Kurtis Rourke spent three weeks on the sidelines waiting for his opportunity to return.
After being pulled before the second half of Ohio's game against Akron, the redshirt sophomore’s time on the field was nonexistent. Rourke didn’t take a single snap through the majority of Ohio’s October schedule, and was sidelined in favor of fellow quarterback Armani Rogers. But when Ohio’s offense faltered in the first quarter against Kent State on Saturday, Rogers was pulled and Rourke was thrown in.
He found his touch again immediately.
In just over three quarters of work, Rourke completed 31-of-38 passing attempts for 308 yards. He even picked up 49 rushing yards and two touchdowns. His rushing performance for Ohio was only surpassed by running back De’Montre Tuggle’s 59 yards and one touchdown.
But Rourke’s efforts were in vain. Ohio (1-7, 1-3 Mid-American Conference) was outgunned 34-27 by Kent State (4-4, 3-1 MAC) in a game it never had a stake in.
By all accounts, Rourke played his best game for Ohio on Saturday. He set new career highs in passing and rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns. He even surpassed opposing quarterback Dustin Crum — who had the third-most passing yards in the MAC before Saturday — by 51 passing yards.
The redshirt sophomore felt more comfortable on the field Saturday. His time off the field gave him a chance to step back and evaluate himself.
“I've been playing for a while and I felt like a little stressed to start the season,“ Rourke said. “And just these last couple weeks I just wanted to go and have fun. That’s why I'm here playing the game that I love, so that was really my focus.”
Ohio relied heavily on its run game through its October schedule. Rourke is the primary passing quarterback, and with Rogers under center, passing attempts dwindled. Rogers made just 10 passing attempts in the game against Buffalo.
But Rourke brought variety back to Ohio’s offense. He recorded the most passing yards in a single game by an Ohio quarterback since his older brother Nathan passed for 308 yards against Akron in 2019. All 27 points scored by Ohio on Saturday came when Rourke was under center.
“Personally I think it's a confidence boost for myself and also the offense,“ Rourke said. “We've been really successful running the ball because we got some great guys that can run the ball, but we also showed today that we can pass the ball ... So it's a big confidence boost even though we came up short.”
Confidence boost or not, the Bobcats still fell short. The Golden Flashes scored 10 points in the first quarter while the Bobcats turned the ball over three times in four drives. Rourke helped the Bobcats score on every drive after halftime, but the Golden Flashes kept them at arm’s length. Rourke had the night of his life while the Bobcats faltered once again.
Saturday’s loss reeks of déjà vu. Ohio squandered a similar performance when Rogers passed for 190 yards in its loss to Central Michigan. Both games ended with the same result — a quarterback’s strong performance overshadowed by costly mistakes.
The Bobcats have lost their last three games by a combined total of 11 points. Both Rourke and Rogers have given top-notch performances in those three losses, but they haven’t been enough to pull the Bobcats over the finish line.
Rourke spent much of October waiting for the opportunity to return to the field. He returned with the best performance of his career, only to have it go to waste.