AMHERST, N.Y. -- Redshirt freshman running back O'Shaan Allison (Norristown, Pa.) scored a game-tying five-yard touchdown, then redshirt senior placekicker Louie Zervos (Tarpon Springs, Fla.) converted the extra point to lift the Ohio football team (2-3, 1-0 MAC) to a 21-20 victory over Buffalo (2-4, 0-2 MAC) in its 2019 Mid-American Conference opener this afternoon at UB Stadium.
Ohio put a halt to a three-game losing skid with the win over Buffalo and won its MAC opener for the ninth year in a row and 12th time in 15 tries under head coach Frank Solich.
"We're even closer than what we were coming in. And we were a close football team coming in," said Solich following the win. "You don't have things happen the way they did for us in the first four ball games, and come play a tough football team and play the way we did to pull it out without having it be with a special group of guys."
The overtime win marked Ohio's first since defeating Eastern Michigan on the road, 27-20, on Sept. 23, 2017, to open up conference play that season.
The Bobcats snapped a four-game losing skid in games played at UB Stadium, earning their first victory in Buffalo since a 27-24 triumph on Nov. 10, 2009.
"I'm feeling amazing. That was a win we really needed," said senior linebacker Eric Popp (Loveland, Ohio), who produced a forced fumble in the second half of the victory. "That's huge for us."
With the score knotted at 14-all, Ohio won the overtime toss and elected to go on defense to start extra frame. The Bulls converted a 3rd-and-6 with a 10-yard run by sophomore running back Kevin Marks to give Buffalo a fresh set of downs at the Ohio 11. After runs of three yards and five yards by Marks, redshirt sophomore quarterback Kyle Vantrease kept it himself and scored from three yards out to give the Bulls a six-point lead. The extra point attempt by freshman placekicker Jackson Baltar failed, however, giving the Bobcats a chance at victory on their overtime possession with a touchdown and a successful extra point.
The Bobcats turned to Allison on all five overtime plays. He gained six yards, five yards, eight yards and one yard on the ground, setting the stage for his five-yard touchdown run on 3rd-and-1 to even the score -- the eighth third down conversion in 13 attempts on the game for Ohio. Zervos then calmly knocked down the extra point, sending his teammates rushing onto the field to meet him in celebration.
"We knew, if we get in the end zone, we're going to win," said Allison. "I ran my hardest. I just stuck to what I had to do each and every play. It means a lot. This is a game to remember."
Allison accounted for 96 of Ohio's 186 rushing yards and scored the first two rushing touchdowns of his collegiate career. Senior quarterback Nathan Rourke (Oakville, Ontario, Canada) added 63 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown while completing 12 of his 19 pass attempts for 155 yards.
"He ran behind a very good performance from our o-line," said Rourke of Allison. "That drive in overtime, I really just handed the ball off and let them go to work."
The overtime was set up by missed field goals in the fourth quarter by both teams.
With 9:42 to go in the fourth quarter, Rourke broke off a 29-yard run on 1st-and-10 from Ohio's 34 to put the ball on the Buffalo 37. A holding penalty and a sack hampered Ohio's progress, however, and the Bobcats were forced to attempt a 52-yard field goal. Zervos' try bounced up in the air off the crossbar and was no good, keeping the score even at 14-all.
On the ensuing Buffalo drive, sophomore running back Jaret Patterson, Vantrease and Marks combined to gain 29 yards on the ground. On 3rd-and-8 from the Ohio 36, Vantrease completed a seven-yard pass to Marks, setting up a 4th-and-1. After the two teams traded timeouts, the Bulls sent Baltar on to attempt a 46-yard go-ahead field goal, but the try sailed wide right. Ohio got the ball back but went three-and-out, forcing the overtime period.
Buffalo received the opening kickoff to start the game and moved 68 yards in seven plays, thanks in large part to Patterson picking up 61 yards on a catch-and-run. The drive stalled out at the Ohio seven, though, and the Bulls were forced to settle for a 24-yard field goal attempt. The try by Baltar was off the mark, though, keeping the contest scoreless.
