The Ohio Bobcats enjoyed one of their best offensive days of the season, and saw the reemergence of quarterback Kurtis Rourke.
It still wasn’t enough to get on top of the Kent State Golden Flashes on Saturday.
Ohio lost its third Mid-American Conference game in a row, losing to the Flashes 34-27 in front of 15,854 fans at Peden Stadium.
The Bobcats are 1-7 overall, and 1-3 in the conference after failing to slow down Dustin Crum and the Kent State (4-4, 3-1 MAC) offense.
“It was great to get on a roll here, to get another East divisional win and stay in control and be in the driver’s seat,” Kent State coach Sean Lewis said. “You know that these MAC games are going to be really close and hard wins to come by, but our kids fought in all three phases of the game.”
Ohio and Kent State were even in most statistical categories — both teams finished with exactly 457 yards of offense. The Bobcats ran 77 plays, the Golden Flashes 76 plays.
Turnovers played a large role in deciding the outcome. Ohio had three, while Kent State was clean in that category.
Ohio lost two fumbles and threw an interception in the end zone, missed opportunities for points that proved crucial down the stretch.
“We had three turnovers, just looking at the numbers we were pretty even and the most important thing was turnovers,” Ohio coach Tim Albin said.
Even in defeat, Ohio might have found an answer offensively going forward.
The Bobcats had been riding the hot hand of Armani Rogers since the second half of a win at Akron three weeks ago.
Rourke, who started the first five games, didn’t appear in games against Central Michigan and Buffalo.
However, he entered on Ohio’s fifth drive on Saturday after Kent State had built an early 10-0 lead.
Albin said which signal caller gets reps will still depend on the situations going forward.
“Just like Armani after the Northwestern game,” Albin said. “Kurtis played most of the game and Armani just didn’t get a lot of snaps, the game didn’t present itself as that kind of game. Then came Akron, we were having a little trouble protecting; since we lost Nick (Sink) up front, we’ve had trouble and we felt like at halftime at Akron this would be our best chance to win games. Every opportunity we’re equal repping the quarterbacks. That what we’ve done, they’re both going to play in the game, they both have skillsets to help us move the ball and win games.”
Rourke certainly responded with a brilliant line on Saturday, nearly leading a comeback.
Rourke completed 31 of 38 passes for 308 yards and an interception. He added 49 yards on the ground with a pair of touchdowns.
Rourke said he continued to prepare while not playing during the last two games.
“I just think continue to work, get better, and continue to lead,” he said. “That’s my role as a captain. I can’t be the one that’s pouting or anything. I just am continuing to come practice, work and be ready if needed.”
The Bobcats had instant success with Rourke in the game, but turnovers hurt the offense.
Rourke’s first drive ended when Isiah Cox caught a pass, but fumbled after being hit at the Kent State 15-yard line.
Ohio drove to Kent State’s 19-yard line on its next possession, but Keith Sherald Jr. intercepted a Rourke pass in the end zone.
“Those turnovers can’t happen,” Rourke said. “You know I’m looking at myself. It’s hard to win games when you have three turnovers. The defense did a great job in the first half.”
Kent State’s up-tempo attack found success at times against Ohio. Crum completed 26 of 31 passes for 257 yards and a touchdown, also adding 93 yards rushing with another touchdown.
Dante Cephas (nine receptions, 103 yards and a touchdown) and Nykeim Johnson (eight receptions, 86 yards) consistently came up with big catches for Kent State.
Kent State went ahead 24-7 after scoring on the opening drive of the third quarter on Xavier Williams’ 15-yard run.
The Bobcats found an offensive rhythm at that point. Rourke’s 9-yard touchdown run brought them to within 24-14 with 9:37 still to play in the third quarter.
Kent State always seemed to have an answer. Marquez Cooper’s 15-yard run stretched the lead to 31-14 with 5:37 left in the third.
Rourke and the Bobcats came back, but faced a fourth-and-three from the Flashes’ 6-yard line.
Albin opted for a Stephen Johnson 23-yard field goal, making it a two-score game at 31-17.
