HAMILTON, Ontario/VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Junior quarterback Nathan Rourke (Oakville, Ontario, Canada) has been named one of five finalists for the second annual Joe Cornish Trophy, as announced today by the N8 Group in conjunction with the Canadian Football Hall of Fame and Museum. The trophy is awarded annually to the most outstanding Canadian player in NCAA Football.
Rourke was the inaugural winner of the award in 2017-18. In addition to Rourke, Notre Dame junior wide receiver Chase Claypool (Abbotsford, British Columbia), Oklahoma junior defensive lineman Neville Gallimore (Ottawa, Ontario), Oklahoma State redshirt freshman running back/returner Chubba Hubbard (Sherwood Park, Alberta) and North Dakota running back Brady Oliveira (Winnipeg, Manitoba) have been named finalists.
The nominees are selected by a panel of former NCAA players with a connection to Canada, scouting staff from CFL teams and media who cover college football from a Canadian perspective. The evaluation is solely based on the player's performance in the 2018-19 NCAA season. This season there were 139 Canadian football players on NCAA, NAIA and junior college rosters. A panel selected 16 players to evaluate in the first round of voting, which was narrowed down to five finalists. Ohio redshirt senior running back Maleek Irons (Chilliwack, British Columbia) just out on being a finalist for the Cornish Trophy, finishing sixth in votes.
The trophy will be presented to the winner at the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in March. The Cornish Trophy will be placed on permanent display at the Hall.
The trophy was named after former Calgary Stampeder running back Jon Cornish. The graduate of St. Thomas More Secondary in Burnaby, BC, Cornish had a distinguished career in college with the Kansas Jayhawks. In his senior year of 2006, he rushed for 1,457 yards, making him the all-time single season rusher at Kansas. Cornish was the Big 12's leader in all-purpose yards with an average of 137.6 yards per game and was the ninth leading rusher in NCAA Division I-A football and the first in rushing in the Big 12 Conference. With the Stampeders from 2007-2015, he became the most productive Canadian-born running back in CFL history with 6,844 yards rushing, won the league's Most Outstanding Canadian Award three times (2012, 2013, 2014), was the CFL Most Outstanding Player in 2013, and was named Canada's athlete of the year in 2013, winning the Lou Marsh Trophy.
Rourke, who is a physical activity and sport coaching major, is coming off of a 2018 campaign in which he earned All-Mid-American Conference Second Team honors for the second year in a row. Rourke completed 164 of his 274 pass attempts (59.9 percent completion percentage, ninth-best in program history) for a career-high 2,434 yards (fourth-most in program history) and a career-high 23 touchdown passes (second-most in program history). He finished the regular season ranked fourth in the MAC in passing yards and third in passing touchdowns. His 187.2 passing yards per game in 2018 rank as the eighth-highest average in program history while his 14.7 passing yards per completion led the MAC and ranked seventh nationally and were good for the ninth-highest average in program history. He averaged 8.9 yards per passing attempt, which was good for first in the MAC and 10th in the country and tied for the highest average in program history. His passing efficiency rating of 156.3 in 2018 is tops in program history and ranked first in the MAC and 14th nationally. Rourke also ran for 860 yards (66.2 yards per game) to rank second on the team and led the squad with 15 rushing touchdowns, with the latter tying him for the third-most in a single season in program history. In all, Rourke accounted for 3,294 yards of total offense (second-most in program history), with his 253.4 yards per game of total offense ranking as the third-highest average in program history and his 8.07 yards per play ranking as the highest average in program history. He was responsible for 38 total touchdowns in 2018, which is tied for the second-most in program history. He was named MAC East Division Offensive Player of the Week three times this year. Rourke is ranked second in program history with 40 career passing touchdowns, fourth with 4,637 career passing yards and seventh with 325 career completions. He has also tallied 36 career rushing touchdowns, which ranks as the third-most in program history. His 77 career touchdowns responsible for are the second-most in program history.
Rourke led an Ohio offense that ranked 12th in the nation in 2018 with a conference-high and program-record 521 points scored and 40.1 points per game. The Bobcats posted a conference-high 6,068 yards of total offense (second-most in program history) to rank 11th in the nation, with Ohio's 466.8 total yards per game leading the MAC and setting a program record.
With Rourke under center, Ohio won nine games for the second year in a row and achieved back-to-back bowl victories with a 27-0 shutout of San Diego State in the 2018 DXL Frisco Bowl.