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Ohio quarterback Kurtis Rourke (#7) runs the ball during the Bobcats' game against Syracuse on Saturday, Sep. 4, 2021.

Football: Kurtis Rourke gets glimpse of full-time quarterback role in Ohio's 29-9 loss to Syracuse

Kurtis Rourke stood under the floodlights in Peden Stadium, ready to start in front of an announced crowd of 23,904 people for the first time in his career. There were more eyes on him than he had ever seen in high school or during his previous season at Ohio.

Rourke had been confirmed as the starting quarterback just five days prior to Ohio’s season opener against Syracuse. He started all three games last season, but much of his games were split with fellow quarterback Armani Rogers. Saturday night was different. While Ohio fell to Syracuse 29-9, it was Rourke’s first chance at playing nearly a full game, staying on the field for all but a handful of plays. It was a new experience for the redshirt sophomore.

“It’s definitely easier to stay in the game and to be able to have the momentum to keep going,“ Rourke said. “The coaches put trust in me and my team put trust in me. If they call my name, I’m going to be ready for as long as they need me.”

Offense had its ups and downs Saturday. Rourke finished 21-for-28 with 142 passing yards and an interception which capped off his night. The Bobcats had several solid drives but weren’t able to follow through and reach the end zone. Ohio reached the red zone three times Saturday, and all three attempts to score ended in field goals.

“We didn’t show our full potential,“ Rourke said. “A lot of our drives, we moved the ball really, really well, and we just couldn’t finish. I think it’s a much different game if we punched it in the end zone.”

Rourke has been attempting to round himself out in preparation for his fourth career start Saturday. His recent focus has been on his rushing ability. Rourke only rushed for 17 yards in 2020 and picked up just 21 yards on the ground against Syracuse. 

“It’s definitely something that I’ve been working on for a while,“ Rourke said. “I’m not thinking about scrambling, just reacting to everything. I’m happy if it works, obviously. And that whatever to help the team move the chains and touchdowns, that’s all I can ask for.”

Rourke also struggled throwing into the end zone, overthrowing potential touchdown passes multiple times. If the Bobcats had capitalized on their red zone trips, Saturday’s game may have gone much differently. 

“I think there’s definitely some growing that I’ve got to do,“ Rourke said. “Especially myself including the red zone, I’ve got to be able to do some more things. But I think I’m getting a little bit better game by game.”

Despite his fair share of struggles, Rourke still showed off some versatility Saturday. One of the Bobcats’ biggest plays early on was a first quarter trick play in which De’Montre Tuggle tossed the ball to Cam Odom on a reverse, who then threw to a wide-open Rourke 38 yards downfield along the left sideline. The play showed how creative coach Tim Albin is willing to get with Rourke on the field. 

Rourke was reluctant to use the shortened 2020 season as a reason for being rusty and was upset with himself for his red zone short comings and late interception. Albin understood Saturday was just Rourke’s fourth start in his career and expects him to improve his decision making later in the year. 

“The interception with Kurtis,“ coach Tim Albin said. “I mean, come on now ... this is his fourth game.”

Saturday was just the beginning of what could be a complete season of Rourke as Ohio’s full-time quarterback. He’ll only have more chances to improve as the season progresses. 


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