"In our style of offense, it's hard to protect the quarterback from getting hit," Ohio coach Brian Knorr said. "Austen certainly embraced the opportunity to play even though we had planned on redshirting him. He recognized how big a game it was for us and played well.
"He's a big, physical kid. He's maybe a step slower than Ryan or Fred, but it was a nice change of pace. He took advantage of his opportunity and after we got a quick score, it really seemed to help him settle down."
Brooks said Ray, a senior, is more prone to pitch the ball where Everson was more apt to keep it himself. "They are basically running a quarterback sweep that looks like an option at times," Brooks said. "The quarterback is the key to the offense and we have to stop him."
Northern Illinois needed overtime to beat Ohio
The Mid-American Conference has already knocked off several bigger name schools this year and Northern Illinois, which needed an overtime to beat Ohio, is 12th in this week's Associated Press poll thanks to wins over Alabama and Maryland.
"The MAC has had a great year already, and we don't want to add to that," Brooks said. "This is a damn good team. Based on how inconsistent we've been, this game concerns me a great deal."
Knorr won't deny that his team would love to notch a win over a Southeastern Conference opponent. He said some players on both teams know each other and that he tried to recruit some players now playing for the Wildcats.
"Any time you get the opportunity to play an SEC team, it's a big game," Knorr said.
Brooks probably won't make a decision on his starting quarterback until after today's practice. Jared Lorenzen was knocked out of last week's 27-21 loss to South Carolina with a concussion late in the third quarter. Backup Shane Boyd came in and led UK to two fourth-quarter touchdowns.
"We've had things in the package for Shane all along, but we just have not had enough snaps to get him in the game as much as we wanted," Brooks said. "There are a lot of things we would have liked to have done and integrated into our offense with him, but we just have not moved the ball consistently.
"But I expect Jared and Shane both to play well no matter who starts. We just have to stop making mistakes to stop our own drives."
Ohio coming off first home shutout since 1997
Ohio is coming off its first home shutout since 1997. Ohio held Central Florida scoreless for the first time since the 1984 season, a streak of 209 games.
"They run basically the same defense we do, and we'll have our hands full," Brooks said. "They are a team capable of making it an unpleasant homecoming for us."
Ohio blitzes often and with the trouble UK has had running the ball consistently, that could put even more pressure on the quarterback.
"We just have to do a better job executing the offense," receiver Chris Bernard said. "This is a game we have to win. We have three straight games at home, and you can't win them all if you don't win the first one."
Brooks chastised his team this week for making too many mental mistakes and indicated that "some of the more veteran players" were making way too many mistakes. He also hinted that lineup changes might soon start happening if starters continued to make mistakes.
"Our margin for error is not very large, and we can't keep tolerating mistakes," Brooks said. "There has not been a phase of our team that has been consistent for a full 60 minutes in a game."
"We know we have not been playing as well as we should have," offensive tackle Sylvester Miller said. "No one has to tell us all that. We keep having breakdowns in different areas. But we also have to remember we've only played six games and we still have six to go."