Frank Solich sat on the post-game Zoom call and sounded pleased with his team. After 18 days since the Bobcats’ last game against Akron, they finally took the field and came away with a necessary win.
In Ohio’s 52-10 win over Bowling Green, it seemed like Ohio’s insecurities had faded. The offense was burning downfield in record time, and the defense was forcing turnovers out of a struggling Falcons offense. Even Tristian Vandenberg seemed like he had improved from the shaky beginning to his season.
“It was good to see that materialize the way it did out there today,” Solich said. “Our guys played hard, and I thought our guys played physical. I really feel good about our guys and what they got accomplished.”
De’Montre Tuggle had another strong start this season, almost doubling his rushing stats from the previous two games in under three quarters. Tuggle rushed for 185 yards and three touchdowns Saturday, the most the senior has ever rushed for while at Ohio.
The senior got the ball rolling for Ohio’s offense. With fewer than four minutes of game time even passed, Tuggle scored first after an eight-yard rush up the middle. Ohio never looked back. It had the lead and only widened the gap as the game drew on.
“It was nice to actually show the explosiveness that, you know, we've been talking about,” Tuggle said. “It was pretty good to put that on display, especially after that long period that we had. To come out and execute like we did, it was really, really good.”
On the other side of the field, the defense seemed like it had hit its stride. One of the biggest flaws for Ohio’s defense was its inability to get three-and-outs against opponents like Akron. Solich said it was one of his main focuses after Ohio defeated the Zips over two weeks ago.
It seems like the two weeks did them well. The Bobcats managed to force four three-and-outs from Bowling Green. Throw in three interceptions, and Ohio’s defense looked better than ever.
“We're a very tight knit group of people, so we all trust each other,” safety Jett Elad said. “We all know that we can get the job done. We trust the next man that comes up in that position to do it right. Being able to perfect our defense and to perform well is big for us.”
It wasn’t all good for Ohio on Saturday. Something was bound to go wrong.
Ohio had elected to start the game, as per usual, with Kurtis Rourke. The redshirt freshman was performing well for the first half. As halftime inched closer, he was 10-for-11 with 63 passing yards and one touchdown. His running ability even seemed better than usual. Rourke managed to rush for 43 yards, a vast improvement from his usual losses when on his feet.
It was too good of a start to last. After completing a pass to Ryan Luehrman, Rourke went down on his left shoulder and didn’t get up. He was soon taken off the field, and Armani Rogers was subbed in as quarterback. As of now, Solich is awaiting more word on the severity of Rourke’s injury.
Rogers managed without Rourke. His first play of the game was a rushing touchdown. The question is if Rogers will be able to handle the last two games on Ohio’s schedule without Rourke there for backup.
Solich said Ohio did not pass as much as he wanted Saturday. While Rogers has a decent arm, he has been relied on for his rushing ability. Rourke has been the one deferred to when passing is in the picture. However, he has been impressed by Rogers’ composure.
“We didn't get a chance to really throw the ball as much I would have liked to with (Rogers) today,” Solich said. “We had some success with quick scores, and he's running the ball so well, but those didn't really show what he's all about as a throwing quarterback. I wanted him to have a chance to display that a little bit.”
Ohio has two weeks left in its schedule, and those two weeks will be the hardest of the season. While Ohio performed well, it’s uncertain how much Rourke’s injury will affect the offense. Rogers now has a golden opportunity to show what his experience can do for Ohio in the final stretch of the season.