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MAC Division Leaders Meet Saturday As Ohio Football Visits Ball State

MAC Division Leaders Meet Saturday As Ohio Football Visits Ball State

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Ohio Game Notes (PDF)

ATHENS, Ohio -- It'll be a matchup of Mid-American Conference division leaders on Saturday (Oct. 26) at Scheumann Stadium in Muncie, Ind., as the East Division-leading Ohio football team (3-4, 2-1 MAC) takes on West Division leader Ball State (4-3, 3-0 MAC). Kickoff is slated for 2 p.m. ET.

Saturday's contest will be broadcast live on ESPN+, with Jim Barbar and John Gregory on the call.

Saturday's game can also be heard on the Ohio Sports Network from Learfield IMG College. Russ Eisenstein returns for his 12th season as the "Voice of the Bobcats." Ohio Alum Rob Cornelius has been a part of the broadcasts for two decades. WXTQ (Power 105) in Athens returns as the 11-station  network's flagship. The broadcasts are also available online through TuneIn.com/OhioBobcats and on the TuneIn app.

Saturday, Oct. 26, 2019 | Ohio (3-4, 2-1 MAC) at Ball State (4-3, 3-0 MAC) | 2 p.m. ET | Scheumann Stadium | Muncie, Ind. | ESPN+ | Ohio Sports Network from Learfield IMG College | TuneIn | Live Stats

• Ohio is coming off of a critical 45-38 MAC East Division victory over Kent State last Saturday (Oct. 19) at Peden Stadium.

The Bobcats racked up a season-high 45 points, 571 yards of total offense and 31 first downs and held a season-best 9:38 advantage in team of possession (34:49-25:11).

The win marked Ohio's sixth in a row over the Golden Flashes and put the Bobcats in first place in the MAC East Division.

• Senior quarterback Nathan Rourke (Oakville, Ontario, Canada) threw for a career-high 342 yards and two touchdowns and ran for two more scores in Ohio's win over Kent State. He completed 19 of his 28 passing attempts (67.9 percent). Rourke threw a 49-yard touchdown pass to redshirt sophomore wide receiver Isiah Cox in the first quarter, tossed a 51-yard scoring strike to redshirt freshman wide receiver Jerome Buckner in the second quarter, ran for a for a three-yard touchdown in the second quarter and ran for a seven-yard score in the fourth quarter that ultimately put the Bobcats ahead of the Golden Flashes for good. 

Rourke became the first Ohio quarterback to pass for at least 300 yards in a game since Greg Windham threw for 380 against Texas State in 2016. Rourke has now been responsible for at least four touchdowns in a single game 10 times in his career and extended his school record for career touchdowns responsible for to 94. He has now thrown for 6,249 yards in his career, giving him the distinction of being one of only two quarterbacks in program history to throw for at least 6,000 career yards along with Tyler Tettleton (9,125 yards; 2009-13). Rourke's 50 career passing touchdowns rank second in program history while his 42 career rushing touchdowns rank third.

Rourke was named the MAC East Division Offensive Player of the week for the second time this season and for the eighth time in his career for his efforts in the win over Kent State. He was also recognized by the Manning Award, sponsored by the Allstate Sugar Bowl, as one of eight Manning Award Stars of the Week for week eight of the 2019 season.

• Redshirt sophomore wide receiver Isiah Cox enjoyed a breakout game, matching his career high with four receptions, logging a team-high 115 receiving yards and hauling in a 49-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter.

• Making his first career start, redshirt freshman wide receiver Ty Walton set career highs with four catches and 59 receiving yards.

• As a team, the Bobcats racked up 229 rushing yards, with junior running back De'Montre Tuggle leading the way with a career-high 80 on a career-high 19 carries. He also matched his career high with two rushing touchdowns.

• Ohio's big day on offense came despite missing the services of junior left guard Brett Kitrell, who did not play due to injury. Redshirt junior Nick Sink started at left guard for the first time in his career in Kitrell's place.

• The Bobcats were led defensively by redshirt freshman linebacker Keye Thompson, who finished with a career-high 10 total tackles (two solo, eight assisted) while making his first career start at weakside linebacker.

Redshirt sophomore nose tackle Kai Caesar and redshirt junior right defensive end Austin Conrad each recorded a sack. Conrad finished the game with a team-high two tackles for loss.

• Ohio ranks 12th in the country and first among MAC teams with a 42.3 percent third-down conversion rate. The Bobcats have converted at least half of their third down attempts in each MAC game this season.

• Ohio's red zone offense is tops in the MAC and 18th in the country, converting 92.3 percent of its trips into points.

