Ohio Pittsburgh Football

Ohio quarterback Nathan Rourke has completed 63.3% of his passes for 365 yards and two touchdowns in two games.

HUNTINGTON — As Marshall’s defense watched film this week in preparation for the Battle for the Bell matchup with Ohio, there was one player for the Bobcats who seemed to be all over the film.

That player is Ohio quarterback Nathan Rourke, a Canadian-born signal-caller and senior leader of the Bobcats’ attack.

It became evident in film quickly that as Rourke goes, so too does Ohio’s offense.

For Marshall, the key is to limit the dual-threat quarterback’s effectiveness — something that’s easier said than done.

“He’s not going to make many mistakes and he’s going to execute at a high level,” Marshall defensive coordinator Brad Lambert said. “He throws the ball extremely well, he’s slippery in the run game and he’s a very productive runner.”

Rourke’s efficiency is what stands out the most when looking at his game.

The 6-1, 210-pound senior has connected on 31 of 49 passes (63.3%) this season for 365 yards and two touchdowns. He also is second in carries on the team and has a rushing touchdown to his credit.

Marshall is well known for getting pressure on the opposing quarterback, but head coach Doc Holliday said the Herd must make sure it is sound in its pressure or Rourke will get away and use his feet to help move the ball downfield.

“If you’re going to pressure him, you’d better have a guy assigned to him because if he gets out of the pocket, he’s a problem,” Holliday said.

Holliday likened Rourke to former Ohio quarterback Tyler Tettleton, who gave Marshall’s defense fits during his tenure with the Bobcats.

Like Tettleton, Rourke uses his legs well to keep plays alive and allow receivers to get open. That means Marshall’s discipline on the back end must be solid as well.

The ability to extend plays especially comes into play on third downs when the opposing defense is trying to get off the field.

Rourke’s efficiency has led Ohio to a 46 percent conversion rate on third downs.

Marshall struggled mightily to get off the field on third down last week. In a 14-7 loss to No. 22 Boise State, the Herd allowed the Broncos to convert 10 of 17 third-down opportunities, which Holliday said has to improve this week or the team has no chance.

“We kept them out of the end zone defensively, but [Boise State] sustained drives,” Holliday said. “When you look at time of possession in the second half, it was awful.”

What makes Rourke so efficient is that the team stays ahead of the chains in manageable down-and-distance situations.

The Bobcats’ rushing attack gets the team in many third-and-short or third-and-medium situations, which opens the playbook for Rourke and allows him to assess the defense and take what’s given.

As Holliday has found out during his tenure with the Herd, his team will have to beat Ohio because the Bobcats aren’t going to beat themselves.

“They’re just so well-coached and play so hard,” Holliday said. “They’re a challenge for everyone because they just don’t make mistakes. They get lined up and they play well.”

Lambert echoed Holliday’s sentiment, saying the Herd has to be as sound as Ohio to get a win.

“You have to handle your responsibility,” Lambert said. “You have to handle your gap, and you have to be in the right place. They force you to execute at a high level on defense. That’s been the focus for us.”