Ohio University at Kent State
When and Where: Saturday, Oct. 6, Dix Stadium, Kent, Ohio, 3:30 p.m. EDT.
Nathan Rourke and the high-powered Ohio offense take to the road for their Mid-American Conference opener Saturday when the Bobcats try to exploit a weak Kent State defense.
Ohio (2-2, 0-0 MAC East) had a school-record 664 yards last time out, overcoming an early 14-0 deficit to record a 58-42 victory over Massachusetts. Rourke accounted for 459 of those yards, including a career-high 189 on the ground with a touchdown while throwing for three others.
Rourke continuing to serve as dual threat for Bobcats
Rourke, who accounted for 43 touchdowns running and throwing in his first season as a starter in 2017, finally regained his scrambling legs in the win over the Minutemen. The junior — who racked up 912 rushing yards last season — had accounted for only 143 in Ohio’s first three games, but it was his ability to shake off an early pick-six that proved vital for the Bobcats.
His 270 passing yards were a season-high as he completed 23 of 32 passes. All three of his scoring tosses came in the first half, with his 14-yarder to A.J. Ouellette with five seconds left in the first half giving the Bobcats the lead for good at 35-28.
Rourke ➡️ Ouellette
— Ohio Football 🏈 (@OhioFootball) September 29, 2018
“That was a tough ball game, getting down 14-0 so early,” coach Frank Solich told Ohio’s official website. “I thought our guys did a great job of coming back. It started to get clearer as the game unfolded that we would be able to move the ball with consistency and get points on the board. Then it became a question if it was going to be enough points on the board because they were moving the ball equally as well. Being down 14-0 and coming back showed a lot. I’m proud of guys for what they got accomplished on that end of it.”
Ouellette finished with 70 yards rushing while fellow tailback Maleek Irons contributed 140 and a pair of touchdowns on just 13 carries. The Bobcats churned out 394 rushing yards against the Minutemen, averaging 9.0 yards per carry, and are averaging 223.5 yards on the ground thus far.
Rourke, Irons, and Ouellette have accounted for all but 24 of Ohio’s 892 rushing yards. Papi White has become Ohio’s top receiving target for Rourke, leading the way with 22 catches for 392 yards and four touchdowns.
“You look at Maleek (Irons, RB) and A.J. (Ouellette, RB), they had some really exciting things happen when the ball was in their hands. Nathan just has a way of escaping when it seems like they have him surrounded,” Solich said. “He has enough speed to make the really long runs, the quickness to make people miss. If you include him in the running game, which we do a fair amount, that gives you your best chance of having a good running offense when he’s a part of it.”
Golden Flashes try to notch first win over FBS foe
Kent State (1-4, 0-1 East) finished the road-heavy portion of its schedule with four defeats in as many games outside Kent, with its defense consistently overrun and its offense failing to keep up.
The Golden Flashes opened MAC play with a 52-24 loss at Ball State last Saturday, giving up 446 passing yards and 606 overall. They have the third-worst defense in FBS, yielding 528.8 yards per game and 6.7 yards per play, leaving first-year coach Sean Lewis flustered over his team’s slow starts and looking to rebound.
Kent State Football Press Conference 10.1.18 https://t.co/SVO3kHKAyb
— Kent State Athletics (@KentStAthletics) October 1, 2018
Those defensive struggles have been magnified by an offense that while usually productive has been occasionally sloppy. The Golden Flashes have averaged 25.8 points and 407.4 yards, but they also have committed 11 turnovers and have a minus-2 turnover margin.
Woody Barrett has thrown for 1,140 yards and five TDs but also has been picked off five times. He’s also been sacked a whopping 22 times which has negated nearly half of his 321 rushing yards. Justin Rankin leads Kent State’s ground game with 338 yards and 5.3 per carry.
Freshman wideout Isaiah McKoy matched his season reception total with 10 in the loss to the Cardinals, finishing with 68 yards. McKoy is second on the Golden Flashes with 20 catches and third with 193 receiving yards.
Kent State has lost 26 of its last 32 conference games over the past four-plus seasons, going 0-17 in games it has allowed at least 27 points.
Kent State is:
- 2-6 ATS in its last eight games after allowing at least 40 points in its previous game.
- 2-5 ATS in its last seven home games.
- 1-4 ATS in its last five games vs. MAC teams.
- The under is 7-2 in its last nine home games as an underdog of 10.5 points or more.
- The under is 6-1 in its last seven games after allowing 280 or more passing yards in its previous game.
- The under is 6-0 in its last six home games vs. Ohio.
- 12-5 ATS in its last 17 road games.
- 13-5-1 ATS in its last 19 games after totaling 200 or more rushing yards in its previous game.
- 4-0 ATS in its last four road games vs. Kent State.
- The under is 17-7 in its last 24 points after scoring 40 or more points in its previous game.
- The under is 8-2 in its last 10 games vs. Kent State.
- The under is 21-8-1 in its last 30 games after allowing 280 or more passing yards in its previous game.
The Bottom Line What to bet on this game.
Full-Game Side Bet
There is little reason to believe both Ohio’s offense will slow down after its best performance of the season and Kent State’s defense is going to suddenly make huge strides of progress given its season-long defensive struggles.
The trio of Rourke, Irons, and Ouellette have too much firepower for a defense that has yielded at least 160 rushing yards in all four games against FBS opponents at 5.5 yards per carry. Rourke had 191 total yards and three touchdowns in last year’s 48-3 pummeling of the Golden Flashes, and while the margin will not be as large as that this time around, the Bobcats should be able to pull away in the second half for a victory.
Prediction: Pick: Ohio -12.5 (-110)
Full-Game Total Pick
Kent State has kept the margin respectable in the last two home defeats to Ohio, losing by a combined seven points while holding the Bobcats to 31 points in those games. While the Golden Flashes have a terrible defense, 69 points is just too high a total considering Kent State has occasionally been able to put together lengthy scoring drives that consume chunks of clock.
Prediction: Pick: UNDER 69.5 points
Half-Time Side Pick
This is a slightly nervy pick because while the Bobcats can put points on the board, every so often, the Golden Flashes hang tough in the first half — like they did at Ole Miss two weeks ago and held them to a 7-7 halftime score. But after Ball State put up 35 on Kent State in the first half last week, Rourke and Ohio should find enough points to lead beyond a touchdown.
Prediction: Pick: Ohio -7 (-110)
Half-Time Total Bet
This pick is going to try and thread the needle of over at half and under for the game, partly because of Rourke and partly because of Kent State’s defense. In their other three games against FBS teams besides Ole Miss, the Golden Flashes yielded 66 first-half points. Ohio has scored at least 17 points in the first half of all four of its games.
Prediction: Pick: OVER 35 points