• The Bobcats rank 21st in the country and second in the conference in fewest penalties per game (5.29), 27th in the nation and second in the MAC in fewest penalties (37), 39th in the nation and second in the MAC in fewest penalty yards per game (50.43) and 42nd in the country and second in the MAC in fewest penalty yards (353).

• Ohio's kickoff return defense is ranked second in the MAC and fourth in the country, surrendering just 15.77 yards per return, while its punt return defense ranks third in the conference and 32nd in the nation by allowing just 4.33 yards per return.

Frank Solich owns a career coaching record of 167-98. His 167 wins rank as the fourth most among active NCAA FBS head coaches.

Solich is 109-79 during his tenure as head coach of the Bobcats. His 108 victories are the second-most in program history behind behind Don Peden (1924-46). With two more wins, Solich will pass Herb Deromedi (110, Central Michigan, 1978-93) for the most by a MAC head coach. Ohio has gone 72-43 in conference play since Solich's arrival in Athens. His 72 MAC wins rank second to Deromedi's 90.

• The Bobcats went a perfect 6-0 at Peden Stadium in 2018, marking the first time Ohio has won all of its home games since 1968. Ohio went unbeaten at home for the first time since 1988, when the Bobcats finished their home schedule with a record of 3-0-1. Ohio has won 16 of its last 19 games played at Peden Stadium.

Frank Solich is the dean of MAC head coaches as he is in his 15th year leading the Bobcats. He is tied with Oklahoma State's Mike Gundy for fourth among active NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) head coaches in terms of longest tenure with their current school. Only Iowa's Kirk Ferentz (21 years), TCU's Gary Patterson (20 years) and Utah's Kyle Whittingham (16 years) have served as head coach at their respective institutions longer. Prior to arriving in Athens, Solich spent six years as head coach at his alma mater, Nebraska. Solich's 21 years of experience tie him with Ferentz (21 years) for the third-most among active NCAA FBS head coaches, ranking behind only North Carolina's Mack Brown (30 years) and Alabama's Nick Saban.

• Air Canada is back for his senior season. Senior quarterback Nathan Rourke, a two-time All-MAC Second Team selection, has played in 33 games with 31 starts over the last three seasons with the Bobcats and owns a 20-11 record as a starting quarterback. The Bobcats have averaged a staggering 37.4 points per game with Rourke starting under center, which ranks behind only Alabama's Tua Tagovailoa (22 starts, 46.6 pgg), UCF's McKenzie Milton (33 starts; 40.6 ppg), Utah State's Jordan Love (25 starts, 39.9 ppg) and Oregon's Justin Herbert (35 starts; 37.8 ppg) among Football Bowl Subdivision signal callers who have made a minimum of 15 starts.

• Rourke is ranked first in program history with a career passing efficiency rating of 144.3, second with 6,249 passing yards, 50 career passing touchdowns and 189.4 passing yards per game, fourth with a career completion percentage of 58.1 percent (439-of-756), fifth with 14.2 career yards per completion and third with 439 career completions. He has also tallied 42 career rushing touchdowns, which ranks as the third-most in program history, and has rushed for more touchdowns than any other quarterback in NCAA FBS over the last two-plus seasons. Rourke has been responsible for a school-record 94 career touchdowns. He ranks third in program history with 44 career touchdowns scored and fifth with 264 career points scored. Rourke is a two-time winner of the Joe Cornish Trophy, which is awarded annually to the most outstanding Canadian player in NCAA Football. He has helped guide Ohio to a pair of bowl victories, with the Bobcats topping UAB, 41-6, in the 2017 Bahamas Bowl and shutting out San Diego State, 27-0, in the 2018 DXL Frisco Bowl.

• Through seven games in 2019, Rourke ranks ninth in the MAC in rushing yards (409) and tied for fourth in rushing touchdowns (6), both of which lead Ohio. His 2,021 yards of total offense rank second in the MAC while his seven touchdowns scored rank fifth.

Javon Hagan is back for his redshirt senior season as the starting free safety. Hagan has earned All-MAC recognition in each of the last three years, earning First Team honors twice (2016, '18) and Second Team recognition once (2017). A starter in 42 of the 46 career games he has played in, Hagan has compiled 275 career total tackles (169 solo, 106 assisted), with 9.0 career tackles for loss, has accounted for 29 career passes defensed (ninth-most in program history), has tallied six career interceptions for 132 career interception return yards, has notched 22 career pass breakups (10th-most in program history) and has forced eight career fumbles with four career fumble recoveries. As a redshirt freshman in 2016, he was named to the Sound Mind Sound Body Freshman All-America Team by the Football Writers Association of America and earned MAC Freshman of the Year honors after picking off a career-high three passes and totaling 120 interception return yards and forcing a career-high six fumbles -- good for third in the country and first in the MAC -- with one fumble recovery

• Through seven games in 2019, Hagan has compiled a team-high 59 total tackles (24 solo; second-most on the team) with three tackles for loss, one sack and a team-high four pass breakups.

