The Bobcats hobbled off the field, deflated. Some held their arms over their heads in disbelief, others hung their heads and stared into the turf. Meanwhile, the Dukes jumped and hollered in the end zone and along the sideline. A two-point conversion attempt by Kurtis Rourke intended for Ryan Luehrman had been broken up in the bottom left corner of the end zone.
For a moment, the fans in Peden Stadium erupted. They thought Luehrman had caught the ball for certain. But the cheers soon died and disappointment set in.
There wasn’t any time left. None that mattered anyway. Duquesne would have the ball for the remaining nine seconds of the game. That two-point attempt was Ohio’s final chance to force overtime and perhaps mount a comeback. Instead, it had to swallow its first loss to a Football College Subdivision opponent since 2002.
“Learning from our mistakes is the biggest thing,“ wide receiver Cam Odom said. “Go back and watch film as we always do, figure out what we did right and learn from what we did wrong. With the short turnaround, we’ve got to learn tonight and forget about it tonight, because the new week starts tomorrow.”
Saturday will be hard to forget for Ohio, and for the wrong reasons.
The Bobcats seemed to be treading water following its loss to Syracuse in its season opener. For any problem that may have been solved in the week leading up to Duquesne, another popped up in game time. Ohio resolved much of its trouble in the red zone, at least when it got to the red zone. It failed to convert on six third-down conversion attempts.
Some mistakes repeated themselves. After a punt forced the Bobcats’ to begin their drive on their own 1-yard line, O’Shaan Allison attempted to rush but was thrown back into the end zone which resulted in a safety. The error called back to when De’Montre Tuggle tried to run the ball on the 1-yard line against Syracuse at the beginning of a drive, which resulted in a safety.
“I've been here long enough, I know that you know the FCS thing but you know I'm not trying to blind it,“ coach Tim Albin said. “We're going to take steps moving forward to fix the things that we can fix and get these guys mentally ready to go.”
Call the game what it was — a mess.
The Bobcats didn’t just lose. They got manhandled. They were shown up in their own stadium by an FCS school playing without its original starting quarterback. Joe Mischler sat out the game with a knee injury he sustained in Duquesne’s loss to Texas Christian a week prior. In his stead, backup Darius Perrantes — who had never started a game with the Dukes before Saturday — was given the go-ahead.
How did Ohio’s defense respond? Poorly.
Six defensive penalties in the second half alone killed any hope Ohio had of mounting a meaningful comeback. Duquesne gained 76 yards from Ohio’s mistakes. Perrantes finished 23-for-34 with 194 yards and a touchdown.
“We just need to be more disciplined,“ defensive tackle Kai Caesar said. “We had penalties in the back, we had penalties in the front. Those are things that we do work on in practice, and we just need to stay true to our technique and our game.”
The Bobcats might’ve been able to recoup their losses if they ever got more than a few minutes with the ball. They had possession for less than a third of game time. The offense was on the field for just shy of 19 minutes. Kurtis Rourke only threw one pass in the entire first quarter.
It’s a tough pill to swallow. No team wants to be the first in program history since 2002 to lose to an FCS opponent. But Ohio wasn’t able to stand up to Duquesne. The comeback attempt came far too late, and the defense failed to create any meaningful stop.
Now, Ohio has to live with its loss to Duquesne. It’s 0-2 to begin a season for the first time since 2008. The abundant penalties and lack of stopping power on defense can’t be contributed to growing pains. Ohio has a problem, and as of right now there is no clear solution.