Football: Ohio to start Rourke; Maxwell will play at Eastern Michigan

Football: Ohio to start Rourke; Maxwell will play at Eastern Michigan


Nathan Rourke looks for an open reciever during Ohio University’s game against Purdue University on September 9, 2017 (Blake Nissen | File)


During the week of the Kansas game, Frank Solich didn’t name a starting quarterback at Ohio’s weekly Monday press conference.

Fans and media had to wait until Ohio began its first drive last Saturday to know who the quarterback would be. Unsurprisingly, the starting quarterback was Nathan Rourke.

Now, though, Solich knows his starting quarterback. Rourke has the job for Saturday’s game against Eastern Michigan, but Quinton Maxwell – the Bobcats’ former starter – won’t stand on the sideline.

The Bobcats will play the Eagles at 2 p.m. in Rynearson Stadium. It’s an early Mid-American Conference matchup during what is usually the end of nonconference play.

And the Bobcats are intent on using a two-quarterback system that, surprisingly, has been effective.

“They’re both good quarterbacks,” Solich said. “If you have guys that are good players, the system has a chance to work.”

After Ohio defeated Kansas, Jayhawks’ coach David Beaty gave the system credit. The game marked the first time Maxwell didn’t start this season. But he played as if he had been in the game.

When Maxwell entered the game in the second quarter, he began 4-of-4 passing and threw a touchdown to Troy Mangen during his first drive. But Rourke continued to dazzle with his elusiveness outside the pocket and decision-making skills. Rourke passed for 152 yards and two touchdowns, adding a rushing touchdown as well.

“They were able to open their playbook and do the same things with each guy,” Beaty said.

It would be easy to say Maxwell entered the game like a relief pitcher, giving Rourke a reprieve for a drive or two. That wasn’t the case last Saturday, though.

Maxwell was the starter once, and he showed why when Ohio was up 39-24 against Kansas with 5:34 left in the game. He was brought in to close.

Maxwell led the Bobcats to the Jayhawks’ 29-yard line, and Louie Zervos kicked a 46-yard field goal to put the Bobcats up 42-24. Although not the starter, Maxwell ended the game with 102 passing yards and a touchdown.

“We’re prepared to play the guy that’s playing extremely well,” Solich said. “We’re hoping that it continues that we have two quarterbacks that play really well. That makes things easy on us.”

While the Bobcats are running a two-quarterback system, the Eagles have one. Defending Brogan Roback is difficult, though.

A dual-threat quarterback, Roback won’t engage in mainly air-raid like Kansas quarterback Peyton Bender. He has the capability to run, too.

“It won’t be easy, but we gotta find some kind of way to obviously not let him sit in the pocket and drill those throws,” Solich said.

Solich was quick to mention that the Eagles throw the ball out of the pocket quickly. Even if the Bobcats have a solid pass rush, they might not reach Roback because of the Eagles’ physical offensive line.

The Bobcats sacked Bender five times, a season-high in the category. They blitzed more than they usually do, but perhaps they’ll need the same aggressive pass rush against Roback. The Bobcats lost to the Eagles 27-20 last season. Roback threw for 347 yards and three touchdowns.

“Our focus this week is to make sure that first off we stop the run,” defensive end Trent Smart said. “Force him into passing situations, and then once we get in those situations, we have to contain the quarterback and be fundamental in the secondary.”


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