Kurtis Rourke, younger brother of CFL star Nathan, breaks Ohio Bobcats’ single-game passing record with 500-yard performance

Photo courtesy: AP Photo/Emilee Chinn

B.C. Lions’ quarterback Nathan Rourke has already staked his claim to the title of the next great Canadian pivot, but the best one after him may bear the same last name.

On Saturday, Ohio recorded a 59-52 shoot-out victory over Fordham in NCAA football action thanks to an incredible performance from starting quarterback Kurtis Rourke, the younger brother of the CFL’s homegrown sensation.

The Oakville, Ontario native completed 41-of-50 pass attempts on the afternoon for 537 yards and four touchdowns, adding 45 yards and a rushing score to his tally. The Bobcats trailed 46-52 until late in the fourth quarter when Rourke led a nine-play, 77-yard drive and recaptured the lead with a five-yard touchdown pass to Jacoby Jones with 52 seconds remaining.

The performance set a new single-game passing record for Ohio University, shattering the mark of 409 yards set by Donny Harrison against Kent State in 1983.

Despite sitting second in school history for both passing yards (7,454) and touchdowns (60), Nathan Rourke never came close to surpassing that record while playing at Ohio and crossed the 300-yard passing mark just twice in his college career. His younger brother has now done so three times, including twice in what is looking like a breakout junior season.

Rourke opened 2022 with a 345-yard performance against Florida Atlantic in which he threw four touchdowns and rushed for another. While the Bobcats found themselves outmatched against Power Five opponents in Penn State and Iowa State, his outing against Fordham proves that Rourke’s leap forward wasn’t an anomaly.

The six-foot-four, 216-pound pivot had started 13 games for the team over the past two seasons, completing 199-of-303 passes for 2,287 yards, 14 touchdowns and seven interceptions to go with 344 yards and three scores on the ground. In just four games this season, Rourke has gone 102-of 147 for 1,195 yards, nine touchdowns and two picks, while adding two rushing majors.

The jump in the younger Rourke’s development comes in the same year that his older brother burst onto the scene as the most exciting CFL quarterback in a generation. Nathan Rourke — a two-time Jon Cornish Trophy winner as the top Canadian player in the NCAA while with the Bobcats — was the runaway favourite to win Most Outstanding Player and on pace to shatter several CFL records before he suffered a Lisfranc sprain last month.

There remains an outside chance that the elder Rourke could return to the Lions’ lineup in time for the CFL playoffs but fans can continue to get their Canadian quarterbacking fix either way by watching the Bobcats, who kick off their conference schedule next Saturday at Kent State.

Due to pandemic exemption rules, Kurtis Rourke has up to two more years of college eligibility remaining following this season. With his sibling seemingly destined for the NFL someday, CFL teams will be following the rest of his amateur career with great interest.

J.C. Abbott is a University of British Columbia graduate and high school football coach. He covers the CFL, B.C. Lions, CFL Draft and the three-down league's Global initiative.