Cyclones preparing for ‘best quarterback they’ve faced so far’ in Kurtis Rourke of Ohio

Iowa State captions O’Rien Vance (34) and Anthony Johnson Jr. (1) alone with Kids Caption Savannah Gunn shake hands with Ohio captions Bryce Houston (32), Kai Caesar (50) and Tariq Drake (11) before the game at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames, Iowa on Saturday, Sept. 17, 2022. The Cyclones defeated the Bobcats, 43-10. © Margaret Kispert/The Register / USA TODAY NETWORK

AMES – One week after playing in the most intense rivalry game on the schedule, Iowa State will travel to Ohio on Saturday to face “the best quarterback (it’s) played so far this season.”

That’s how Cyclone head coach Matt Campbell described Bobcats signal-caller Kurtis Rourke — the reigning MAC offensive player of the year, so it’s clear he and his staff aren’t overlooking their opponent at all.

“It’ll be the best quarterback we’ve played against so far this football season and one of the best quarterbacks we’ve seen in a long time,” Campbell said. “He’s tough, so it’s a great challenge.”

The programs squared up during the 2022 season and Iowa State’s defense forced Rourke into a pair of interceptions that allowed the offense to thrive. Ohio failed to score until the Cyclones had opened up a 24-0 lead and eventually fell, 43-10, last September at Jack Trice Stadium.

While Campbell’s squad got younger over the off-season, Ohio returned a majority of its starters on both sides of the football.

Defensive coordinator Jon Heacock knows exactly how dangerous the Bobcats’ offense can be, too.

“It’ll be a tremendous challenge for us,” Heacock said. “It’ll be probably as steep of a challenge as we’ve played to this point on our side of the football, looking at the veterans they have on offense, what they do on offense schematically. And then I think the quarterback’s as good as anybody we’ve played to this point, for sure.”

Ohio has played three games already this season, dropping their first game to San Diego State after Rourke exited the game due to an injury.

The Bobcats then handled Long Island before handing Florida Atlantic its first loss of the season as Rourke returned to the field.

“When you lose your quarterback, you’ve got to give credit to the backups that went in there and played very well,” Heacock said. “You’ve got to give a lot of credit to that team and that coaching staff. That’s what character really looks like in football.”

Throw in the fact that Ohio is hosting a high major program for the first time since it played against Kansas in 2017 in Athens and it has all of the makings for a so-called ‘trap game.’

It also happens to be Homecoming week for Ohio, too.

“It’s a great place to play college football,” Campbell said. “To be honest with you, we played there a bunch, and it’s one of the great MAC environments. It’s going to be a really tough road game — and what a great challenge for our football team to go up against a program) that knows how to play championship football. (They’re) a great competitor for us.”

The current group in Ames has seen plenty of similar situations.

This one just becomes the next in the series — one that Iowa State hopes to see go according to plan much like against Northern Iowa in the season opener.

“Ohio’s going to come out swinging,” redshirt sophomore Jacob Ellis said. “They played us really good last year. They have a lot of guys coming back. These types of games are something like what they call, ‘trap games.’ They’re making us their homecoming game, so it’s important that we come out of the gate fast and play hard all four quarters.”