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Roman Parodie (4) CB position on Ohio University's Football team goes for the tackle at Peden Stadium in Athens Ohio, Octo. 28, 2023

Football: Ohio falls to Miami in crucial MAC matchup

By the fourth quarter of Saturday's game between Ohio and Miami, you could hear a pin drop inside Frank Solich Field at Peden Stadium. Miami (7-2, 4-1 Mid-American conference) came to town looking to take sole possession of first place in the Mid-American Conference’s east division and left with a 30-16 win. 

Falling to 6-3 on the season, Ohio’s chances of returning to the MAC Championship game have now become slim. 

“We’ve got a very disappointed locker room down there,” head coach Tim Albin said. “Some broken hearts. When you invest as much as our guys have since last season and the offseason… it's going to hurt; it’s very obvious in the locker room that it did.”

Though it lost by two scores, Ohio did not play as poorly as the box score may show. At the end of the game, Ohio had outgained Miami by a final of 363-to-291. 

Ohio had 11 penalties that resulted in 78 yards for Miami and was only able to convert on three of its 14 third-down attempts. 

“All I can tell you from watching the game is the penalties started on drive three,” Albin said. “Not making excuses…The holds started coming out, we had offsides, we were behind the chains.”

In the first quarter, Ohio showed signs of dominance and ended the quarter with a 9-0 lead. On the first drive of the game alone, Rourke completed a 36-yard pass to Will Kacemarek, followed by a 23-yard pass to Sam Wiglusz that set up a rushing touchdown from the two-yard line by Sieh Bangura. 

It wasn’t until its fifth drive of the game that Miami picked up its first first down against the Ohio defense. 

One of the biggest turning points in the game came at the start of the second quarter when Ohio took the field for its third drive. On third and long inside its own 20-yard line, Ohio elected to pass the ball, which resulted in quarterback Kurtis Rourke facing pressure and fumbling. The fumble was then recovered by Miami.

Despite starting back up in its own red zone, the Ohio defense held Miami to yet another three-and-out that would result in a mere field goal despite great field position for Miami. 

“I’m extremely proud of how the defense played today,” linebacker Bryce Houston said. “We got into some bad positions with some field position things and we were able to be resilient and fight back and not let them get touchdowns…of course, we have to get better; we know that’s not our standard. That many points is not allowed.”

Field position was a storyline all game for the Bobcats, a major reason why the team lost despite gaining more yards than the opposition. 

Later on in the game, straight out of halftime, Ohio trailed by four and went three-and-out on its first offensive drive of the second half. Being forced to punt deep in its own territory, the Ohio special teams unit allowed a monster return from Miami return man Cade McDonald that once again set up the Miami offense inside the Ohio 30-yard line. 

McDonald ended the game with five punt returns for 100 yards, including the 53-yard return to start the second half. 

“I knew it going into the game…they had a big advantage in the special teams,” Albin said. “...I thought we were going to be able to get through it, but the field position, we didn’t win it tonight and it’s because of (Miami’s specials teams advantage).”

Penalties and self-inflicted errors continued into the second half, making an Ohio comeback improbable. Midway through the fourth quarter, Ohio trailed by as many as 21 points. 

Ohio struggled to get anything going on offense after the first quarter, in large part a result of having an inconsistent run game. All season, Ohio has struggled to move the ball on the ground; against Miami, it was only able to surmount one rushing yard in the entire second half. 

Ohio would end up getting outrushed 188 yards to 50. 

With a lack of a consistent run game, Rourke had one of his most successful passing games of the season statistically speaking. The quarterback ended the day with 313 passing yards and no turnovers while throwing for one touchdown. 

“I think we just started shooting ourselves in the foot. We started getting ourselves in bad situations on second and third down,” Rourke said. “We moved the ball well, but that first drive, we didn't have anything to stall ourselves. Hats off to Miami, but at the same time, we hurt ourselves a lot.”

At the end of the day, the team was lacking in consistency and could not stop getting in its own way. 

“The Sun’s going to come up tomorrow,” Albin said. “Like I said two weeks ago after the Northern Illinois game, with failure comes opportunity to get better; that’s what we’re going to do.”


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