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Ohio University Bobcats are 28-7 at the half time against Bowling Green Falcons at Peden on November 22, 2022.

Football: CJ Harris leads Ohio in first career start

C.J. Harris didn’t have a start or a touchdown in his collegiate career until last week against Ball State. However, you would never guess that just by watching him Tuesday night. 

The redshirt sophomore played like he’d been in command all season, guiding Ohio to a 38-14 win over Bowling Green in its last regular season game. 

When Kurtis Rourke left the game last week against Ball State with a knee injury, nerves may have gotten the best of Harris. He finished the game in Muncie, Indiana, with only 34 passing yards, and fumbled on his very first play. 

It was only natural for Harris to have nerves again in his first career start Tuesday, but they only affected him for the first quarter. He struggled in the first 15 minutes, only completing two passes for 26 yards. 

However, when the second quarter started, something clicked. 

Ohio faced 3rd-and-5, and after only completing one of three attempted first down conversions, things were not looking good. However, instead of letting the mistakes of the past quarter haunt him, Harris stepped back and threw a 28-yard bomb to Jacoby Jones for the first down. 

“First start nerves, they kind of came out a little bit,” Harris said. “But we just knew that we had to buckle down and do what we did best, so we just started going to our usual plays, stuff that we know has been working all season, and it just started clicking."

Harris capped off the drive to start the second quarter with a five-yard run into the end zone for his first career touchdown. From there, the offensive floodgates opened. 

Ohio went on to score 38 uninterrupted points, and Harris finished the night with 196 passing yards, 65 rushing yards and four total touchdowns. It was an impressive start for a quarterback who had only played in three games before Tuesday. 

For Harris, there is almost no better feeling than leading his team to a chance at winning the Mid-American Conference Title in Detroit. 

“Especially now that we have a chance to go put a ring on our finger, it feels great right now,” Harris said.

Even though Tuesday was Harris’ first collegiate start, he’s been at Ohio since 2019. He’s spent the past three years watching, taking notes and learning which paid off in such a big game. 

Ohio head coach Tim Albin was not worried about his backup quarterback’s ability to lead the team in the battle for the MAC East, and was even more confident in his abilities after the game Tuesday. 

“It’s like I’m talking to Kurtis (Rourke)," Albin said. “He’s done very well.”

Once the Bobcats were up by a significant amount, they took Harris out of the game in order to protect him from injury before the MAC Championship game against Toledo on Dec. 3.

Tuesday against Bowling Green was a big game for Harris, but next week may be even bigger. 


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