Ohio finishes non-conference play as a team in disarray.
If you watched Ohio (0-4) play any games this year but did not see this one, you can guess what happened: offensive inconsistency, porous run defense, penalties, injuries, missed tackles, and a missed red zone opportunity conspired to beat the Bobcats once again.
With 3rd string QB Ryan Hilinski making his first start of the season, Northwestern (2-2, 0-1) leaned heavily on its ground game, amassing 373 yards and five rushing TDs to coast to victory over the hapless Bobcats.
The Wildcats’ rushing attack was keyed by RB Evan Hull, who finished the game with 216 yards on 22 carries and 2 TDs.
The Bobcats offense started the contest strong, moving the ball into the red zone on some effective short passes and timely runs by QB Kurtis Rourke.
The Bobcats then substituted QB Armani Rogers in for Rourke on third-and-four on the Northwestern 12, just like they did against Louisiana last week on the first drive of the game in the red zone.
Ohio then ran what looked like a similar or the exact same play they ran in the red zone against Louisiana, a Rogers run left, where the same offensive linemen was penalized this week who was penalized last week. The Bobcats had to settle for a 31-yard FG attempt, which, like last week, was missed.
After the missed FG, the Bobcats defense forced a three-and-out, giving the Bobcats possession at midfield. But, after a 12-yard run, Rourke was drilled and fumbled, which was recovered by Northwestern.
Hull took over on two of the next three drives, leading the Wildcats to two rushing TDs, including a 90-yarder.
The teams traded some punts and Northwestern eventually moved into the red zone twice, coming away with three points to close the first half leading 17-0.
Bobcats senior center Nick Sink was carted off with an injury on a first-half drive and did not return, adding injury to insult for an offense which has failed to get going all season.
The second half was a defensive struggle, with credit to Ohio’s defense for continuing to play hard, keeping the game close until late by stiffening in the red zone; on the day, Ohio’s defense held four times, resulting in only six points on two FGs, one missed FG, and a fumble recovery.
Ohio turned the ball over on their side of the field twice late in the second half, leading to two Wildcat TDs.
Rourke tweaked his knee in the fourth quarter and was replaced by Armani Rogers. Rourke finished the day completing 20-of-29 passes for 166 yards and 33 yards rushing. Rogers ran for a 55-yard TD on the game’s final play to avoid the shutout.
Ohio has a lot of work to do before they head to Akron Saturday, October 2nd, to take on an improved Zips club.