Ohio is in the midst of a dream season. With one game to play, it is currently 8-3 and only needs to win its final game to secure a spot in the Mid-American Conference Championship game.
After going 3-9 in 2021, head coach Tim Albin’s first year on the job after the late retirement of Frank Solich, the Bobcats have had a remarkable turnaround. A season that started with questions about whether or not they were even going to make a bowl game has turned into their best year since 2016.
Quarterback Kurtis Rourke was putting together one of the best seasons in Ohio history as he led the program towards its fifth MAC title game appearance. But on Tuesday, we were reminded that football is a cruel game, and things almost never go as planned.
Late in the second quarter of Ohio’s 32-18 win over Ball State, Rourke was hit while completing a pass to Sam Wiglusz and went down, immediately grabbing his knee.
Rourke left the game and did not return. The pass he completed to Wiglusz as he suffered the injury went for 13 yards, taking him to 3256 for the season, just 46 yards shy of the Ohio single-season record, set by Tyler Tettleton in 2011.
Judging from Albin’s comments in his press conference Thursday, there is a possibility that Rourke could play in next Tuesday’s win-and-in season finale against Bowling Green.
But if he doesn’t and Ohio loses to Bowling Green, it will be a nightmare end to this fantastic season.
This is not to say that Ohio cannot win with CJ Harris at quarterback, as Bowling Green, despite being 5-2 in MAC play, is not a very good team.
The Falcons’ wins include a three-point victory over Akron and a four-point victory over Western Michigan, two of the worst teams in the conference. They also benefited from some of the worst tackling I’ve ever seen to beat Toledo in the final seconds and deny Ohio the MAC East title Tuesday.
Harris performed well in the second half against Ball State, making a couple big plays, which was all Ohio needed to hold on to the win. He looked great on the ground Tuesday, and even made a nice throw to Wiglusz down the sideline.
With how good Ohio’s defense has looked over the past few weeks, and Sieh Bangura looking as healthy as he has all season against Ball State, Ohio can certainly still win its final game and the MAC East even if Rourke doesn’t play.
But it still feels like this is heading toward a disappointing end, as one unfortunate play derails the Bobcats, who had a great chance to capture their first MAC title in 54 years.
Now, I could be wrong, and Rourke could have his Kirk Gibson or Willis Reed moment and return from injury to lead the Bobcats to the promised land.
But football has a long history of promising seasons being destroyed by key injuries, and Ohio becoming the latest victim of that will be a truly devastating end to the 2022 season.