– by Adesina O. Koiki
A Lot of Sports Talk editor-in-chief
FRISCO, Texas — Earlier this month, Ohio head coach Frank Solich officially became the oldest head coach in the Football Bowl Subdivision. Given his success in a decade and a half at Ohio University, however, it is evident that the game clearly has not passed him by, and the end to his 40th anniversary since the start of his college football coaching career ended with his team’s best overall performance of 2018.
Senior running back A.J. Ouellette had 164 yards rushing while quarterback Nathan Rourke accounted for three total touchdowns as the Bobcats shut out San Diego State 27-0 in the Frisco Bowl, becoming the first Mid-American Conference school to record a shutout in a bowl game in the conference’s history.
After starting the season 3-3, the Bobcats (9-4) ended the season with wins in six of their last seven contests.
“I feel like I still have a lot of energy,” said the 74-year-old Solich, who became the oldest FBS head coach after longtime Kansas State head coach Bill Snyder, who coached against Solich-led teams when Solich was at the University of Nebraska, retired earlier this month at 79. “I still feel like I communicate well with players and coaches. I’m not feeling like the oldest coach, at least not tonight.”
After Ohio took the lead late in the first quarter on a 30-yard Louie Zervos field goal, Rourke gave the Bobcats a 10-0 lead midway through the second when running all alone to the left after faking a handoff to Ouelette for a 9-yard score. With 11 seconds remaining in the half, Rourke scored on an 11-yard scamper to lift Ohio’s lead to 17-0 going into intermission.
Rourke threw a 35-yard touchdown to Andrew Meyer to complete the scoring and give the Bobcats a 27-0 lead in the fourth.
“The way the team finished the season is a tribute to our coaches,” Ouellette said. “We have a hard-nosed head coach and it showed late in the season, wearing other teams down. You can tell their bodies weren’t used to the all the pounding from the season, but for us to go out this way is a tribute to our seniors.”
Another senior, linebacker Evan Croutch, was named the game’s defensive MVP after recording a game-high 11 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks.
“We’ve been preparing for what it seems like a long time for this game and to come out come out and shut out a team like San Diego State, it feels great,” Croutch said.
The Aztecs started the season 6-1, including a win against then nationally-ranked Arizona State on Sept. 15, but then lost five of their last six. Furthermore, San Diego State lost a fourth consecutive game for the first time in head coach Rocky Long’s eight-year tenure at Montezuma Mesa.
“I think you have to look at everything you do, from the top down,” Long said. “We can delve into this as deep as you want. And we’re evaluating everything in our program. And it might be nothing but we don’t have one big-time player. That might be the difference.”
*Editor’s note: Above the byline is the photo gallery from Wednesday evening’s game, with all photos taken by Dallas-area photographer Ross James. After clicking on the first photo to enlarge the picture, make sure to press the left and right arrow buttons to scroll through the rest of the pictures. There are 18 pictures in total.