Louie Zervos is back for his redshirt senior season as placekicker. He ranks first in program history with 188 career extra points made and has made his last 96, second with 64 career field goals made and second with 380 career points scored. In the win over Rhode Island, Zervos accounted for 11 points after knocking down a 37-yard field goal in the second quarter and a 42-yarder in the third in addition to converting all five of his extra point attempts.

• Redshirt senior punter Michael Farkas earned All-MAC First Team honors a year ago and is second in school history in career punting average (41.4 yards). He also ranks third in program history in career punting yards (8,367) and fourth in career punts (202). With two more punts, he will pass Matthew Miller (203; 2002-05) for the third-most in program history, and with six more, he will pass Dave Zastudil (207; 1998-01) for second-most. 

• The season opener against Rhode Island marked the first official day of work for new Director of Athletics Julie Cromer.

Ohio University President M. Duane Nellis appointed Cromer to the position on Aug. 15. She joins the Bobcats as Ohio's first female athletics director in University history. 

Cromer comes to Ohio University from the University of Arkansas, where she has served most recently as senior deputy athletics director, associate vice chancellor and senior woman administrator for Razorback Athletics. In addition to her executive role at Arkansas, Cromer is a respected leader within college athletics nationally. She currently serves on the NCAA Division I Board of Directors and is a member of the Board of Directors of Women Leaders in College Sports. 

Prior to Arkansas, Cromer spent 10 years of her career in the NCAA national office, including as the director of academic and membership affairs, working to advance NCAA academic reform and other policy initiatives. She left the NCAA to join Indiana University as the executive associate athletics director, where she was one of the first women in the Big Ten to supervise all elements of a collegiate football program.

• Ohio will be joining the MAC, the NCAA and ESPN in celebrating the 150th anniversary of college football in 2019. The campaign will culminate when Ohio takes on archrival Miami in the 'Battle of the Bricks' on Wednesday, Nov. 6 at Peden Stadium in a nationally televised matchup on ESPN2 that will be played on the 150th anniversary of the first-ever college football game. Ohio will look to make history that day with a call to students and fans to create the first-ever sellout of a MAC midweek game.

• Redshirt senior safety Javon Hagan, redshirt senior offensive lineman Austen Pleasants, senior quarterback Nathan Rourke, redshirt junior wide receiver Cameron Odom and redshirt senior defensive lineman Will Evans will serve as Ohio's five team captains in 2019.

Hagan enters his third season serving as a team captain while Rourke is in his second. Evans, Odom and Pleasants are all serving as captains for the first time.

• Ohio's roster features four players who have already earned their undergraduate degrees -- punter Michael Farkas (Communications Studies), free safety Javon Hagan (Sport Management), long snapper Devin King (Health Services Administration) and offensive lineman Austen Pleasants (Physical Activity and Sport Coaching).

• The Bobcats return nine players who earned Academic All-MAC honors in 2018 -- linebacker Austin Clack, linebacker Dylan Conner, defensive lineman Austin Conrad, linebacker Jared Dorsa, cornerback Tariq Drake, offensive lineman Brett Kitrell, running back Jake Neatherton, linebacker Eric Popp and quarterback Nathan Rourke. Conner, Kitrell and Rourke all earned MAC Distinguished Scholar Athlete recognition. 

• Ohio is set to meet Ball State for the 26th time on Saturday. The Bobcas trail the all-time series with the Cardinals, 15-10.

• The Bobcats are 4-2 against the Cardinals during the Frank Solich era, including a 1-1 mark in games played against Ball State in Muncie. Ohio is set to visit Ball State for the first time since Nov. 14, 2012 -- a 52-27 victory for the Cardinals. In Ohio's only other trip to Muncie in the Solich era, Ohio recorded a 20-17 victory on Oct. 31, 2009.

• Ohio and Ball State are squaring off for the second year in a row. The Bobcats blew out the Cardinals, 52-14, on Oct. 25, 2018, at Peden Stadium. Ohio racked up 411 rushing yards and scored six rushing touchdowns in the decisive win.

Redshirt senior running back A.J. Ouellette broke the 100-yard rushing mark for the first time in the 2018 campaign, racking up a game-high 135 yards on 13 carries and scoring two touchdowns. Redshirt senior running back Maleek Irons picked up 102 yards of 16 carries and scored a pair of touchdowns. Then-junior quarterback Nathan Rourke rushed for 77 yards and a pair of touchdowns while going 11-of-19 for 127 yards, a touchdown and an interception through the air.

