Haskins gives Ohio State spark when Barrett gets injured … Down 14, Ohio State stages rally for sixth straight win in rivalry … Offense comes alive after quarterback change.
J.T. Barrett deserves kudos for what he’s done in his four years at Ohio State. His toughness and leadership have been indispensable. He’s kept the Buckeyes at a national championship level every season. And his career statistics may never be touched.
But you have to wonder what would have happened at Michigan if he hadn’t gotten hurt with the Buckeyes trailing, 20-14, with 6:06 left in the third quarter. Could they have slogged their way to a victory? Perhaps. But it sure looked from my seat as if they were destined to be tagged with a defeat.
Instead, redshirt freshman Dwayne Haskins popped off the bench and didn’t flinch at the pressure of the moment. He made key throws and kept the offense humming on the way to a 31-20 victory at the Big House.
It was shades of 2014 when Cardale Jones replaced an injured Barrett against Michigan, polished off that win and then ended up being the starting QB on a national title team.
Ohio State is a looooooong way from that, but Haskins definitely has many of the same traits — primarily a rocket-launcher for an arm — and there certainly seemed to be a passing-the-torch moment as Jones, a back-up in the NFL now, was hobnobbing with Barrett and Haskins on the sidelines with the clocking winding down and victory assured.
The Buckeyes have now won six straight in the rivalry, 13 of the last 14 meetings and 15 in 17 years. Their latest conquest is the first time they’ve overcome a 14-point deficit in the series.
Many consider Ohio State’s glory days to be the era when Woody Hayes was in his coaching prime, but there’s never been a better time to be a Buckeye fan.
In a crazy twist, Barrett actually injured his knee while warming up before the game, and a livid coach Urban Meyer — who’s now 6-0 against the Wolverines — vowed to find out the identity of the sideline photographer who caused the apparent collision.
After a third-quarter run, Barrett hobbled to the sidelines and didn’t return. But a QB change was just what the Buckeyes needed.
They had two straight three-and-outs to start the second half and were facing a third-and-1 when Haskins trotted in. They picked up the first down, and, in probably the turning point of the game, Haskins hooked up with Austin Mack for a 27-yard gain on third-and-13 from the Ohio State 47-yard line.
He then scrambled for 22 yards, setting up J.K. Dobbins’ one-yard TD dive, and Ohio State had its first lead of the day.
Before that, the Buckeyes were, to borrow one of Meyer’s pet phrases, a clown show.
Among the myriad things you didn’t expect to see from them in the first half were an uninspired defense that missed tackles and botched assignments, allowing a 42-yard punt return when they hadn’t given up any punt-return yardage ALL SEASON, and an errant shotgun snap by All-American Billy Price for a 17-yard loss that thwarted a drive.
But the biggest shocker may have been how the play-callers almost completely abandoned the power running attack.
What happened to that commitment after the Iowa debacle to get back to pounding the ball behind that excellent offensive line?
Here’s the numbers from the first half: Dobbins six carries for 44 yards, Mike Weber one for two yards and Barrett 11 for 64.
I don’t remember covering a Buckeye team so prone to drift away from what it does best.
They seemed to remember who they were in the second half, and Dobbins finished with 101 yards on 15 totes (6.7 average) and Weber 57 on 12 attempts (4.8).
That’s got to be the Buckeyes’ plan in the Big Ten championship, especially if Barrett comes back.
Yes, shockingly, that appears to be a distinct possibility.
Meyer seems inclined to get Barrett healthy and go with him against Wisconsin. Seriously. While his loyalty may be commendable, the coach has to look at the total offense under both QBs and make an objective decision.
In more than 2½ quarters with Barrett, they had 134 yards. In just under 1½ quarters with Haskins, they had 216.
Barrett was 3-for-8 passing for 30 yards and one TD, while Haskins finished 6-of-7 for 94 yards.
Just as we saw with Jones, a downfield passer opens up lanes for the ground game and gives defenses fits.
Meyer probably never could have yanked a healthy Barrett because of his affection for him. But with the injury — and Haskins’ production — he’s got an opening now to make a change without embarrassing his four-year starter.
The decision may be a dilemma for Meyer, but it seems like an obvious one to nearly everybody else.