ATHENS, Ohio -- The Ohio football team (4-6, 3-3 MAC) forced overtime with a touchdown with nine seconds left in regulation but ultimately fell to Mid-American Conference West Division foe Western Michigan (7-4, 5-2 MAC), 37-34, tonight at Peden Stadium.
Western Michigan led 10-0 at halftime, but the Bobcats and the Broncos combined for 52 points in the second half, including 31 in the fourth quarter. The two teams wound up combining for 918 yards of offense.
"It has been frustrating for the coaches and also the players," said 15th-year head coach Frank Solich of Ohio's current two-game losing skid. "They are very frustrated and obviously we expected more out of this season. We've got two games to go and we plan on winning those two games. We can't take back any of the other games. I wish I could for those guys because they're as great a group I've had in a ton of years in terms of how they've responded to things, how hard they've practiced, and how hard they prepared in the off-season. I just felt like I wish I could've done more. They deserved more than what they've got accomplished this season so far. It's what it is, and we just have to pick up from where we left off now and find a way to win our final two games."
Trailing 31-24 with just under five minutes to play in the fourth, Ohio drove from its own 34-yard line to the Western Michigan nine. The Bobcats turned the ball over on downs, though, and gave the football back to the Broncos with 1:10 remaining. Ohio's defense forced a three-and-out and used all three of its timeouts to give the offense the ball back with 47 seconds left.
The Bobcats took over at their own 47, and senior quarterback Nathan Rourke (Oakville, Ontario, Canada) completed a 27-yard pass along the sideline to redshirt freshman wide receiver Jerome Buckner (Columbus, Ohio). Rourke then completed passes of nine yards to redshirt freshman running back O'Shaan Allison (Norristown, Pa.) and five yards to redshirt junior tight end Ryan Luehrman (Athens, Ohio) to give the Bobcats a first down at the Western Michigan 12. On the next play, with nine seconds left, Rourke threw a 12-yard touchdown pass to redshirt junior wide receiver Tyler Tupa (Brecksville, Ohio), and redshirt senior placekicker Louie Zervos (Tarpon Springs, Fla.) made the extra point to force overtime.
Ohio got the ball to start overtime but was unable to pick up a first down, settling for a 37-yard field goal by Zervos. Western Michigan then took over possession and gave senior running back LeVante Bellamy the ball three times, with the first carry going for 20 yards and the last going for four and the game-winning touchdown.
"I don't think there is just one thing to blame," said Rourke of the team's recent losses. "I think that we have shown flashes each game of what we're capable of. We just haven't been able to play all four quarters. That's been holding us back from playing our brand of football that we know we're capable of playing. Last year, we did a really good job of finishing games and playing four quarters, but this year we've had a hard time doing that."
In his final home game as a Bobcat, Rourke completed 20 of his 29 passing attempts for 225 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed for 93 yards on 13 attempts. Rourke increased his school record for touchdowns responsible for to 101. Luehrman matched his career high with four receptions and led Ohio with 52 receiving yards. Allison gained 59 yards on nine carries while junior running back De'Montre Tuggle (Channelview, Texas) gained 39 yards and matched his career high by scoring two touchdowns on six carries.
Western Michigan was led by senior quarterback Jon Wassink, who completed 23 of 34 passes for 322 yards and three touchdowns. Fifth-year senior wide receiver Keith Mixon Jr. snatched a game-high 10 receptions that went for 84 yards while freshman wide receiver Skyy Moore totaled a game-high 162 receiving yards and senior tight end Giovanni Ricci scored a game-high two receiving touchdowns. Bellamy finished the contest with 72 rushing yards on 28 touches.
Western Michigan received the opening kickoff and turned its first drive into points, moving 70 yards in 15 plays. The Broncos converted a 3rd-and-10 into a fresh set of downs at the Ohio 21-yard line when Wassink completed a 26-yard pass to Moore. Western Michigan picked up another first down when Bellamy gained four yards on 3rd-and-1 to make it 1st-and-goal from the eight. The drive stalled there, though, and Western Michigan settled for a 22-yard field goal by junior kicker Thiago Kapps.
