The Ohio Bobcats had one of the top-ranked rushing attacks in all of college football this season and that ground game led them the 2017 Bahamas Bowl title.
The Bobcats (9-5) took the Prime Minister’s Trophy by the most lopsided win in the bowl’s four-year history, a 41-6 win over the University of Alabama-Birmingham Blazers at the Thomas A. Robinson Stadium.
Senior running back Dorian Brown was named the Offensive Player of the Game after he finished with 152 rushing yards and four touchdowns on just 12 carries.
Brown had just two 100-yard rushing games this season but exploded in Nassau, highlighte75-yards 75 yard score in the first quarter.
After leading rusher AJ Ouelette was sidelined with an injury, Brown stepped in to lead the team from the backfield.
“I missed two games since the last time I played and it motivated me. I give props to the O-line and they made it easy for me and I just had to step up and take my role when AJ was out, he said, “The entire Bahamas Bowl was a great experience. I had fun, the activities were amazing, at home it’s snowing and cold so to be here and to close it out with a win like this was amazing.”
Dual-threat quarterback Nathan Rourke completed 12-18 passes for 185 yards and two touchdowns. The two scores gave him 39 touchdowns, which set a new Ohio season record.
“When we get the running game going like this and I have all day to throw that’s really when we’re at our best,” Rourke said, “We know that we’re better than eight wins. We didn’t let that consume us too much but we used that to motivate ourselves and we wanted to prove to a national audience that we were better than our record said we were.”
On the opening drive of the game, Rourke missed on his first pass attempt, but had two big rushing gains, one from a read option and another from a quarterback draw, to keep the drive alive. The Blazers’ defense appeared to hold in the red zone with a key third-down sack, but it was negated on a holding penalty. UAB would force third down again but were called for another holding penalty in the end zone. The Bobcats eventually converted on the new opportunity and fresh set of downs when Rourke connected with DL Knock on a two-yard pass.
Ohio’s defence forced a quick three and out, and Rourke made them pay when he connected with Papi White on a 56-yard touchdown pass. After a missed extra point, the Bobcats led 13-0
White finished with four catches for 106 yards and the touchdown on the afternoon.
UAB had one of their better drives of the game on the next possession when quarterback AJ Erdely connected on three consecutive passes. The drive stalled at that point and the Blazers remained scoreless after a 47 field goal attempt was blocked.
Brown broke free for his 75-yard touchdown run early in the second quarter to give Ohio a 20-0 lead.
The Blazers managed to reach the red zone but came away with just a field goal. After Spencer Brown’s best run of the afternoon, a late hit tacked on 15 yards to shift momentum in Blazers favor. Ederly completed his biggest pass play of the day, a 37-yard connection with Ronnie Turner on the 11-yard line. The drive would stall, but Nock Vogel converted a 34-yard field goal to get on the scoreboard to trail 20-3.
The Bobcats responded with a nine-play 63-yard drive, capped by a nine-yard Dorian touchdown run, his second of the game and they took a 27-3.
UAB came out and moved the chains with two plays over 20 yards on their opening drive of the third quarter. Erdely connected with Collin Lisa, for their third first down and earned their second trip to the red zone, but again had to settle for another Vogel field goal.
After both teams exchanged possessions, it was Brown again with another 25-yard touchdown run and a 34-6 lead.
Brown added another rushing touchdown in the fourth for the game’s final margin.
The Bobcats defense held the Blazers without a touchdown, 3-15 on third down conversions and 0-2 on fourth down conversions.
No UAB rusher gained more than 37 yards on the ground.
Javon Hagan was named the Defensive MVP with a team-leading nine tackles.
“The number one thing we do on defense is stopping the run and our secondary knew they had to pass. We had a pep talk with our secondary knowing that we had to step up and make plays today,” he said, “This bowl is one of the best bowls I’ve ever been in so far, the atmosphere was great and I felt like a kid again.”
Head Coach Frank Solich led the Bobcats to their 11th all-time bowl appearance and their first win after concluding the last three seasons with bowl losses.
“I appreciate all this team has been about, they way they have prepared all year and to play a very good football game to end it, I couldn’t have been more pleased. I feel like the nine wins were not enough for this team. It was the great year and I certainly had a lot of fun coaching this team,” Solich said, “It’s a big win, obviously on national television, we had a chance to display the talent of this football team so I’m really pleased with the way they accomplished this win. When we win the turnover margin we’re a tough team to beat.”
Solich completed his 13th season (97-71 record) at Ohio and his 19th as a college head coach (155-90 record) overall. Solich who also served as the head coach at Nebraska from 1998-2003, has taken the Bobcats to 11 bowls, including in each of the last three seasons. He is the third-longest tenured coach in the FBS ranks.
“It’s a tough way to go out but I know it’s tough for these guys,” UAB head coach Bill Clark said, “I give Ohio credit, they ran the ball well, we had chances to get off the field defensively and we didn’t. They made plays, they played to just to about their average in their running game, but we missed some opportunities. To move the ball pretty well and get down to the red zone and not capitalise, hurts. We had too many drops, could have run the ball better earlier on, but I was disappointed to get there to the red zone several times and not score.”
UAB finished the season at 8-5 in one of the most inspirational stories of the 2017 college football season. The Blazers football program was cut, along with two other sports, after the 2014 season, but an unprecedented fundraising effort by businesses and fans in the Birmingham area resulted in an announcement six months later by the university that the program would return in 2017. After the two-year hiatus, UAB returned to the field and won a school-FBS record eight games.
“This loss will not take away from what this team has done, historically set the bar for future UAB programs. so proud of these group of seniors, hate to see them end this way,” Clark said, “We were close all day, but close is not good enough. They took our running game away we, knew we had to throw it we just have to go out there and make plays.”
Senior linebacker Tevin Crews led the Blazers with seven tackles.
“It hurts to not go out with a victory but I’m just blessed to be apart of a great team coached by a great role model,” he said, “I wish this team the best in years to come.”
Ohio set a school record with 467 points scored this season and finished the Bahamas Bowl with a 249-99 advantage in rushing yards.