Ohio moved the ball into Buffalo territory on its first drive, but the Bobcats stalled at the Bulls' 42 and were forced to punt. The Bulls took over at their own 10, then proceeded to march 90 yards in 14 plays and 8:14, capping the drive off with a four-yard touchdown pass from Vantrease to junior wide receiver Dominic Johnson to put Buffalo in front with 12:30 to play in the first half.
On the ensuing drive, Ohio used a 16-yard completion from Rourke to redshirt freshman wide receiver Jerome Buckner (Columbus, Ohio) and a combined 38 rushing yards by Rourke and Allison to set up a 1st-and-goal for the Bobcats at the Buffalo one. The Bobcats were unable to punch it in on three straight runs, though, and then failed to complete a pass on 4th-and-goal, preserving Buffalo's 7-0 lead.
The Bobcats entered halftime trailing by a touchdown and Buffalo holding a 214-83 advantage in total yards over them.
Ohio received the second-half kickoff and moved 78 yards in eight plays and just over four minutes. After throwing for just 32 yards in the first half, Rourke picked up 34 through the air on the drive, completing passes of 14 yards to redshirt sophomore wide receiver Isiah Cox (Jasper, Ala.) and 20 to redshirt junior tight end Ryan Luehrman (Athens, Ohio) on the first two plays. Rourke and Allison combined to gain 24 yards on the ground, and Cox added 15 more on a run. That set up a five-yard touchdown run by Rourke on 3rd-and-goal, allowing the Bobcats to even the score with the Bulls.
Buffalo moved the ball to the Ohio 26 on the next driver, with Marks gaining 20 yards on three carries and Vantrease completing passes of 23 yards and six yards to freshman running back Ron Cook, Jr. The Bobcats produced their third takeaway of the year, however, on 1st-and-10 from the 26 as Popp forced Vantrease to fumble on a keeper and redshirt senior safety Javon Hagan (Jacksonville, Fla.) fell on the loose ball to give Ohio possession. Hagan finished second on the team with seven total tackles (three solo) in the contest.
Ohio appeared poised to take the lead after marching to the Buffalo 22 on the ensuing drive, but Rourke was picked off by junior Kadofi Wright at the nine. The Bulls went three-and-out on the next drive, but the Bobcats turned the ball over again on the ensuing possession, with Buffalo junior defensive end Malcolm Koonce forcing a fumble on a strip sack of Rourke and junior defensive end Taylor Riggins there to recover. On the very next play, Vantrease threw a 34-yard touchdown pass to junior wide receiver Antonio Nunn to give the Bulls the lead with 14:47 left in the contest.
After Ohio and Buffalo traded punts, the Bobcats moved 48 yards in four plays and tied the contest on a one-yard touchdown plunge by Allison – the first touchdown of his career. The score was set up by a 34-yard catch-and-run by redshirt freshman wide receiver Shane Hooks (Orlando, Fla.) that gave the Bobcats a first down at the Buffalo 14.
Buffalo totaled 181 yards on the ground in the contest, with Marks accounting for a game-high 112 on 22 carries while Patterson added 52 on 13 touches. Vantrease went 16-of-23 for 197 yards and two touchdowns through the air and added 19 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Nunn led all receivers with 53 yards and a touchdown. Defensively, junior safety Tyrone Hill led all tacklers with 15 stops, including a game-high 12 solo tackles.
Redshirt junior safety Jarren Hampton (Fostoria, Ohio) led Ohio with eight total tackles, including a team-high seven solo stops.
Ohio welcomes MAC West Division foe Northern Illinois to Peden Stadium for a Homecoming matchup next Saturday (Oct. 12). Kickoff is slated for 3:30 p.m. ET. The contest will be streamed live on ESPN+ in addition to being broadcast live on the Ohio Sports Network from Learfield IMG College. Click here for ticket information.