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College football: Ohio starts quickly, holds off Nevada in Potato Bowl

Ohio quarterback Nathan Rourke breaks away from Nevada’s defense for a 35-yard touchdown run Jan. 3, 2020.
Ohio quarterback Nathan Rourke breaks away from Nevada’s defense for a 35-yard touchdown run Friday.
(Steve Conner / Associated Press)

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 college 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 consecutive winning season under coach Frank Solich. The 75-year-old former Nebraska coach received a two-year 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.

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

Rourke, who finished with 144 yards passing and 87 yards rushing along with one touchdown, garnered game most valuable player honors, but he was uninterested in talking about it. When asked about his award, he quickly pivoted to talk about the defense and its stand at the end of the game. Later, Rourke apologized for never winning a Mid-American Conference 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.

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“I’m used to being overlooked,” said Rourke, who 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.

The Rose Bowl soon will have competition in SoFi Stadium as the top football venue in town, and officials prepare for the changing landscape.

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 in 50 carries spread among five players.

After the win, 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.”


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