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Ohio University kicker Stephen Johnson (#7) kicks the ball in the midst of the Miami game held at Peden Stadium on Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2021–a Battle of the Bricks brawl leading to the Bobcats' victory.

Football Column: Ohio can find mild catharsis in win over Miami

It wasn’t a clean win, but Ohio's 35-33 victory over Miami was desperately needed.

It's only fitting that the Bobcats’ first victory in a month was an upset of their biggest rival. They spent the first half thrashing the RedHawks’ division-leading defense with a passing attack that has dealt with inconsistency throughout Mid-American Conference play. 

Quarterback Kurtis Rourke, who’d struggled to piece together a strong game through much of the early season, passed like he had against Kent State 10 days prior. Tuesday was the second time in the redshirt sophomore’s career where he passed for more than 250 yards in a single game. He also passed for three touchdowns, yet another career high.

The odds of Ohio pulling out a victory prior to Tuesday night were slim. It hadn’t won the “Battle of the Bricks” since 2017, and averaged over 30 points in the rivalry’s past three games. Ohio hadn’t scored that many points this season since its win over Akron.

“The last three contests versus these guys have been barn burners,” Ohio coach Tim Albin said in his post game press conference. “In the one in (2017) here, it was a barn burner.”

In spite of the odds, Ohio knocked around the best defense in the MAC East Division with ease. It marched downfield and scored like is expected of a team led by its former offensive coordinator.

Albin was Ohio’s offensive coordinator for 16 seasons before taking command of the program. While offensive coordinator, Albin crafted seven of the 10 highest-scoring offenses in program history.

But Albin’s reputation as an engineer of high-scoring offenses wasn’t reflected for much of the season. 

Ohio still ranks in the bottom half of the MAC for both scoring and total offense, and was held under 30 points throughout its entire nonconference schedule. Ohio was even outscored by Football Championship Subdivision opponent Duquesne in one of its more embarrassing losses this season.

But it somehow found a stride against Miami. The offense found the end zone with ease while the defense prevented Miami from scoring throughout the entire first half. The last time Ohio shutout an opponent before halftime was against San Diego State in the 2018 DXL Frisco Bowl.

The errors on both sides of the ball were still there. The defense faltered for much of the second half, allowing 26 unanswered points and letting Miami surpass Ohio in total offensive yards by the end of the game.

But Ohio held on.

“We had chances to get to put them away and didn't, but we won,” Albin said.

Ohio won its second game of the season, and in the process may have derailed Miami’s hopes of making the MAC Championship. Miami is now second in the MAC East standings after being tied with Kent State last week. Miami must now retake first place in the standings with just three games left in the regular season. Its final opponent? Kent State.

Ohio’s chances of winning the MAC East have gone up in smoke. But its win Tuesday night may have just erased Miami’s chances as well.

The win against the RedHawks was a dim light in a dark season. In a season where the Bobcats have had the rug pulled out from under them time and time again, Tuesday’s win served as a peek into what might’ve been. The Bobcats, at least in the first half, played like a team they had potential to be from the season’s outset.

Ohio’s season won’t turn around because it beat Miami. Its seven losses have condemned it to a losing record, and there’s little if any hope of claiming the division title. There’s still a myriad of holes to be patched up on both sides of the ball and injuries have thinned the ranks. 

But, for once, Ohio was the team who played spoiler.


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