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Sam Wiglusz (12) WR on Ohio Univeristy's football team celebrates for the first towndown of the game in Peden Stadium in Athens, OH on Sept. 16, 2023.

Football: Ohio defeats Iowa State 10-7, achieves first Power 5 win since 2017

Three weeks ago, Ohio (3-1) lost its first game of the season and saw an injury to its quarterback and star player Kurtis Rourke. Saturday, Ohio defeated Iowa State to grab its first win over a Power Five opponent since 2017 to keep its three-game winning streak alive. Ohio has now won two straight games as an underdog.

Ohio's defense picked up right where it left off from a game against Florida Atlantic last week. On Iowa State's first series, Bryce Houston and Austin Brawley came up with a critical tackle for loss on third and 2 to force an Iowa State punt.

After a solid offensive drive where the Bobcats got into opposing territory, the Cyclones started their next drive at their own 15. Although Ohio continued to make plays in the run game, Rocco Becht found Aidan Bitter for a 45-yard completion to go into Ohio territory. Needing a stop, Rayyan Buell and Bradley Weaver forced a tackle for loss to back Iowa State behind the line of scrimmage.

On third and 14, Keye Thompson and Bryce Houston forced fourth down with a tackle short of the sticks. Iowa State kicker Chase Contreraz then tried and missed a 47-yard field goal which kept the game scoreless.

Bryce Houston admitted that while it's his name that repeatedly shows up in the box score, his teammates make it easier for him to make plays in the run game.

"It makes it a lot easier when I got guys like this (Rodney Matthews) filling up gaps," Houston said. "It's a collective unit type thing, I understand that I've been making a lot of plays, but that's just kind of the way the defense has been running."

The Ohio offense struggled to sort out a tricky 3-3-5 Iowa State defense. On the Bobcats' first drive, the offense struggled to run the ball against Iowa State's stout and large defensive lineman. Kurtis Rourke struggled to find open receivers as the Cyclone defense dropped seven or eight defenders into coverage on obvious passing situations.

Rourke, however, got the Bobcats offense out of a bit of a rut with a 22-yard pass completion to Jacoby Jones. The Bobcats got inside the Cyclones' territory but had to settle for a Gianni Spetic 42-yard field goal attempt. Spetic's attempt was no good, and the Bobcats failed to get in the scoring column.

On Ohio's next offensive drive, Rourke used his legs to pick up multiple first downs. However, a failed trick play that saw Tyler Walton lateral a screen pass to O'Shaan Allison caused an 8-yard loss and forced the Bobcats to punt. 

A fumbled snap doomed the Cyclones' next possession and the Bobcats had one last chance to get on the board before halftime.

Rourke appeared to get the Bobcats into field goal range with a deep pass to Jacoby Jones, but it was determined the ball hit the ground and the pass was incomplete. The Bobcats still managed to get to the Cyclones' 42-yard line with a second left, but the team couldn't convert a Hail Mary, and the first half ended with no points on either side.

Coming out of halftime, the game's first fireworks occurred immediately when Becht attempted to find Jayden Higgins. Higgins slipped and Becht's pass was intercepted by Torrie Cox Jr. Cox returned the ball to the Iowa State 23-yard line and gave Ohio a golden opportunity to score the game's first points.

Rourke and the Bobcats got to the Cyclone 5, but the Bobcats couldn't gain yards on first and 2nd down. On third and goal from the five, Rourke found Sam Wiglusz wide-open in the back of the endzone for the game's first touchdown.

"That's a play that we've run quite a bit even since last year and it's almost like we've never gotten quite the right look," said Wiglusz. "And then it's kind of like the stars aligned and I was running wide open and it felt like it took the ball forever to get there, but it did."

Ohio's defense continued its stellar play and forced two straight punts, at the end of the third quarter, Rourke found Ty Walton and Jacoby Jones for two 20+ yard–pass completions. On third and 5 from the Iowa State 39, Rourke stood in the pocket in front of an Iowa State blitz and anticipated separation from Wiglusz for a 15-yard completion. Rourke misfired slightly on a pass to Tyler Foster, but the tight end made a one-handed grab and trucked an Iowa State defender to gain 5 yards. Ohio cashed in the 80+ yard drive with a field goal to take a 10-0 lead.

Rourke finished the game without eye-popping numbers. The former MAC player of the year went 16-for-32 for 135 yards and a touchdown. On the ground, Rourke ran for 58 yards on seven carries. Rourke's ability to extend plays won't show up as much on the stat sheet, but it was vital for Ohio's win.

"Their defense is really good," Rourke said. "They liked to make us find windows or use our legs to extend plays and we knew that going into it, and that's what we tried to do."

The Cyclones had their best drive of the game marching down to the Ohio 28. On second and 10 Vonnie Watkins came up with a tackle for loss to bring third and 13. Becht found his receiver just short of the line to gain bringing up fourth and short. The Cyclones elected to kick a 37-yard field goal, which appeared to go directly over the right field-goal post. The officials determined the kick to be no good, and because it traveled over the goal post the play was determined to not be reviewable.

With a two-possession lead, the ball, and only 7:13 to go, the Bobcats ran the ball three straight times and were content with a punt on fourth and 1.

The next Iowa State drive was the one thing the Bobcats couldn't give up. A pass interference from Justin Birchette helped Iowa State move the ball, Becht found Daniel Jackson for a 39-yard completion on the next play, and one play later Becht found Higgins for an 18-yard touchdown. In less than a minute, the Cyclones pulled within 3.

Rourke allowed the Bobcat faithful to take a deep breath as he found Wiglusz open for a 16-yard pass completion. The Bobcats continued to chew the clock and force Iowa State to use its timeouts. As he did against FAU, Albin put the pressure on his defense with just over two minutes to go to come up with the game-winning stop.

On Iowa State's first play from scrimmage, Ohio's defense proved Albin right. Roman Parodie broke up Becht's pass and Matthews caught the floating ball for a game-winning interception.

Rourke took three very satisfying kneel-downs for Bobcat fans to cement Ohio's first Power Five victory since 2017.

Albin couldn't have been happier for his players after the marquee win,

"We serve these guys' hearts, not their talents," Albin said. "So that's really where I'm happy for these guys because they have bought in and it's really special."


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