AKRON — Nathan Rourke might’ve played his last game with Ohio on Tuesday night at InfoCision Stadium.
The senior quarterback, who will end his career with the most touchdowns in program history, did everything he could to give the Bobcats a shot at extending their season with a bowl game in Ohio’s 52-3 win over Akron.
Rourke finished with 308 passing yards — the second time he’s surpassed 300 passing yards in his career — four touchdowns and a 211 passer rating, his highest of the season.
That helped the Bobcats end the regular season at 6-6, which makes a bowl game a possibility but not a guarantee.
“We’ll wait and see, I guess,” Rourke said with a smile. “It’s kind of out of our control.”
Among a cast of new receivers and running backs, Rourke has done everything he could to make the most of his last season at Ohio.
The dual-threat quarterback will end the regular season with 2,676 passing yards, the most he’s had in an illustrious three-season career as the Bobcats’ starter. His 780 rushing yards rank second on Ohio. His 33 touchdowns leads all players.
Rourke will end his career with his name near the top of nearly every quarterback accolade in program history, but he won’t have a Mid-American Conference Championship.
That’s what the Bobcats were supposed to win this season. They won’t, and it’s not Rourke’s fault.
With a 6-6 record, Ohio’s nonconference losses to Marshall and Louisiana and MAC losses to Miami and Western Michigan arguably hurt the most.
Rourke wasn’t at fault in any of those games.
He excelled against those defenses the same way he did Tuesday against Akron, who hasn’t won a game since October 2018. The Bobcats scored points on seven of the 12 drives where Rourke was on the field, and he gashed a defense that — despite the poor team record — was the top-ranked pass defense in the conference.
None of it was a surprise. That’s what Rourke has done his whole career. His success this season was no different.
But because of defensive collapses in key games, the Bobcats have no control over what happens next.
Coach Frank Solich showered Rourke with praise, knowing that he may never wear an Ohio uniform again.
“He’s been special in what he’s been about through his whole career here,” Solich said. “He’s exuded the kind of leadership you wanted, and you knew there was something special about this young man. You’d love to keep him.”
Now, all the Bobcats can do is wait. They’ll find out if they have a future Dec. 8, the day after the MAC Championship Game, but no one knows if Rourke will throw another pass with the Bobcats after the regular season.
Ohio has known that since it was eliminated from the MAC Championship Game three weeks ago.
But it hasn’t stopped Rourke from gashing opposing defenses, and it didn’t stop him from playing one of his best games of his career Tuesday on the road in front of a mostly empty stadium against arguably the worst team in college football.
When Rourke answered questions about if he had realized his college career may have ended, he smiled and kept the same positive outlook he’s maintained in three years full of personal dominance mired by Ohio’s inability to meet its full potential.
After everything he’s brought to the program, that’s all he could do.
“It’ll hit me at some point,” Rourke said. “It’s been a pleasure to play for Ohio, and I’m so thankful for the opportunities they’ve given me. It’s been a great group to play with, so I’d love to be able to get one more shot out there.”