A year ago, Ohio's defense was hanging on in many of its narrow early-season games against FAU and Fordham. During Ohio's 17-10 win over FAU on Saturday, Ohio's defense was the driving force, propelling the team to victory.
Ohio Quarterback Kurtis Rourke was making his first start since his injury against San Diego State, but his first throw didn't go as planned. Rourke was intercepted by Jackson Ambush.
The Bobcats defense forced a turnover to prevent the Owls from immediately drawing first blood. The Bobcats offense progressed through some early woes in the first quarter to move the ball. Despite not reaching the end zone, the Bobcats appeared to be in a rhythm until Rourke threw a pick-six to Jarron Morris. Rourke's pass hit Ty Walton's hands but bounced into the air and fell in front of Morris, who had a clear path to the end zone.
Ohio's next drive foreshadowed how the offense would operate the rest of the game, and was led by Running Backs O'Shaan Allison and Sieh Bangura. The Bobcats ran for 41 total yards on a 12-play, 75-yard drive that was ended by a 13-yard Rourke touchdown pass to Will Kacmarek.
Ohio had 151 yards rushing against FAU as a team, while Allison ran for 80 total yards. Allison, who is coming back from a year-long injury, has seemingly improved since week 0.
"It's (the key to improving as the season progresses) more so about being patient," Allison said. "...The first couple of weeks I was just trying to do too much maybe... The game's slowed down a lot for me."
Allison's first rushing touchdown since 2019, gave the Bobcats their first lead in the Third Quarter. Allison ran the ball in from the five-yard line as he reached the ball across the goal line just before his knee touched the ground.
Ohio Coach Tim Albin was pleased to see Allison's achievement.
"I couldn't be happier (to see Allison get in the end zone)," Albin said.
The Bobcat's defense showed one of their only signs of weakness when they allowed the Owls into their territory to start the fourth quarter, but Tank Pearson halted the drive by intercepting FAU Quarterback Casey Thompson.
The Bobcats' defensive dominance continued after Alex Kasee added three points to the lead. Mekah Ryder broke up a pass on second and 10 and Bralen Henderson hurried Thompson to force another FAU punt with under five minutes to go in the game.
The Bobcats next offensive drive shaved off nearly two minutes from the game clock before they had to punt.
Up by 7 with less than three minutes to go, the Bobcats seemingly needed one more stop to win the game. After a pair of Owl first downs, Ohio linebacker Keye Thompson and Roman Parodie came up with key defensive plays to bring up fourth down. Keye Thompson bothered Casey Thompson on fourth and 5 just enough to prevent him from connecting with an open receiver beyond the line to gain.
Ohio's defense came up with stop after stop, and due to seven of 10 points coming off Rourke's pick-six, the unit only gave up 3 points on 185 total yards.
The defense has been by far the strongest part of Ohio's team through three weeks, and according to Thompson, has been the dynamic between the group of players.
"The Brotherhood is close that we just want to compete," said Thompson. "We all want to make plays and I think that's what drives our defense."
The Owls had one last opportunity after the Bobcats failed to run out the clock. With 30 seconds left and the ball inside Ohio territory, Casey Thompson drove the Owls to the Ohio 26. Thompson couldn't find a receiver on what would've been a 26-yard game-tying touchdown as the clock expired, and the Bobcats obtained their first road win of the season.
Before the season, everyone around Ohio's program knew its offense had a chance to be one of the best units in the MAC. Through three games, Ohio's defense has proved it has the potential to be just as special.