The game's next three drives resulted in punts. Western Michigan's third drive of the contest saw the Broncos march 91 yards in 17 plays. A 19-yard completion from Wassink to Mixon gave Western Michigan a 1st-and-goal at the Ohio two, but the Broncos failed to punch it in on four-straight plays. Western Michigan committed a false start on fourth down, pushing the ball back to the Ohio six and forcing Western Michigan to attempt a 22-yard field goal. The try by Kapps sailed wide right, keeping it a 3-0 score with just under 10 minutes to play in the first half.
The Bobcats and Broncos traded punts on the next two possession. Ohio muffed the punt by Western Michigan, though, and the Broncos took possession at its own 48. Western Michigan turned the takeaway into points, capping a 12-play, 52-yard drive with a two-yard touchdown run by Ricci, allowing the Broncos to take a 10-point lead into halftime.
Ohio took the second-half kickoff and went 74 yards in 10 plays. Rourke completed a 21-yard pass to Luehrman on 3rd-and-10 to give the Bobcats a first down at their own 47. Five plays later, Rourke found Luehrman again, this time in the end zone for an eight-yard touchdown. The play was originally ruled an incompletion, but the call was overturned by video review as it was determined that Luehrman kept a foot in bounds to make a great scoring snag on a fade.
After forcing Western Michigan to go three-and-out on its first drive of the half, the Bobcats engineered another scoring drive. Rourke ran for 22 yards, completed a 14-yard pass to Cox, ran for 11 more yards and completed a 25-yard pass to redshirt junior tight end Adam Luehrman (Athens, Ohio), setting up a 10-yard touchdown run by Tuggle.
The Broncos and the Bobcats traded punts, then Western Michigan took the lead on its next possession, scoring in four plays. Wassink completed passes of 12 yards to freshman running back Sean Tyler and 34 yards to Moore, then connected with Ricci on a 16-yard scoring strike to help the Broncos take a 17-14 lead into the fourth quarter.
The Bobcats tied the game at 17-all on the first play of the fourth quarter when Zervos knocked down a 33-yard field goal to punctuate a six-play, 53-yard drive that was highlighted by a career-long 42-yard run by Allison.
Western Michigan struck back quickly, with Wassink hitting Moore for a 61-yard touchdown pass on the fifth play of the next drive, helping to put the Broncos back in front, 24-17.
On the next drive, Rourke completed passes of 14 yards to Buckner, nine yards to redshirt sophomore wide receiver Isiah Cox (Jasper, Ala.) and 15 yards to Tupa. It was all Tuggle on the next three plays, as he ran for a 14-yard gain, hauled in an eight-yard reception and then scored a touchdown from four yards out, helping Ohio tie the game back up at 24-all.
The Broncos regained the lead on the very next possession, driving 72 yards in 12 plays, capped off by Moore running it in from two yards out to help Western Michigan take a 31-24 lead with 4:51 to play.
Three Bobcats finished the game with double-digit tackles, with redshirt senior free safety Javon Hagan (Jacksonville, Fla.) and redshirt junior middle linebacker Jared Dorsa (Kings Mills, Ohio) tying for a game high with 16 total tackles apiece. Dorsa registered a team-high seven solo stops and finished with two tackles for loss. Redshirt freshman weakside linebacker Keye Thompson (Barberton, Ohio) logged a game-high 2.5 tackles for loss and finished the contest with a career-high 13 total tackles.
Western Michigan was led defensively by junior weakside linebacker Treshaun Hayward, who logged 12 total tackles, including a team-high eight solo stops.
Ohio begins a two-game road trip to close the 2019 regular season next Tuesday (Nov. 19) when it visits Doyt Perry Stadium to battle MAC East Division rival Bowling Green. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. ET, and the contest will be nationally televised on either ESPN2 or ESPNU.