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Ohio quarterback Kurtis Rourke (7) runs the ball during the victory over Florida Atlantic at Peden Stadium.

Football Column: Analyzing the importance of Ohio's win over Florida Atlantic

Ohio got its season off to a strong start Saturday with a 41-38 win over Florida Atlantic. Not only was it the first game of the season, but also the first game on Frank Solich Field at Peden Stadium. It cannot be overstated how important this win was for the trajectory of Ohio’s program.

The Bobcats entered this season coming off their worst season since 2003 and first losing record since 2008. Faced with tough nonconference games in the coming weeks, it was imperative for the Bobcats to get a win in week one.

If they had not, the Bobcats would have fallen to 0-5 in nonconference games under second-year head coach Tim Albin. The upcoming trips to Penn State and Iowa State would have made it very likely for the Bobcats to fall to 0-7 outside of the Mid-American Conference, as well as 3-12 over the past two years.

Instead, Ohio picked up its first nonconference win under Albin. The win inspires a level of hope for the team that hasn’t been there since Solich’s retirement last year. Even if the next two weeks go poorly, Ohio still has a chance at a .500 record in nonconference play with a matchup against FCS opponent Fordham at home on Sept. 24.

As a program trying to rebound from the retirement of a legendary head coach and an uncertain level of talent on the roster, last season went just about as badly as it could’ve for Ohio.

Questions have been raised if Albin is the right man for the job, but the win against Florida Atlantic silenced them. 

Albin took a massive step towards keeping those questions from being asked in Saturday’s win, which despite some nerves late in the game, went just about as well as it possibly could’ve.

Starting quarterback Kurtis Rourke was excellent, throwing for 345 yards and four touchdowns, while adding an additional score on the ground. In doing so, he also eclipsed his older brother Nathan’s single game career high for passing yards at Ohio.

The talent around him on offense thrived as well, especially in the passing game. Ohio State transfer Sam Wiglusz had two receiving touchdowns. James Bostic, in his second year with Ohio after transferring from Vanderbilt, caught six passes for 136 yards and a touchdown.

The Bobcats also looked good on the ground, despite the loss of O’Shaan Allison to a season ending injury earlier in the week. Sieh Bangura stepped up, carrying the ball 23 times for 116 yards.

On the defensive side, Ohio looked shaky at times in its first game under new defensive coordinator Spence Nowinsky. However, it also had a stretch of five drives without allowing FAU to score and got the stop on FAU’s final drive to protect Ohio’s three-point lead and ice the game.

Defense is still going to be an area of concern for the Bobcats, but they were better than last year in all three phases of the game Saturday, despite the amount of talent they lost.

The offense looked sharp and was able to consistently move the ball down the field. The defense produced a final stop that we probably wouldn’t have seen from them last season. Other than one mistake on a kickoff return, Ohio’s special teams was excellent, and freshman kicker Nathanial Vakos was named MAC East Special Teams Player of the Week.

A loss on Saturday could have been the beginning of the end for Albin’s tenure at Ohio, but his team produced a win that could set the stage for a rebound season.


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