BOISE, Idaho – Ohio did just enough late in the fourth quarter to hold off a surging Nevada to win the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl in a 30-21 final.
The Bobcats had two second half fumbles that turned into two touchdowns for the Wolf Pack. First, on a 3-and-4 in the red zone, a late pitch from Nathan Rourke to Julian Ross led to a 78-yard drive from Nevada that ended with a Elijah Cooks 8-yard touchdown reception.
On Ohio’s next drive, Rourke was sacked on a miscommunication between the offensive line on a blitz from the Nevada defense where it recovered the fumble on the Bobcats’ 26-yard line.
It only took three plays for Carson Strong to throw his second touchdown of the game against a reeling Ohio defense.
Those were the only blemishes in an otherwise complete game from Ohio.
The Bobcats haven’t played a game since Nov. 26 but showed no signs of sluggishness in the opening half after all four of their drives ended in scores. Their second drive of the game featured a key fourth down conversion from running back Julian Ross on a 2-yard carry.
Four plays later on another 4th-and-1, Ross took the pitch from Rourke on a speed option and scored Ohio’s first touchdown of the game to put it up 10-3 against the Wolf Pack.
Its 20 first half points came from the legs of Ross and quarterback Nathan Rourke who ran for a 35-yard keeper of a read option.
Rourke, who in his final game for Ohio was voted the MVP in the Potato Bowl, showcased his dual-threat abilities that the Bobcats have enjoyed for the past two and a half seasons. He finished with 87 yards on 10 carries for one touchdown. But his arm was seen as well with throws into congested areas throughout the game as he finished 9-for-17 with 144 passing yards.
On a 3rd-and-10 on the Bobcats’ opening second half drive, Rourke completed a pass to wide receiver Isiah Cox with a free safety coming in as soon as the ball was released. Cox was his go-to guy noted with a 38-yard completion on a three play scoring drive in the second quarter.
The defense forced three turnovers, and with under two minutes left to play forced Nevada to turn it over on downs on the Ohio 9-yard line.
With Friday’s win, this is the Bobcats’ third consecutive bowl win – the first time that has happened in program history. And for the fifth consecutive season Ohio (7-6, 5-3 Mid-American Conference) will finish the year with a winning record.