BOWLING GREEN – Nathan Rourke sat his helmet down on a metal case, put on a green Ohio beanie and stuck his hands into the warmer that was slung across his waist.
He stood on the sideline with 2:39 left in the third quarter, and his night was done.
On the field, instead, was his younger brother, Kurtis.
The younger Rourke and a handful of other players earned game minutes because of the senior quarterback’s performance in Ohio’s 66-24 rout over Mid-American Conference rival Bowling Green.
The offensive performance, one that featured over 600 total yards, all started on just Ohio’s second play of the night.
Rourke threw a 55-yard touchdown pass to an uncovered Isiah Cox after he split the seam and took it into the endzone.
On the Bobcats’ next drive, all it took were two plays to get into the end zone again, this time a 54-yard run from redshirt freshman O’Shaan Allison.
The explosive plays from Ohio came early and often. They were the type of plays it knew it was capable of running, and against the No. 10 overall defense in the conference, Ohio was able to release a season worth of frustrations into a 60-minute time span.
“We definitely feel like this is the way we’re capable of playing,” Rourke said.
Once again, the senior quarterback played a large role in the Bobcats’ offensive success. His 14-for-21, 267 passing yards and three touchdowns are numbers that, for most quarterbacks, would be worthy a celebration.
But this season, those numbers have become normal for him.
An abnormality was, he had assistance. Consistent assistant.
Allison set personal bests with 175 rushing yards and three touchdowns of his own. In a season where he’s had inconsistencies – a 104-yard performance against Ball State and then being benched after the first series of the Miami game – Allison showcased his abilities as an every down back for Ohio to enjoy the next few seasons.
“It meant everything,” he said as he chuckled to himself. “I felt confident out there.”
Admittedly, the running back said his preparation intensified heading into Tuesday’s game because there were a lot of things he hadn’t seen before and that he wanted to be better than he has been in the last few weeks.
Bowling Green’s usage of exotic blitzes and slanting the defensive line allowed for Ohio’s running backs to have open cut lanes where three touchdowns from 50 or more yards were able to happen.
“The coaches were on edge all week,” Allison said.
That on-edge feeling was erased 46 seconds into the third quarter when Allison scored his third touchdown of the night – a 53-yarder into the northwest end zone – and Ohio’s lead grew to 45-24.
It was a performance that only those in Ohio’s locker room knew it could put together. The Bobcats (5-6, 4-3 MAC) won’t make it to the MAC Championship game, and it’s still a win away from attaining bowl eligibility status.
Tuesday night’s performance was one they were expected to have all season long, and while too late, it wasn’t too little.
“We were able to keep ahead in this game, which was important,” coach Frank Solich said. “We’ve been coming from behind, and this time, we were able to keep the lead and expand on it.”
Solich, who broke the all-time wins record by a MAC coach with his 111th victory with the Bobcats, has been vocal about the frustrations Ohio has endured throughout the season.
From unanimous MAC East Division favorites and overall conference champions, to having to beat winless Akron just for a chance at a bowl game, the frustrations of not putting a complete product on the field week in and week out have been visible.
“We didn’t have the record we had wished for this season,” Allison said. “We just made the best out of it today.”
Ohio has a guaranteed one more opportunity ahead of itself in 2019. A road East Division game against Akron, who lost to Bowling Green by 29 points, should give Ohio more opportunities to take out its season-long frustrations.
In a week’s time, Rourke more likely than not will trade his white helmet for a green beanie before the game clock hits triple zeros. Allison will trade running over defenders for running down the bench in celebration of his teammates. Names like Kurtis Rourke and running back Ja’Vahri Portis will be said over the PA.
But for now, Ohio will enjoy this win. One it has been needing so desperately.
“This feels really good, this is one you’re going to remember,” Allison said.
And for a season to forget, Tuesday’s win will be memorable.