On a night where Ohio State’s defensive prowess was on full display, it’s that all-important quarterback position which continues to give fans of the Scarlet and Gray the highest level of angst going forward.
The Buckeyes prevailed in fairly emphatic fashion over Penn State on Saturday night. The 38-10 scoreline certainly indicated as much. That said, head coach Urban Meyer may have a decision to make as regards who the starting quarterback is from here on out.
We’re now one game past the halfway point in the season. Cardale Jones has been the starter for every one so far, and though there have been flashes of brilliance and signs of improvement from time to time, the fact remains is that the game-by-game consistency has simply not been there from him.
One week, he’s setting career highs in passing yards (291) and completion percentage (75 percent) like he did in last Saturday’s game against Maryland. The next, he’s only able to muster 84 yards through the air in roughly two and a half quarters of action.
Against the Terps, Meyer brought JT Barrett into the game during red zone situations and it worked. The Buckeyes scored touchdowns on all five of their forays inside the 20 in their 49-28 win. With Jones highly ineffectual and Penn State having cut into OSU’s lead early in the third quarter, the decision was made to pull him in favor of Barrett for the remainder of the game, not just in the red zone.
Barrett’s exceptional command of the zone read was already on full display at the end of all three Ohio State scoring drives in the first half. His ability to make the Nittany Lion defensive players bite on the draw and take the ball himself proved crucial early in the game. Him and running back Ezekiel Elliott proved quite the two-headed monster on the ground, with Barrett’s two rushing touchdowns and Elliott’s lone scamper into the end zone during the second quarter enabling the Buckeyes to take a 21-3 lead into the halftime break.
But the move to go with Barrett full-time was telling and it wasn’t the first occurrence of the year. Remember the Northern Illinois game? It was then that Jones’ first quarter stat line read 4/9 passing for 36 yards and two interceptions before being replaced. It could be argued that the reason it was temporary back then was because Barrett didn’t exactly set the world ablaze with his play that day in the closer than expected 20-13 win.
That wasn’t the case Saturday night in the Horseshoe. Barrett complimented his two first half rushing touchdowns with a pair through the air that included a short but sweet five-yard jump pass to Braxton Miller. Such a play call hearkened back to Meyer’s days at Florida when he had some guy named Tim Tebow calling the shots behind center.
The redshirt sophomore attempted just four passes on the day but all four resulted in completions and two found receivers in the end zone. Both touchdowns were decisive in putting the game out of reach on offense. That’s a feat he couldn’t exactly claim in the wake of the win over Northern Illinois and something that could enhance his ability to reassert himself as the starter going forward.
Him and Elliott both finished with over 100 yards rushing. For the potential Heisman candidate running back in Elliott, it was his 12th consecutive game of eclipsing the century mark on the ground. The St. Louis, MO native is currently on pace for around 1700 rushing yards and 19 touchdowns.
Combined with Barrett’s accuracy as a passer, the vision and elusiveness he demonstrated commanding the offense in front of 108,423, the second-largest crowd in Ohio Stadium history (clad in all-black it must be said), may have put him over the hump in the eyes of many OSU fans. There is an increasing sentiment that this team is getting things done in spite of quarterback play, not because of it. With a defense giving up just 16.29 points per game and one of the nation’s most prolific speedsters in the backfield, imagine how tough the Buckeyes will be down the stretch if they can get consistent quarterback play.
After what transpired Saturday, it appears JT Barrett might be the solution to that formula.