On Monday, Ohio (1-1, 0-0 Mid-American Conference) expected Senior Quarterback Kurtis Rourke to suit up against Long Island University. However, a lack of progression from injury held Rourke out of Saturday's game, and opened the door for second and third-string Quarterbacks CJ Harris and Parker Navarro to split snaps.
After transferring from the University of Central Florida, Navarro spent all of 2022 sidelined with an injury. Coming into this season as the third-string Quarterback, it was unexpected that Navarro would see snaps early in the season. Navarro said it was awesome to get back on the field after a long recovery.
"It was awesome," Navarro said. "The elbow had a pretty long recovery time. so it felt great to get the opportunity out there and be with the guys."
However, the injury to Rourke and some shakiness from Harris in Week Zero allowed Navarro an opportunity to show his skills.
Navarro wasted no time in helping Ohio move the ball. Navarro flashed his speed in Ohio's second touchdown drive of the game. Navarro ran for 25 yards on four carries, before throwing a 9-yard touchdown pass to Bryce Butler, his first touchdown pass as a Bobcat.
A couple of drives later, Navarro used his legs to scramble outside of the pocket and find true freshman tight end Mason Williams wide open down the field for a 32-yard touchdown.
Navarro went on to throw an interception, however, the mistake wasn't entirely his fault. Navarro's pass was batted up in the air at the line of scrimmage.
Ohio Coach Tim Albin was very impressed with the performances of both Ohio backup quarterbacks.
"I couldn't be happier," Albin said. "They managed the game really well. The guys up front helped them with the running game."
With Rourke out, Ohio placed a greater emphasis on the running game, which included Harris and Navarro. Navarro finished the game with 34 yards rushing on six carries, while Harris had 36 yards rushing on 4 carries. Albin talked about the importance of quarterbacks in the running game.
"When you can do it (running with Quarterbacks) it puts more pressure on the defense," said Albin. "That's the type of guy we can recruit (those who can run and pass) and those two guys can do both."
The 70-yard rushing by Ohio quarterbacks contributed to the 224 yards on the ground that Ohio had against LIU.
Although Harris didn't have quite as many total yards as Navarro, he avoided mistakes and led the Bobcats on their first touchdown drive of the game. Albin said despite Harris' uneven Week Zero performance, his confidence in the Quarterback is unshaken.
"He's a warrior mentally," Albin said. "It was a tough week for him, and my heart breaks for him... I don't want to put a leash on him where he's afraid of making a mistake. We don't want that. He's a fourth-year player and we have total trust in him."
The loss of Kurtis Rourke would be very consequential to Ohio's chances against future opponents, however, the abilities of Harris and Navarro, both through the air and on the ground, keep hope alive if Rourke is unavailable.