It was a battle of the offenses Saturday at Peden Stadium, and Ohio won.
Ohio held on by the skin of its teeth, defeating Fordham 59-52 in its final nonconference game. Despite getting out to an early 14-0 lead in the first quarter, the game was anything but smooth sailing for Ohio. It was only pretty for the Ohio’s offense, not so much for the defense.
Kurtis Rourke once again had a career game on Frank Solich Field, beating his own single game passing record that he set in the season opener against Florida Atlantic. His 41 completions for a whopping 537 yards are also the most passing yards and completions in a single game in program history.
Rourke made moving the ball down the field look almost effortless Saturday, especially early in the game. On Ohio’s second drive, Rourke threw three quick passes for 91 yards, and Ohio moved from one end zone to the other for a touchdown in just two minutes and 15 seconds.
But that wasn’t the quickest touchdown Ohio scored Saturday. Keegan Wilburn ran a kickoff return back for 98 yards and a touchdown in the third quarter, the fifth longest kickoff return in Ohio history.
The Bobcat’s 692 yards on offense is the most yards gained in a single game in program history as well. The last time they gained more than 650 yards in a single game was in 2018 against Massachusetts.
Ohio desperately needed some offensive success Saturday after struggling to gain yards and score in its losses over the past two weeks. Ohio almost tripled the amount of points it scored against Penn State and Iowa State on Saturday and earned 196 more yards than it did over the past two weeks combined.
The Bobcats didn’t feel that much adjustment was needed after their losses, they just needed to execute what they’ve been working on since the summer.
“The game plan really was just to go in and do everything that we've been working on since day three, day two of fall camp,” wide receiver Jacoby Jones said. “We just got back out there and got back to the basics and made it work.”
Ohio was confident in its ability to get back to fundamentals, and that was part of the reason for its offensive success Saturday. Even though it trailed for most of the second half, Ohio’s confidence never wavered.
“We prepare for those situations all the time in practice,” Tyler Foster said. “Those types of things that can just get the ball down the field in time crunch situations, and I think we executed just how we did in practice and it worked.”
The offensive success was also due in part to the Rams' struggling defense. Before Saturday, they were ranked No. 107 in points allowed per game and No. 114 in yards allowed per game in the Football Championship Subdivision. The Rams' trouble on defense continued Saturday, but that’s not to say the Bobcats didn’t have their own defensive problems.
Ohio allowed Fordham quarterback Tim DeMorat to throw for six touchdowns and 503 yards, including 320 to Fotis Kokosioulis. However, it isn’t all Ohio’s fault. DeMorat is an extremely talented quarterback who has been on a tear this season. He’s thrown 22 touchdown passes in four games and may be on track to break the FCS single season passing touchdown record of 57.
If there was any question as to if Ohio’s offensive success in the first game this season was a fluke, those questions may be resolved after its win against Fordham Saturday. It showed that it can put up lots of points and touchdowns against an FCS opponent, but how will it do against Mid-American Conference opponents next week?