The Bobcats held Ball State to just 242 total yards of offense and just one first down in both the second and third quarters.

• Mike Neu, a 1994 graduate of Ball State, is in his fourth season as head coach of the Cardinals. 

Neu started 38-of-41 games at quarterback in his four seasons at Ball State (1990-93). He was honored with the MAC's Vern Smith Award as the league's most valuable player and the MAC Offensive Player of the Year award as a senior. That year, Neu and the Cardinals went 8-3-1 overall and 7-0-1 in league action to capture the MAC championship.

Under Neu's leadership as head coach, the Cardinals have gone 14-29 over the last three-plus seasons.

• The Cardinals were predicted to finish fifth in the West Division in the MAC Media Preseason Poll. Ball State went 4-8 in 2018, including a 3-5 mark in conference play.

• Ball State has already matched its win total from a year ago and is a perfect 3-0 in MAC play, earning road wins over West Division foes Northern Illinois (27-20; Oct. 5) and Eastern Michigan (29-23; Oct. 12), then running their win streak to three in a row with a 52-14 Homecoming romp over West Division rival Toledo last Saturday.

• Ball State leads the MAC with 34.7 points per game (243 points; second-most in the conference) and 454.4 yards per game. The Cardinals have a balanced attack, ranking third in the league with 267.6 passing yards per game and fourth with 186.9 rushing yards per game.

• Defensively, the Cardinals allow 27.9 points per game (fifth-fewest in the league) and 391.1 yards per game (fourth-fewest in the league. Ball State is third in the MAC in rushing defense, giving up 135.0 yards per game on the ground.

• Redshirt junior quarterback Drew Plitt has thrown a MAC-high 16 touchdown passes, leads the league in completions (157) and ranks second in the conference in both passing yards (2,098) and completion percentage (65.7 percent).

• Junior running back Caleb Huntley has accounted for a team-high 711 rushing yards (third-most in the MAC) and five rushing touchdowns on 146 attempts.

 • Three Ball State receivers are ranked in the top-nine in the MAC in terms of receiving yards. Redshirt senior Riley Miller has caught 30 passes for a team-high 430 receiving yards (fifth-most in the MAC) and touchdown receptions. Junior Justin Hall is right behind him with a team-high 40 receptions (second-most in the MAC) for 423 receiving yards (sixth-most in the MAC) and three touchdown catches. Redshirt Antwan Davis has hauled in 25 receptions for 384 yards (ninth-most in the MAC) and three touchdowns.

• Redshirt senior inside linebacker Jacob White is third in the MAC with 70 total tackles (36 solo, 34 assisted). Redshirt sophomore outside linebacker Jordan Williams is fourth in the league with 7.5 tackles for loss and tied for third with 4.5 sacks. He has also recovered a league-high three fumble and is tied for second in the conference with two forced fumbles.

• Four Cardinals have recorded multiple interceptions. Sophomore cornerback Amechi Uzodinma II and junior cornerback Antonio Phillips are tied for both the team and MAC lead with three apiece while senior safety Ray Wilborn and junior safety Bryce Cosby have each collected two.

• Senior kicker Ryan Rimmler is tied for third in the conference with 10 made field goals with a long of 43 yards but has missed six attempts.

• Junior punter Nathan Snyder has punted 30 times for 1,284 yards (42.8 yards per punt), with 12 of them winding up inside the opponent's 20-yard line.

As the NFL celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2019, the Bobcats are represented by three alumni in the league.

Cornerback T.J. Carrie (2010-13) is in his sixth year in the league and his second as a member of the Cleveland Browns. Outside linebacker Tarell Basham (2013-16) is in his third season in the NFL and his second as a member of the New York Jets. Linebacker Quentin Poling, who spent the 2018 season on the practice squad of the Miami Dolphins, was signed to the Oakland Raiders practice squad on Sept. 25.

Former quarterback Tyler Tettleton (2009-13) is beginning his first season as the offensive quality control coach for the Cleveland Browns in 2019.

Ohio begins midweek MACtion on Wednesday, Nov. 6, when it welcomes MAC East Division archrival Miami to Peden Stadium for a nationally televised showdown on ESPN2. Kickoff for the 'Battle of the Bricks' is scheduled for 8 p.m. ET.

Ohio will be joining the MAC, the NCAA and ESPN in celebrating the 150th anniversary of college football in 2019, as the contest against the RedHawks is being played on the 150th anniversary of the first-ever college football game. Ohio will look to make history that day with a call to students and fans to create the first-ever sellout of a MAC midweek game.


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