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Kurtis Rourke (7) QB on Ohio Univeristy's football team awaits for the snap in Peden Stadium in Athens, OH on Sept. 16, 2023.

Football: Kurtis Rourke and the offense arrived at just the right time

Star Quarterback Kurtis Rourke didn’t look quite the same coming back from injury against FAU. On Saturday, however, in Ohio’s 10-7 win over Power Five–opponent Iowa State, Rourke returned as the leader that Ohio has needed on offense all season. 

Rourke’s offensive leadership combined with top-tier defensive play helped Ohio obtain its first win against a Power Five school since 2017. 

Against a very sound defense, Ohio was going to need its whole team to show up and work as a cohesive unit, the team did just that. Ohio won 10-7 and did not allow Iowa State to score any points until late in the fourth quarter. 

“I know that our points and stuff are down from last year and this is a tough unit to say we’re gonna get the ball rolling against these guys,” Head Coach Tim Albin said. “We asked him (Rourke) to execute and he did. He created when he had to create, got out of some binds, had his eyes downfield, made some good throws and took care of the ball.”

The defense has been the story so far during the young 2023 season. Led by Bryce Houston, the defense has given the team every opportunity to win games and even worked to score points themselves but the offense has not always taken advantage.

Today, Rourke and the offense looked better than they have all season long. As a unit, the offense was able to put up 10 points against the Iowa State defense. Ten points may not seem like much, but it was certainly enough to get the job done against a Power Five opponent and a defense that is nothing to scoff at. 

Rourke finished the game with 16 completions and 135 yards, including a touchdown. However, the most impressive part of Rourke's performance on Saturday was committing zero turnovers. 

The offense had its fair share of punts and three-and-outs, but as a team, Ohio won the turnover battle 2-0. When teams win the turnover battle, they give themself the best opportunity to win the game. 

“We asked them to raise the bar and in a tight game when it's on the line who is going to be the smartest, who’s going to have the most discipline and do the things,” Albin said. “We have expectations and goals for the season and a plan on how to get those. Turnovers, field possession and Ohio doesn’t beat Ohio. Four games in we finally got that done today."

Next weekend, Ohio will head to Bowling Green to begin its tough Mid-American Conference schedule. Rourke and the offense gaining confidence against a team like Iowa State is huge as they approach the most important games of the season. 

“It’s huge, I felt like our offense has been beat up at the beginning of the season but now we’re starting to get some legs back,” Rourke said. “Personally, I felt like I finally had a two-game stretch of being able to play full games and it's very confidence building and we’re hoping to use that momentum headed into MAC play.”

Rourke was not the only player working to return from injury in the past two weeks. Sam Wiglusz, who was responsible for Ohio’s only receiving touchdown, was also sidelined against Long Island University in Ohio’s home opener. Tyler Foster, Ohio’s senior tight end, was also playing his first snaps since being injured in Week Zero against San Diego State. 

“He (Tyler Foster) had a big play, but he’s been hobbled, I think he was injured on the first or second play against San Diego State…he’s worked his tail off to get here,” Albin said. “He was going to be limited going in but I think he got past the limited piece, he was in there quite a bit today.”

The defense was no doubt the highlight of the game for Ohio’s Power Five–win but the offense may have found something that will be more valuable for the team down the road. The confidence that the offense has after beating a Power Five team may elevate Ohio to the next level that is needed to make a run for the MAC championship. 



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