Against Bowling Green on Saturday afternoon, the Bobcats played their most complete game of the season, easily winning 49-14 on Homecoming weekend. More importantly, it was a step back to normalcy and relevancy in the MAC Championship picture.
"I think, obviously, as coaches, this is the team that we wanted to have on the field,” coach Frank Solich said. “It’s not all their (players’) fault that there were a few games that slipped away from us. They've kept a great attitude, there has been great leadership on this football team and, despite the few tough moments we've been through, they marched on. That's the sign of a really good football team.”
Quarterback Nathan Rourke didn’t have to play in the fourth quarter. Instead, he was able to hang out on the sidelines and see his teammates play. That’s something he was able to do a lot last season when the Bobcats routed countless opponents, when they were the favorite to win the MAC East.
He didn’t play in the fourth quarter three times last season. Maybe that doesn’t seem like a lot, but wins seemed easier to come by at the halfway point last season.
Against Bowling Green, Ohio showed its strengths for the entirety. It ran all over the Falcons defense, finishing with 392 yards on the ground. Rourke threw for four touchdowns — a new career-high — and ran in one more.
Defensively the Bobcats allowed 14 points, a season-low. Ohio forced a turnover and didn’t turn over the ball once, too — that’s a step in the right direction.
It was normalcy.
“One of the biggest things about this game was obviously win, but also come out healthy,” Rourke said. “I think it was good to get other people in as well."
The win was a step back to relevancy in the title chase, too. With the win, Ohio sits behind Buffalo and Miami, third in the MAC East with a 2-1 record.
For the Bobcats to make it back to Detroit, they’ll have to stay perfect the rest of the season. That includes winning the next three games, which they’ll have to play in a 13-day period: Thursday versus Ball State, then on the road for matchups with Western Michigan and Miami. All mid-week games.
Then they will have the chance to knock off Buffalo.
With a win against the Bulls and a win on Black Friday against Akron, Ohio would find itself at Ford Field on Nov. 30. Yet again, it will come down to the last two games of the season, eerily similar to last season, when the Bobcats squandered their opportunity.
It’s a tall task for a team that’s struggled to get above the .500 mark. There’s no room for slow starts or struggles to close out games. It’s a broken record, but it’s the truth, and it all lies in the next month and a half.
The last five games of the season could give Ohio a chance to break its 50-year championship drought — or extend it to 51.