AKRON — In terms of a game, it didn’t amount to much.
In terms of an audition tape, or a worthy sendoff, however, Ohio’s 52-3 rout over Akron on Tuesday night served its purpose perfectly.
The Bobcats (6-6, 5-3 Mid-American Conference) worked over the Zips (0-12, 0-8 MAC) from start to finish and left InfoCision Stadium hoping it wouldn’t be the last time they get to play in the 2019 season.
“Wait and see I guess. It’s kind of out of our control,” said Ohio senior quarterback Nathan Rourke. “We kind of went into this game thinking about controlling what we could control and take care of business here tonight. We did that in the last couple of games.
“Based on our circumstances, I think we made the most of it, which is good. Hopefully the bowl committees see that.”
Rourke did more than most in that regard. He threw for 308 yards on 20 of 28 passing, and tied a career-high with four touchdown passes. Rourke added 37 yards rushing and a fourth-quarter touchdown run. It was Rourke’s second career 300-yard passing game and the fourth time he accounted for five or more touchdowns in a single-game.
Rourke now has 110 touchdowns accounted for in his Bobcat career, a program record. In addition, Rourke has scored 50 career touchdowns (48 rushing, 2 receiving) and became the Ohio career leader in that category on Tuesday.
Only two quarterbacks in MAC history have accounted for more touchdowns that Rourke — CMU’s Dan Lefevour (150) and Marshall’s Chad Pennington (111).
“So special in what he’s been all about throughout his whole career here,” said Ohio head coach Frank Solich, who picked up win No. 112 with OU. “From the moment he stepped on our campus, he exuded the type of leadership that you wanted and you knew there was something special about this young man.
“As he continued to go through season after season here…I’m so proud of him. You’d love to keep him. You hate to lose him, in fact you hate to lose these seniors. They’re an excellent group.”
Redshirt freshman WR Shane Hooks had five catches for 81 yards and two touchdowns. Senior flanker D.L. Knock and junior TE Ryan Luehrman also notched TD catches. RBs O’Shaan Allison and Ja’Vahri Portis picked up second-half touchdown runs.
Ohio finished with 603 total yards — seventh most in program history. Over the last two weeks, the Bobcats have piled up more than 1,200 yards and 118 points.
“It’s been great,” said senior offensive tackle Austen Pleasants. “These past two weeks have been some of the funnest of my career, scoring wise and how we’ve been able to control and dominate the games.”
And OU controlled Akron throughout. The Zips finished with just 74 total yards — 1.4 per play — in the best defensive showing of the 15-year Solich era.
No Solich defense at Ohio has held an opponent to fewer yards. Akron’s 41 yards rushing were the fewest allowed since the Bobcats gave up just 35 in a 2018 home win against the Zips. Akron’s 33 passing yards were the fewest allowed by OU since a 2010 win over Wofford. Wofford, an option team, didn’t have a single passing yard.
Akron finished the season winless for the first time since 1942. The Zips are the first MAC team to go 0-12 since Miami in 2013.
Ohio needed just one play on its second possession to break a scoreless tie in the first quarter. Rourke found Knock streaking down the left sideline for a 53-yard score with 9:55 left in the quarter. It was Knock’s first TD of the season and first offensive TD since the 2017 Bahamas Bowl.
“Aw man, I love that,” Pleasants said. “To see him get what he deserves basically. Special moment.”
Akron cashed in an Ohio fumble for a field goal and a 7-3 deficit a couple minutes later. But it was all Bobcats after that.
Rourke fired a 39-yard touchdown strike down the right sideline again, this time to Hooks. Louie Zervos added a 40-yard field goal on the first play of the second quarter for a 17-3 lead.
Rourke threw two more touchdowns in the second quarter — a nine-yarder to Luehrman and an 11-yard fade to Hooks — to make it 31-3 by halftime.
Allison bulled in from the seven early in the third quarter to make it 38-3.
Rourke ended his night with a one-yard run early in the fourth — behind a block from Knock — for a 45-3 lead. Portis capped the scoring with a 3-yard run with 6:41 to go.
