Junior star leads onslaught as Ohio State pounds Bowling Green … Quarterback throws for six TDs, runs for another … Buckeyes have playmakers everywhere after year of spotty offense.
COLUMBUS — J.T. Barrett had an inauspicious beginning to his season for Ohio State. Actually, call it a nightmarish, horrific, please-God-this-can’t-be-happening kind of start.
He made a PeeWee-level read in the flat and floated a pass to Bowling Green linebacker Brandon Harris, who galloped 63 yards for a TD less than three minutes into the game.
If this had been last year, Barrett would have been peering to the sidelines to see if Cardale Jones was warming up. But the fourth-year junior is the undisputed starting quarterback and doesn’t have to worry about getting the hook. And that’s a good thing.
You don’t want to be unsettled at QB, and the Buckeyes have only themselves to blame for the lack of production at the position last year because of their indecisiveness.
But if Barrett was rattled by the pick-six, it sure didn’t show in the ridiculously one-sided 77-10 victory Saturday.
On the next series, he threw a 47-yard bomb to redshirt freshman K.J. Hill. On the next possession, Barrett hit Dontre Wilson in stride for a 25-yard score. And the next time with the ball in his mitts, the Texan stood in the pocket and took a hit from a blitzer while delivering a screamer to Curtis Samuel, who had nothing been green in front of him on a 79-yard TD.
Barrett then uncorked a nifty, back-shoulder throw to Noah Brown for another score.
That’s four TD passes to four different receivers.
And he punctuated the first-half rampage with a nine-yard TD run, giving the balanced Buckeyes (when was the last time those two words were seen side-by-side?) a 35-10 lead and 456 yards through two quarters, which is what you’d expect from an Urban Meyer offense. Even with all those weapons last year, they averaged a modest 434 yards PER GAME.
They finished with a school-record 776 yards and fell just six points short of the all-time program mark for scoring while filling Ohio Stadium with 107,000 smiles.
If Barrett were throwing at milk bottles at a country fair, there wouldn’t be a stuffed animal left in the booth. He had six scoring passes and a school-record seven total TDs.
And along with being accurate, he’s a master at running the zone-read offense, despite not being a great athlete. He knows when to keep it and when to give it up.
Though he had another clunker — a near interception on a fourth-down gamble in the second quarter — he finished 21-of-31 passing for 349 yards while playing two and a half quarters.
Cardale has gone on to the NFL as a fourth-round pick, and his departure looks like a win-win for him and the Buckeyes.
Having one quarterback you can count on is better than trying to make room for two.
Running wild: Redshirt freshman Mike Weber, who has taken over for Ezekiel Elliott, is being likened to the 6-foot, 240-pound Carlos Hyde, who had a couple of monster seasons in 2013 and 2012 (a combined 2,689 rushing yards and 35 TDs in 21 games). And that’s a pretty apt comparison.
The bruising Hyde could get tough yardage but also was effective at making people miss. Weber isn’t as big (5-10, 222), but he also has some wiggle to him and looked like he could squeeze through tight spaces between the tackles.
He finished with 136 yards on 19 carries. And speedy junior Curtis Samuel looks like the perfect backfield complement. He had 84 yards on 13 totes and nine catches for 177 yards and three total TDs.
My only reservation is the caliber of competition. There’s a reason why this ticket wasn’t high on OSU’s pricing scale.
But the Falcons aren’t exactly a pushover, having beaten two Big Ten teams on the road last season, Maryland and Purdue, while finishing 10-4.
And don’t forget, the Buckeyes had a heap of trouble with Northern Illinois of the MAC last season.
No one is calling either player another Elliott yet, but the position certainly looks to be in good hands.
Defense growing: The Buckeyes have another tune-up before getting into the meat of their schedule, and they’re going to need it.
They didn’t generate a pass rush, though, to be fair, BG quarterback James Knapke was getting the ball out quickly. And while sophomore safety Malik Hooker made two of the prettiest interceptions you’ll ever see, the coverage was sometimes spotty.
But it’s easy to forget how young they are. Only four seniors cracked the two-deep (the depth chart listing the first and second strings), and two of them were walk-ons.
They’re only going to get better with time.
Leaving the stadium, I rode down the elevator with former OSU quarterback and Big Ten Network analyst Stanley Jackson. Asked what he thought of the Buckeyes, he said: “Loaded. And lots of speed.”
That sounds about right.