The strategy was paying off when Ohio got a defensive stop, and eventually trimmed the deficit down to one score at 31-24 after Rourke’s 1-yard run with 7:44 to play in the fourth.
Kent State got what it needed offensively on its next drive. The Flashes went 65 yards on 11 plays, extending the lead to 34-24 with 3:04 left after Andrew Glass’ 27-yard field goal.
Ohio got inside Kent State’s 10-yard line again, with Johnson kicking a 20-yard field goal to make the score 34-27.
However, there were only 49 seconds left and the Bobcats were out of timeouts.
When Ohio’s onside kick bounced out of bounds, Kent State took two knees and left Athens with the victory.
The loss clinched a losing season for the Bobcats, and dropped them two games back in the MAC East standings.
Kent State and Miami are both 3-1 in the conference, and Buffalo is 2-2 after Saturday’s games.
Ohio wil have 10 days off before returning to action, hosting Miami on Tuesday, Nov. 2.
The Bobcats have been painfully close in the conference, losing their last three games by a combined 11 points.
They’ll have four games remaining to try and end the year on a positive note, starting with the rivalry game against Miami.
“I am optimistic with this coaching staff and this football team,” Albin said. “We have not used those things to get them to play their best, it’s been more about the process and let’s get better every day and gradually build up to play our best game on Saturday. There are going to be challenges, but I really feel like our culture and the players we have will fight.”
Kent State 34, Ohio 27
Kent State 10 7 14 3 — 34
Ohio 0 7 10 10 — 27
KSU — Dante Cephas, 33-yard pass from Dustin Crum (Andrew Glass kick), 10:09, 1st
KSU — Andrew Glass, 31-yard field goal, 4:00, 1st
OH — De’Montre Tuggle, 2-yard run (Stephen Johnson kick), 2:04, 2nd
KSU — Dustin Crum, 4-yard run (Andrew Glass kick), :15, 2nd
KSU — Xavier Williams, 15-yard run (Andrew Glass kick), 13:28, 2nd
OH — Kurtis Rourke, 9-yard run (Stephen Johnson kick), 9:37, 3rd
KSU — Marquez Cooper, 15-yard run (Andrew Glass kick), 5:37, 3rd
OH — Stephen Johnson, 23-yard field goal, 1:12, 3rd
OH — Kurtis Rourke, 1-yard run (Stephen Johnson kick), 7:44, 4th
KSU — Andrew Glass, 27-yard field goal, 3:04, 4th
OH — Stephen Johnson, 20-yard field goal, :49, 4th
First downs 28 27
Plays from scrimmage 76 77
Rushing (plys-yds) 45-200 34-135
Passing yards 257 322
Total net yards 457 457
Passes (cmp-att-int) 26-31-0 34-43-1
Fumbles (no-lost) 0-0 2-2
Penalties (no-yds) 8-56 5-50
Punts (no-avg) 4-44.8 2-46.5
Time of possession 26:37 32:23
Kent State — Dustin Crum 17-93 TD, Xavier Williams 11-60 TD, Marquez Cooper 14-50 TD, Nykeim Johnson 1-(-1); Ohio — De’Montre Tuggle 13-59 TD, Kurtis Rourke 7-49 2 TDs, O’Shaan Allison 11-16, Armani Rogers 3-11.
Kent State — Dustin Crum 26-31-0-257 TD; Ohio — Kurtis Rourke 31-38-1-308, Armani Rogers 3-5-0-14.
Kent State — Dante Cephas 9-103 TD, Nykeim Johnson 8-86, Keshunn Abram 3-27, Kris Leach 1-14, Marquez Cooper 2-12, Xavier Williams 2-10, Ja’Shaun Poke 1-5; Ohio — Isiah Cox 7-73, O’Shaan Allison 7-52, Ty Walton 4-49, Cameron Odom 4-35, Ryan Luehrman 3-32, Chase Cokley 3-25, Alec Burton 1-22, De’Montre Tuggle 2-13, James Bostic 1-10, Adam Luerhman 1-8, Miles Cross 1-3.