Meanwhile, Ohio badgered three different Zips’ quarterbacks into submission. Starter Kato Nelson was just 1 of 14 passing for 10 yards. Zach Gibson hit just 3 of 11 for 23 yards with an interception, and Robbie Kelley was 0 for 2 with a pick. Ohio had three sacks.
“I thought our defense played their best game all year,” Rourke said.
With the regular season completed, Ohio now plays a waiting game. The Bobcats are bowl eligible for an 11th consecutive season — and for the 13th time in 15 years under Solich — but will have to wait until Sunday, Dec. 8 to hear if they will get selected for one of the 78 teams that will participate in bowl season.
“I love this group and I’d love to have another opportunity to play with them,” Rourke said. “If it happens, it happens. If it doesn’t, then everything happens for a reason.”
Solich said he doesn’t need a bowl invite for him to appreciate the 2019 Bobcats. He’d take one, certainly, but it was the week-to-week drive that made this particular team a special one in his eyes.
“I’ll remember this group as a special team. I don’t know if I’ve been around a team that’s practiced every week, the way they did, to get better and to prepare themselves for the next game,” Solich said.
“That’s why I wish, somehow, I could’ve pulled a few strings to get a few more wins for these guys,” he added. “It just feels like we’re rolling and we don’t want to call it quits.”
Ohio 52, Akron 3
Ohio 14 17 7 14 — 52
Akron 3 0 0 0 — 3
Ohio — D.L. Knock, 53-yard pass from Nathan Rourke (Louie Zervos kick), 9:55, 1Q
Akron — Cory Smigel, 25-yard field goal, 7:20, 1Q
Ohio — Shane Hooks, 39-yard pass from Nathan Rourke (Zervos kick), 4:59, 1Q
Ohio — Louie Zervos, 40-yard field goal, 14:55, 2Q
Ohio — Adam Luehrman, 9-yard pass from Nathan Rourke (Zervos kick), 9:15, 2Q
Ohio — Shane Hooks, 11-yard pass from Nathan Rourke (Zervos kick), 0:44, 2Q
Ohio — O’Shaan Allison, 7-yard run (Zervos kick), 12:06, 3Q
Ohio — Nathan Rourke, 1-yard run (Zervos kick), 12:03, 4Q
Ohio — Ja’Vahri Portis, 3-yard run (Zervos kick), 6:41, 4Q
First downs 25 7
Total Plays 77 52
Rushing (plys-yds) 46-251 25-41
Passing yards 352 33
Total yards 603 74
Passes (cmp-att-int) 22-31-0 4-27-1
Fumbles (no-lost) 2-2 0-0
Penalties (no-yds) 6-51 4-39
Punts (no-avg) 3-41.7 10-39.6
Ohio — De’Montre Tuggle 9-78 O’Shaan Allison 7-71 TD, Nathan Rourke 10-37 TD, Ja’Vahri Portis 5-28 TD, Julian Ross 8-27, Joe Mischler 1-4, Jake Neatherton 4-3, Drew Keszei 1-2, Ty Walton 1-1; Akron — Peter Hayes-Patrick 14-42, Michiah Burton 6-12, Kato Nelson 1-9, Robbie Kelley 1-2, Zach Gibson 3-(-24).
Ohio — Nathan Rourke 20-28-0 308 4 TDs, Joe Mischler 1-2-0 23, Drew Keszei 1-1-0 21; Akron — Kato Nelson 1-14-0 10, Zach Gibson 3-11-1 23, Robbie Kelley 0-2-1 0.
Ohio — Ty Walton 5-82, Shane Hooks 5-81 2 TDs, Isiah Cox 3-28, Camryn Snow 2-44, K.J. Minter 2-22, De’Montre Tuggle 2-12, D.L. Knock 1-53 TD, Bingo Long 1-21, Ryan Luehrman 1-9 TD; Akron — Jeremiah Knight 2-22, Michiah Burton 2-11.