Papi White and Evan Croutch walked into the postgame press conference, phones in hand, checking notifications and scrolling. There was a relaxed mood.
Neither played significant — if any — minutes in the fourth quarter of Ohio’s 49-14 throttling of Bowling Green at Peden Stadium on Saturday. They didn’t have to. White had three first half touchdowns. Croutch had a host of tackles and an interception in the first half.
But despite it being Ohio’s first complete game of the season, White and Croutch were business as usual. Neither had much to say. Not much had to be said. Ohio’s offense put up nearly 600 yards, and its defense held Bowling Green scoreless for the final 43 minutes.
“I feel like we’ve had a great team, we just haven’t been able to show it. We began to show it today,” White said.
After starting the game in a seven-point hole thanks to a quick Bowling Green touchdown drive, the Bobcats shut the Falcons down. Bowling Green had just seven points the rest of the game. The Bobcats put up nearly 600 yards of total offense; they had 392 yards on the ground.
A performance like that gave White reason for a simple answer:
White was a big part of Ohio’s offensive output; the senior wide receiver had two receiving touchdowns — on just two catches. His only rush was a 17-yard touchdown. He finished the game with 109 total yards of offense. Every yard came in the first half. But that didn’t matter. The game was basically over at halftime.
Of course, White wasn’t throwing to himself. Nathan Rourke was surgical after starting slowly. His first three passes fell incomplete. But he recovered and finished the game 8-of-12 for 193 yards and four touchdown passes. He also had 101 yards rushing and a score. Maleek Irons also went over 100 yards and pitched in a touchdown.
“When the run is doing well, it’s easier to pass. When the pass is doing well, sometimes it opens up the run,” Rourke said. “We went into this game knowing we needed to establish the run early.”
Ohio’s rushing attack was its best, statistically, since the beatdown of UMass on Sept. 29, when the Bobcats posted nearly 400 yards on the ground. Ohio was able to move the ball however it liked against the Falcons, who can’t say the same.
Bowling Green was limited by the Ohio defense for the final three quarters. Led by Croutch, the Bobcats seemed to show flashes of their 2017 defense, which was one of the best in the Mid-American Conference.
“That’s how our defense should be,” Croutch said.
Croutch did his part. He had an interception of Bowling Green quarterback Jarret Doege; two other potential interceptions slipped through his hands. But Croutch didn’t want to talk about the one he caught. It was the interceptions he dropped that weighed on his mind as he fielded questions.
“I don’t take that lightly,” he said. “I have to get better at that.”
The approach Croutch took was commonplace in the media room for the Bobcats. He, along with Rourke and White, isn’t dwelling on the success of Saturday against Bowling Green.
There’s no time to revel in it.
The Bobcats will play three games in 13 days. They’ll host Ball State on Thursday, then travel to Western Michigan and Miami in the back-to-back weeks after. It’s a three-game stretch Solich has talked about for weeks. Ohio’s been preparing itself for it.
But Saturday was, if anything, relieving for Croutch, the defensive stud, and White, the do-it-all offensive weapon. They, along with their teammates, have been preaching about playing a complete game all season.
Against Bowling Green, it happened. And they didn’t have to play all for quarters to show a complete game.
“You hate to come out of a game,” Rourke said. “You like to play four quarters, but no, it’s good.”