Nathan Rourke says he’ll remember Saturday’s game against Cincinnati for plenty of reasons: the tough loss, the game-ending interception on the goal line, the impact it may have on the Bobcats at the end of the season. 

The Ohio quarterback will also recall the noise of the Cincinnati student section, the group in the south end zone, which hindered his communication at Nippert Stadium. 

The Bobcats lost 34-30, but it was the first meeting between the two teams since 1981, a rivalry that has seen 51 games and that many fans were happy to see renewed. 

“It was fun, but it was tough in it was hard to communicate,” Rourke said. “It was one of the louder ones I’ve played in.”

The contract for the game, which was agreed on March 5, 2012, mentions a home-and-home series between the two schools. Game 1 was played this past weekend; the second installment is scheduled to be played at Peden Stadium on Sept. 12, 2020. 

Each visiting team is set to make $250,000 for the game. 

Saturday’s announced attendance was 35,220, with a significant amount of green shirts in the stadium. There are obvious reasons why the games are attractive to both programs: short bus trips, a storied history and recruiting rivalries that can move to the field. 

It’s a chance for Ohio to take on an in-state rival. It’s a game that boosters and former players from both schools look forward to. The Bobcats are celebrating the 50th anniversary of their last Mid-American Conference Championship, and, in 1968, they played the Bearcats. 

Ohio played at Nippert on Nov. 16, 1968, winning 60-48. It finished behind only Notre Dame for points scored that season. 

Past that, with almost all Football Bowl Subdivision Schools (FBS) in Ohio playing in the MAC, it gives both teams to play a nonconference game in-state against a formidable opponent. 

“I'm for it,” coach Frank Solich said. “You don't have to travel that far on the bus. It's not a series where you have to get on a plane to get there. 

“It's an in-state program so, obviously, there's some building rivalries. We've got a lot of players from Ohio and the Cincinnati area that adds to that. Same thing for them. We recruited some of the guys that are in their program. All of that adds to the game. I think that the chance for fans from both teams to get to the game is there. It's all good.”

Then there are players who have a chip on their shoulder. 

Running back A.J. Ouellette went to the Bearcats’ camps when he was in high school, and he was told that he’d be receiving some communication. Nobody ever reached out to him from Cincinnati. 

He went to high school only an hour from the city. 

Since then, he arrived in Athens as a preferred walk-on and has made his way up to No. 1 in the running back room. To say that he was disappointed after Saturday’s game would be an understatement. 

“I had fun the whole game. It’s a cool stadium,” Ouellette said. “We were down there by the student section, and it was loud. It kept the game interesting. It was a physical, fun game.”

In terms of extending the home-and-home series to a continuous rivalry, that’ll be a difficulty. 

The Bearcats already have the Miami RedHawks scheduled through the 2029 season in the Battle for the Victory Bell. Meanwhile, Ohio’s Battle of the Bell rivalry with Marshall returns next year for a back-to-back home-and-home series. 

There’s no question that Saturday’s game was competitive and fun to watch. It showed one of the MAC’s best against an up-and-coming American Athletic Conference school. 

Most importantly, it gave the state of Ohio an opportunity to watch the revival of a rivalry, one that many want to see continued.  


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