Cameron Odem attempts to shake off multiple tackles during Ohio’s game against Purdue at Ross-Ade Stadium (Blake Nissen | Photo Editor)
Photo by Blake Nissen
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Ohio felt good headed to Purdue.
But at the end of the night Friday, those feelings of optimism had been squashed.
The Boilermakers were the superior team, and the Bobcats were simply overmatched. Ohio lost 44-21 and failed to earn their first win against the Purdue in program history.
Ohio will play Kansas next Saturday at home, but for now, they need to consider a few components of this game against Purdue.
1. The QB battle between Quinton Maxwell and Nathan Rourke
Redshirt sophomore Quinton Maxwell only played two drives. And on those two drives, he only completed one pass.
Sophomore quarterback Nathan Rourke came in after that, and he never left. In the first two games, Rourke has performed better than Maxwell. Rourke finished the game with 224 passing yards and one touchdown, a 25-yard pass to Cameron Odom with 4:27 left in the game.
The Bobcats could have quit and let the Boilermakers continue to barrel through them. They didn’t.
“I’m really proud of the team at that point,” Rourke said. “That drive really in the grand schemes of things maybe didn’t mean too much on paper. Coach (Frank) Solich’s thing was ‘win the fourth quarter’ and I think we made a really good case for that.”
The touchdown pass to Odom was Rourke’s first passing touchdown as a Bobcat. While a solid passer, he also specializes in pocket evasion. Rourke ran for three touchdowns against Hampton and for 36 yards against Purdue.
Going forward, the Bobcats will have a decision to make at quarterback. Maxwell started the first two games. But as the Bobcats prepare for Kansas, Solich will speak with quarterbacks coach Scott Isphording about the team’s options at quarterback.
“I’ll visit with coach Isphording and we’ll make a determination on that here this week,” Solich said. “But he certainly came in, played with a lot of heart, kept plays alive and made plays.”
2. The front seven’s tenacity and tackling skills were tested
The Bobcats just couldn’t tackle the Boilermakers.
Running back Tario Fuller was especially difficult to bring down.
The Bobcats allowed the Boilermakers to run for more than 50 yards to start the game, more than they did for the entire game against Hampton. Fuller was elusive and quick, able to break through the Bobcats’ defense with ease. The Bobcats allowed Fuller to gain 142 rushing yards.
Though the Boilermakers ran an up-tempo offense, linebacker Chad Moore felt no reason to make excuses.
“They’re nothing special,” Moore said. “They’re human beings just like us, and we can tackle ‘em.”
The Boilermakers earned most of their rushing yards in the second half, even though they had the Bobcats’ defense scrambling in the first.
The Bobcats were without linebacker Quentin Poling in the second half, though. Poling was out for the second half with hip pain.
“We’ll see,” Solich said of Poling’s status. “The kind of thing he’s banged up with could keep him out a game or two. But knowing him, he might be able to get back a little sooner than that.”
3. Julian Ross continued to show why he deserves to play
Coach Solich wanted to put Julian Ross into the game. Even with A.J. Ouellette and Dorian Brown performing adequately, Solich needed to see Ross some more.
In a game where the Bobcats fell out of reach early, Solich saw what Ross could contribute. He knows what he has: a true freshman running back with speed.
“He gives us a big threat in terms of breakaway,” Solich said. “He’s got really good speed, he’s got really good quickness, he’s learned our offense really quick. We wanted to bring him along.”
Solich said having Ouellette and Brown sit in the second half wasn’t a slight to them. As a team, not much was working for the Bobcats, even with the two running backs playing.
Ross scored one touchdown, the third of his Ohio career. And at this point, they’ve likely seen enough to know that Ross is already one of the offense’s best players.
“You have to remind yourself sometimes that he’s a true freshman,” Rourke said. “Really proud of what he’s been doing. He’s working very hard; I’m looking forward to seeing what he does in the future.”