At the end of every practice, Nathan Rourke heads for the south end zone at Peden Stadium.
Rourke and Quinton Maxwell stay late after each practice to throw extra passes to receivers. But Rourke stays just a tad later.
After his routes are done, Rourke heads toward "Victory Hill," for some extra work — sprints. He's done this for a few weeks now, but he's still kept it up as the season has gotten underway.
He sprints up and down the steep hill each and every day to get his extra reps in.
Until this week, it was the backup quarterback running those sprints. This Saturday, however, it could be the starting quarterback than ran up and down the hill.
"Since I’ve been here, and I’ve kept this mentality since I’ve been here, I’m never going to take anything for granted," Rourke said. "Every opportunity I’m making the most of. I always want to say I have somewhere to improve, I’m trying to get better every day."
Rourke, a sophomore, finished the game at Purdue 16-of-23 for 224 yards passing. He also threw a touchdown pass and gained 36 yards rushing on nine carries.
Maxwell started the game, but went 1-of-6 for 12 yards in two series before he was pulled in favor of Rourke.
There wasn't another change at quarterback made the rest of the night.
“I didn’t know that I was going to be in every series," Rourke said. "But, I will say that every series got easier. You’re going up against the same guys, the first time you go in there’s always a bit of nervous energy."
His nervous energy didn't show — Rourke looked like the starting quarterback. It started when the first drive he led ended with a touchdown, and when the last drive he led ended in a touchdown.
He wasn't perfect, but his passes looked sharper, the offense ran smoother and he escaped defenders like his life depended upon it.
On the other side of the white lines, however, stood Maxwell. He waited on the sideline for nearly the entirety of the game for which he had been named the starter.
“I didn’t play well," Maxwell said. "I’ve got to get better, I’ve got to improve in all aspects. I didn’t throw the ball well, I didn’t play well. Not a whole lot to it. I’ve got to execute better.”
Maxwell was named the starter in the preseason, and for the Purdue game by coach Frank Solich, but that went out the window after Ohio's first two offensive drives.
"They told me that Nathan was going to go in and I was like, ‘OK, I get that, that’s fine,’ and he came in and did a great job, took the offense down the field," Maxwell said. "But to say I wasn’t disappointed with myself and disappointed in general would be a lie."
All of that has culminated in a quiet week about the starting quarterback. Solich wasn't open to discuss the starter, even if a decision had been made in private.
"You'll probably know more about (the starter) when it comes time to kick the ball off," Solich said with a slight grin on Monday.
It can be expected that both quarterbacks will play in the final 10 or more games, at some point, but the Kansas game could be the first step to finding a steady quarterback that will put an end to the two-quarterback system.
"The coaches have got to sit back and decide what’s best for this football team," Maxwell said. "If that means me, then so be it. If that means I’ve got to understand my role and stay on the sidelines and let somebody else have the reigns, I will and I’m going to stay ready."
At least publicly, a starting quarterback hasn't been named. That might come any day now, or it could come at 11:59 a.m. on Saturday, just one minute before Ohio kicks off against Kansas.
For whatever the coaches decide, both quarterbacks have said they'll be ready no matter the decision.
“I’m sure they’ll probably say something as soon as they're ready," Rourke said. "Whenever they say something, it doesn’t really matter, it’s not gonna change how I prepare.”
It might have to do with the body of work as a whole, the Purdue game, or just a gut-feeling. Really, the decision could come down to who has been the best at practice this week.
In that case, maybe those sprints weren't such a bad idea after all.