 4Q
First downs 18 24
Total Plays 57 74
Rushing (plys-yds) 31-223 46-305
Passing yards 215 206
Total yards 438 511
Passes (cmp-att-int) 15-26-0 17-28-0
Fumbles (no-lost) 1-1 0-0
Penalties (no-yds) 3-15 2-20
Punts (no-avg) 5-37.8 5-41.4
Ohio — Nathan Rourke 9-118 TD, O’Shaan Allison 12-60, De’Montre Tuggle 10-45; Marshall — Brenden Knox 16-133 TD, Sheldon Evans 17-77, Xavier Gaines 3-52 TD, Isaiah Green 6-50, Willie Johnson 1-(-1), TEAM 3-(-6).
Ohio — Nathan Rourke 15-25-0 215 3 TDs, TEAM 0-1-0; Marshall — Isaiah Green 17-28-0 206 2 TDs.
Ohio — Isiah Cox 4-61, Ryan Luehrman 4-60 TD, O’Shaan Allison 3-14, De’Montre Tuggle 2-28 TD, Jerome Buckner 1-32, Shane Hooks 1-20 TD; Marshall — Armani Levias 5-29, Xavier Gaines 3-53 TD, Corey Gammage 3-40, Devin Miller 2-24 TD, Artie Henry 2-(-3), Tavin Richardson 1-29, Talik Keaton 1-16, Sheldon Evans 0-18.