Ohio is first in the Mid-American Conference East, and it truly played like it Tuesday night.
The Bobcats dominated the Bulls, beating them 45-24 at home. With Buffalo and Ohio being the top two teams in the division coming into the game, it was expected the game would be close. However, almost no one could have expected Ohio to look as good as it did against the team on a five-game winning streak and undefeated in conference play.
The key to a win Tuesday was to be the team that scored first and set the pace of the game. When Ohio held Buffalo to just nine yards on the first drive of the game, it looked to be that team. Five quick plays and 70 yards later, Ohio had a 7-0 lead.
The Bobcats scored 17 points in the first quarter, the most it scored in an opening quarter this season.
Quarterback Kurtis Rourke and receiver Sam Wiglusz were in sync the whole time and were responsible for one of Ohio's touchdowns in the first. After just one quarter, Wiglusz had four catches for 77 yards and Rourke had seven completions for 99 yards.
Ohio's defense was also exceptional in the first quarter, holding Buffalo to just 43 total yards and zero points.
The second quarter was a similar story, although Buffalo picked up a little more on offense. It kicked a field goal on its first drive and scored a touchdown on its last.
Despite the Bulls cutting the Bobcats' lead to a touchdown at multiple points, the Bobcats never wavered. Even when Rourke threw a pick six one minute into the third, it didn't shake him. He looked calm and collected on the next few drives, leading the Bobcats to three more touchdowns.
"We've been put in some big adversity moments this season, and that was just another moment," Rourke said. "So mentally, personally, I just had to shake it off … and just trust that we can keep going, and that's just a hiccup."
The biggest highlight of the night was Ohio's defense. Except for a few unnecessary penalties, it played arguably its best game of the season. The defensive line was strong, holding Buffalo to 22 rushing yards; the secondary shut down Buffalo's passing attack with great coverage all night, and Ohio had six sacks, its most in a game this season.
"I thought as a defense we played really well," Keye Thompson said. "We came out with a lot of energy, did our key fundamental technique and we were rolling."
With the win, Ohio is bowl eligible for the first time since 2019. A major philosophy of the team is "one game at a time," but achieving its goal of being eligible for a bowl game is not something that should be ignored.
"(We're) very excited," Ohio coach Tim Albin said. "We'll see where it goes."