Ohio earns Potato Bowl win

Antelope Valley Press - - Sports - By JA­SON CHATRAW

BOISE, Idaho — Ohio quar­ter­back Nathan Rourke is pro­jected to be the top quar­ter­back taken in the Cana­dian Foot­ball League draft this spring. He’s pretty good at the Amer­i­can col­le­giate ver­sion, too.

Rourke, from Oakville, On­tario, ac­counted for 231 yards of of­fense and ran for a touch­down to help Ohio beat Ne­vada 30-21 on Fri­day in the Fa­mous Idaho Potato Bowl.

Ohio (7-6) re­bounded from a 1-3 start for its fifth straight win­ning sea­son un­der coach Frank Solich. The 75-year-old for­mer Ne­braska coach re­ceived a twoyear con­tract ex­ten­sion this week.

Ne­vada (7-6), which dis­missed de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Jeff Cas­teel and two other de­fen­sive po­si­tion coaches at the end of the reg­u­lar sea­son, didn’t find much of an an­swer for Ohio’s high-pow­ered of­fense un­til the fourth quar­ter.

The Wolf­pack also were miss­ing three key de­fen­sive starters, sus­pended for their par­tic­i­pa­tion in a fight in a loss to ri­val UNLV in the reg­u­lar-sea­son fi­nale.

Rourke, who fin­ished with 144 yards pass­ing and 87 yards rush­ing along with one touch­down, gar­nered MVP hon­ors, but was un­in­ter­ested in talk­ing about it. When asked about his award, he quickly piv­oted to talk about the de­fense and their stand at the end of the game. Later, Rourke apol­o­gized for never win­ning a MAC cham­pi­onship dur­ing his three years at the school.

“I love coach­ing him,” Solich said. “We’ve been blessed to have him and I ap­pre­ci­ate ev­ery­thing he’s done for this pro­gram. He re­ally thinks be­yond him­self.”

Rourke is also think­ing be­yond the CFL, hop­ing to ful­fill his dream of play­ing in the NFL, even if it’s not a tra­di­tional route.

“I’m used to be­ing over­looked,” said Rourke, tied Kareem Wil­son’s school ca­reer record of 49 rush­ing touch­downs. “I took a dif­fer­ent path to get here, and I’m not afraid of tak­ing a dif­fer­ent path to reach­ing the NFL.”

Rourke might be over­looked in the NFL draft, but he fin­ished just one touch­down shy of join­ing an elite trio of col­lege quar­ter­backs who threw for 50 or more touch­downs and rushed for 50 or more in their ca­reer—La­mar Jack­son, Tim Te­bow, and Colin Kaeper­nick, all of whom made it to the NFL. And Rourke, un­like Te­bow and Kaper­nick, achieved his stats in only three sea­sons.

Ohio raced to a 20-9 lead and scored the first 10 points of the third quar­ter be­fore hold­ing off Ne­vada’s late rally.

The Bob­cats lost lead­ing rusher O’Shaan Al­li­son late in the first quar­ter with an undis­closed in­jury. De’Mon­tre Tug­gle took over, rush­ing for 97 yards and a touch­down to spark a ground at­tack that fin­ished with 285 yards on 50 car­ries spread among five play­ers.

Rourke tied Kareem Wil­son’s school record for ca­reer rush­ing touch­downs of 49. Wil­son played from 1995-98.

BRO­KEN FIN­GER, NO PROB­LEM

After the game, Solich re­vealed that Tug­gle, who fin­ished as the Bob­cats’ lead­ing rusher, broke his pinky fin­ger in warmups and wasn’t sure if he was go­ing to play. But when Al­li­son went out with an in­jury, Tug­gle didn’t hes­i­tate to go.

“I was won­der­ing whether or not he needed to carry the ball in the op­po­site hand all the time,” Solich said. “He said no, he’d be able to han­dle it. Start­ing out we weren’t real sure how he was go­ing to be able to func­tion. Then when he had to get in and start play­ing, it was ob­vi­ous he was go­ing to be able to play with it.”

TATERS OVER WA­TER

After the vic­tory, Solich got a tra­di­tional vic­tory bath. But this time he was doused in french fries in­stead of wa­ter.

“That’s a lot bet­ter than wa­ter on you,” Solich said. “Over the course of the years, I’ve had some wa­ter on me. I will take those pota­toes any time.”

THE TAKE­AWAY Ohio: The Bob­cats will have a big ques­tion next sea­son at quar­ter­back with Rourke grad­u­at­ing, but there are plenty of rea­sons to think Ohio will be a se­ri­ous con­tender for the MAC ti­tle. Los­ing just two starters on of­fense and three on de­fense, it will be one of the most ex­pe­ri­enced re­turn­ing teams in the con­fer­ence.

Ne­vada: The Wolf­pack will also en­ter next sea­son with high hopes with Norvell en­ter­ing his fourth sea­son with a bevy of re­turnees, in­clud­ing quar­ter­back Car­son Strong, who fin­ished with over 2,000 yards pass­ing, and lead­ing wide re­ceiver Eli­jah Cooks.

UP NEXT

Ohio: Will open next sea­son Sept. 5 by host­ing

N.C. Cen­tral.

Ne­vada: Will host UC Davis on Aug. 29 in its opener.

As­so­ci­ated Press

QUICK MOVE Ohio line­backer Dy­lan Con­ner (35) at­tempts to tackle Ne­vada wide re­ceiver Melquan Sto­vall (1), a for­mer Par­a­clete player, in the Fa­mous Idaho Potato Bowl on Fri­day.

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