Canadian QB Nathan Rourke leads Ohio to bowl win in final NCAA game

Photo courtesy: Ohio Athletics

Canadian quarterback Nathan Rourke led Ohio University to a program-record third-straight bowl win beating the University of Nevada 30-21 in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.

Rourke, the Oakville, Ontario native, was named Most Valuable Player in his final game as a Bobcat. He completed 9-of-17 attempts for 144 yards and ran 10 times for 87 yards, including a 35-yard touchdown. 

The dual-threat QB finished his Ohio career with a 24-13 record as a starting quarterback and was under centre for three-straight bowl victories. Ohio matched the University of Toledo (1969-1971) and Miami University (1973-1975) for the most consecutive bowl wins in Mid-American Conference history. 

“I hope more than anything I was a good teammate. I love the guys in the locker room. I take a lot of pride in being a good teammate, being a good leader, being coachable by the coaches,” Rourke said. 

“I’ve been so fortunate to be able to come here and to just be one of the guys, learn from these coaches, have a lot of fun, a lot of success doing it. I couldn’t ask for more from this program.”

The Wolf Pack took the opening kickoff and proceeded to move 46 yards in six plays. Nevada’s drive stalled out at the Ohio 34-yard line, but freshman placekicker Brandon Talton knocked in a 51-yard field goal to set a Famous Idaho Potato Bowl record and give the Wolf Pack a 3-0 lead.

Ohio countered with a 10-play, 65-yard drive that saw Rourke rush for 36 yards on the ground. The Bobcats were forced to settle for a 29-yard field goal that tied the contest up with seven minutes to go in the opening quarter.

After forcing Nevada to punt on its second drive, Ohio marched 71 yards in 15 plays and capped off the drive with a 12-yard touchdown run on fourth-and-one by redshirt sophomore running back Julian Ross early in the second quarter. Rourke completed a 12-yard pass to redshirt senior receiver DL Knock on third down to keep the drive alive. 

The Wolf Pack answered back with a 10-play 59-yard drive. A 17-yard run by sophomore running back Toa Taua gave Nevada a fresh set of downs at the Ohio 20, but the drive stalled and the Wolf Pack were forced to settle for a 36-yard field goal that cut the Bobcats’ lead to 10-6. 

Ohio responded quickly, with Rourke keeping it himself and scoring on the third play of the ensuing drive on a 35-yard scamper into the end zone to increase the lead to 17-6. The touchdown was set up by Rourke completing a 38-yard pass to redshirt sophomore Isiah Cox, who made a great catch along the Nevada sideline by getting a foot down before going out of bounds.

The Bobcats got the ball to begin the second half. The drive began with Rourke completing passes of 19 yards and 14 yards. Three plays later, Rourke completed a 16-yard pass and picked up 13 more yards when Nevada sophomore defensive back Christian Swint was ejected from the game for targeting on the hit at the end of the play. The Ohio drive stalled and ended with a 26-yard field goal to make it a 23-9 lead.

De’Montre Tuggle scored on a two-yard touchdown run later in the third and Ohio led 30-9 after three quarters of play. The Bobcats were forced to withstand a fourth-quarter comeback by the Wolf Pack in which Nevada scored 12 unanswered points.

Rourke ends his NCAA career, but begins the process of finding a job in the pros by accepting an invite to the NFLPA Bowl.