Ohio (8-3, 5-2 Mid-American Conference) didn't celebrate its official senior day with its 34-20 win against Central Michigan (5-6, 3-4 MAC) but seniors O'Shaan Allison, Shane Bonner and Vonnie Watkins took full advantage of their opportunities to make an impact in their final game in front of home fans.
All four of Ohio's touchdowns Wednesday came from seniors, the first of which came from the most unlikely of scorers. In the first quarter, Bonner, the former running back, receiver, safety and current defensive end, batted a pass thrown from Central Michigan quarterback Jase Bauer into the air, caught it and returned the pass 21 yards for the game's first touchdown.
Bonner's interception was the first of his career, but he wasn't done making an impact for the Bobcats. Bonner finished the game with five total tackles including a half of a sack.
Allison, Ohio's short-distance specialist scored the team's second and fourth touchdowns from just a yard out. Allison's two rushing touchdowns were a season-high. Allison's efforts along with those from teammates like Sieh Bangura allowed the team to rush for 148 yards and three touchdowns.
Although all of Ohio's seniors have interesting paths to success, Allison fought through a season-ending injury to come back as a redshirt fifth year in 2023. Bonner, meanwhile bounced around three different position groups before settling in at defensive end. Head Coach Tim Albin couldn't have been prouder of the impact the two seniors made.
"Shane's father was an alum here; he played running back. Shane wears his number," Albin said. "O'Shaan, I couldn't believe this but I was told on the sideline he had his first rushing touchdown in Peden stadium (today). I don't believe it because he's been here for five years but that's what they said and he confirmed it, so I'm just very happy for those young men."
Ohio's most notable senior, quarterback Kurtis Rourke, scored the game's third touchdown on a well-executed read option. Rourke's touchdown run came from 16 yards out. Rourke finished with 222 yards passing while completing 15 of 23 passes.
Rourke, who is now 12 yards away from his brother Nathan Rourke for second all-time in Ohio passing yards, is another senior Albin is very happy for.
"I'm very proud of Nathan and what he got done but really couldn't be prouder of Kurtis," Albin said. "He's a team player, selfless, loves the guys around him and continues to come to work."
The strong efforts from Rourke, Bonner, Allison and the rest of the team put the Bobcats in a great position with 6 minutes to go. Ohio led 34-20, but Central Michigan was driving into Ohio territory at the 25-yard line. However, Watkins was able to come around the edge and grab Jase Bauer's arm at the perfect time for a strip sack. The fumble was recovered by Keye Thompson and the Bobcats were able to run out the rest of the clock with possession of the ball. Watkins finished the game in a tie for the team-high with one sack and led the team with three quarterback hurries.
Thompson took the time to reflect on the careers that he and fellow linebacker Bryce Houston had dating back to when they were recruits together in 2017.
"We just kind of took a moment (for) each other," Thompson said. "We've been together since day one, since our unofficial visit in 2017 against Kansas and look at us now. I think me and Bryce have a special bond, I really do think that me and him are one of the best two if not the best duo in college football linebacker-wise."