Ohio snapped a three-game losing streak and began Mid-American Conference play on a high note with a 21-20 overtime win against Buffalo on Saturday afternoon at UB Stadium.
The Bobcats (2-3, 1-0 MAC) totaled 186 rushing yards against the Bulls’ stout run defense and took advantage of a missed extra point after the Bulls scored a touchdown in overtime.
Whose stock rose? Whose stock fell?
This was the biggest thing Ohio needed to improve from nonconference play if it wanted to win. The Bobcats certainly showed progress and made it nearly impossible for Buffalo — who entered Saturday with two of the top four leading rushers in the MAC — to run between the offensive tackles.
The Bulls, who are one of the most aggressive rushing teams in the country, finished with a season-low 181 rushing yards. Ohio deserves credit for its improvements made over the bye week. Its stock will continue to rise if it can build upon Saturday’s performance.
Offensive coordinator Tim Albin did not ease Allison, who was injured Week 3 against Marshall and missed Week 4 against Louisiana-Lafayette, into action Saturday, and it worked.
The redshirt freshman had 27 carries for 96 yards and plowed through Buffalo’s defense on six consecutive plays in overtime to tie the game. He wasn’t flashy — his longest carry was eight yards — but his ability to truck forward and rush for small, but reasonable yardage was crucial to Ohio keeping things close.
Ohio won’t win every MAC game with its rushing attack. The Bobcats will need more from their wide receivers, who combined for 107 receiving yards on nine receptions and no touchdowns.
Part of the blame falls on the offensive line for not giving Rourke enough time in the pocket, but the Bobcats still don’t have a clear-cut No. 1 receiver five games into the season. That has to change for Ohio to make it to the MAC Championship in December.
Without a No. 1 receiver, quarterback Nathan Rourke’s dual-threat capabilities aren’t as potent as his last two seasons, and the Bobcats will have to rely on their defense more to win. Sure, the defense looked better Saturday, but it likely doesn’t have the tools to keep Ohio atop the MAC.
Ohio’s offensive front continued its inconsistent season Saturday and allowed four sacks. It deserves credit for the Bobcats quality rushing performance, but it struggled in pass protection and forced Rourke to scramble too often for Ohio to build any momentum offensively.
The offensive line will face an even stiffer challenge this week against Northern Illinois, who has the No. 1 passing defense in the conference.