The Bobcats, as a whole, earned another game in their 2019 season.
But Joe Mischler’s career as an Ohio quarterback has already ended.
Ohio head coach Frank Solich confirmed that Mischler has entered the NCAA Transfer Portal on Wednesday, during a press conference at Peden Stadium.
“Joe came in and he’s going to put himself in the portal,” Solich said. “So, he’ll not be available for this game, or this program any longer.”
Ohio (6-6) was scheduled to hold its first official practice in preparation for the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl on Thursday. The Bobcats will face Nevada (7-5), out of the Mountain West Conference, in the game in Boise, Idaho on Jan. 3, 2020.
Mischler, a redshirt freshman quarterback from Erie, Pa., had been listed as Ohio’s No. 2 quarterback most of the season. After not appearing in a game in 2018, Mischler got reps in three games this season — in the season-opener against Rhode Island, and then in the final two games in blowouts at Bowling Green and at Akron. Mischler finished the season 1 of 3 passing for 23 yards and an interceptions and rushed twice for eight yards.
Mischler also appeared to injure his shoulder in the regular-season finale against Akron. Rourke piled up more than 7,700 career passing yards and 98 touchdowns as a two-time state champion with Cathredral Prep in northwest Pennsylvania.
Solich didn’t get a specific reason that Mischler asked for the opportunity to transfer.
“You’ll have to ask Joe on that one.”
Mischler’s impending transfer does leave Ohio short-handed at QB for the bowl game. Senior starter, and All-Mid-American Conference First Team selection, Nathan Rourke is still good to go, but OU has no proven options as a backup.
Freshman Kurtis Rourke, Nathan’s younger brother, was battling with Mischler for No. 2 honors all season. Rourke appeared in just one game, at BG, where he rushed three times for 20 yards. The following day Rourke had scheduled shoulder surgery and will be out until spring camp, at the earliest.
After Mischler was injured at Akron, third-year sophomore Drew Keszei was inserted as the quarterback. Keszei signed with Ohio as a quarterback, took a full redshirt season in 2017, and appeared in three games as a QB in 2018.
Last spring, however, Keszei made a position switch to wide receiver. He spent the entirety of the 2019 season as a wideout, before switching for some quarterback work late in the season after Kurtis Rourke’s surgery.
Solich said Wednesday that Keszei will be the backup for the Bobcats in the Potato Bowl.
“We’re kind of in a situation where Drew would be the backup at this point and time,” Solich said.
“He’s a smart young man, he’s got excellent quickness. He has the ability to run the football from the quarterback position, so it’s not like we would have to change offenses to try to show him at his best.”
Nathan Rourke will not have any availability remaining at Ohio following the bowl game. Kurtis Rourke’s status for the spring is uncertain after surgery. And now Mischler is looking to leave the program.
Ohio could enter spring camp — barring a QB recruit signing next week and enrolling at OU in January — with only Keszei available as a scholarship option at quarterback. Solich knows it’s not ideal, but still managed to crack a joke at the depth during the press conference.
When asked who the backup was, Solich said it was Keszei.
“Him, and we’ll take a look at you when you’re at practice,” Solich said. “That’s the situation we’re in.”
Ohio will have a little more than three weeks to get ready for the bowl game. It’s more than enough time to log the NCAA allowed 15 practice sessions to get Keszei work at QB. Solich said Ohio may not utilize all 15 practice dates, however.
“We have 14 practices scheduled right now. We’ll see as we go along,” Solich said. “It could be 15, it could be 13.
“We’re practicing to win a bowl game. We’re not practicing for next season,” he continued. “Good practices will lead into helping you next season, but just 15 practices — and not good practices — doesn’t get you anywhere. And in fact can cause you to move backward a little bit.”
But other than the depth issue at quarterback, Solich doesn’t anticipate any other roster pitfalls in getting ready to face the Wolf Pack. He said no other players, as of Wednesday afternoon, had requested permission to enter the portal or a desire to shut down in order to get a jump on potential Pro Day aspirations.
“I’ve had no players come in and talk to me from that angle,” he said. “To my knowledge, we’re full speed ahead.”