Bar­rett be­gins to re­store con­fi­dence

The Morning Journal (Lorain, OH) - - SPORTS - John Kampf

J.T. Bar­rett ac­counted for 302 yards of to­tal of­fense on Sept. 16 in Ohio State’s 38-7 win over vis­it­ing Army.

With a firstquar­ter touch­down run and a pair of touch­down passes, the fifthyear se­nior quar­ter­back be­came the Big Ten’s all­time leader in touch­downs re­spon­si­ble for with 107.

But what Bar­rett gained in the lop­sided win was much more im­por­tant than any­thing read on the score­board or on a stat sheet.

It’s some­thing most fifth-year

play­ers don’t strug­gle with, but some­thing Bar­rett ap­peared to have lost.

The most im­por­tant thing Bar­rett came away with in the win over Army? Trust. Trust in the skill set around him, and trust in him­self.

Where the jour­ney goes from here will be re­vealed in the com­ing weeks, start­ing with a Sept. 23 game against UNLV.

Usu­ally, guys who have as many games un­der their belt as Bar­rett has brim with con­fi­dence. What­ever de­fense they see on a given week­end, no matter who leaves for the NFL and no matter how green is the player re­plac­ing him, the vet­eran has seen it be­fore.

That been-there, donethat ex­pe­ri­ence forges trust and con­fi­dence.

Some­where over the past hand­ful of games, Bar­rett didn’t have that.

He didn’t ap­pear to trust his re­ceivers to get open or to catch the ball if he threw the ball down­field.

He didn’t ap­pear to trust his arm and ac­cu­racy to throw the ball down­field — or make any throw that might have teetered on the line of be­ing risky.

When in doubt, Bar­rett checked down to a shorter route or tucked the ball and ran.

If those traits shows up against an un­der­manned team — say, like Sept. 16 against Army — then Ohio State would have a prob­lem.

And so would have Bar-

rett.

At first glance, Bar­rett was in as much as a no-win sit­u­a­tion against Army as the Ohio State team, as a whole, was.

Play well and it’s be­cause you’re sup­posed to. Af­ter all, it’s an in­fe­rior op­po­nent.

Don’t play well and ev­ery night­mare that came on the heels of last week’s loss to Ok­la­homa is le­git­imized even fur­ther.

That be­ing said, statis­tics and Big Ten records weren’t what were most im­por­tant to Bar­rett — and for that matter to Ohio State — on Sept. 16. What mat­tered was: • Bar­rett be­ing ef­fi­cient. He com­pleted 25 of 33 passes for 270 yards and two touch­downs. His passer rat­ing of 164.5, and the per­for­mance was sig­nif­i­cantly bet­ter than his 19-for-35 per­for­mance against Ok­la­homa in which he threw for 183 yards and seemed out of sync with his re­ceivers all night.

• Trust­ing his re­ceivers enough to spread the ball around.

K.J. Hill caught eight passes. Par­ris Camp­bell caught six. Terry McLau­rin and Austin Mack caught four each.

Bar­rett hit six dif­fer­ent re­ceivers in the game.

• Mak­ing throws and not just tuck­ing the ball and run­ning.

Bar­rett car­ried the ball seven times for 32 yards and a score.

In the Week 1 win over In­di­ana, Bar­rett ran 13 times (for 61 yards). That’s about right. The 18 car­ries (for 66 yards) against Ok­la­homa was too much, and Meyer al­luded to that af­ter the game.

The bulk of the run­ning

game should go to fresh­man J.K. Dob­bins (13-for172 yards against Army), not Bar­rett.

• Throw­ing the ball down­field.

Bar­rett doesn’t even have to com­plete them all. He just has to show a de­fense he is will­ing to make those throws to keep de­fend­ers from load­ing the box to take away the run and the short passes.

Ohio State es­tab­lished the run and short bub­ble screens against Army, which thus opened op­por­tu­ni­ties like Terry McLau­rin’s 20-yard touch­down catch where Bar­rett shoul­der-faked to freeze the de­fen­sive back, then hit McLau­rin behind the cov­er­age.

It would still be nice if Bar­rett hit all his home­run balls — a deep post to Camp­bell early in the game was mis­er­ably over­thrown.

But the pass­ing game did make progress.

As did Bar­rett and the Ohio State of­fense as a whole.

Again, most will con­tend Ohio State’s 38-7 win that in­cluded a 586-yard of­fen­sive on­slaught, came in a game where the Buck­eyes should have ex­celled. It’s a valid point. The same can and will be said next week against UNLV and the fol­low­ing week when Ohio State plays at Rut­gers.

But the big­ger alert would have been if Bar­rett and the OSU of­fense was as lethar­gic against Army as it was against Ok­la­homa.

Then the howls to re­place Bar­rett with Dwayne Hask­ins or Joe Bur­row be­come that much louder.

But make no mis­take, Bar­rett isn’t about to be re­placed.

Are all of Ohio State’s ques­tions an­swered be­cause of the re­bound win against Army? Of course not.

The Buck­eyes’ de­fense gave up 259 yards rush­ing. Their be­lea­guered pass de­fense, ranked last na­tion­ally by giv­ing up 403 yards per game through the air, saw only seven passes thrown against it by the run-happy Black Knights, so the jury is still out on them.

But nec­es­sary steps were taken against Army, es­pe­cially by Bar­rett in­di­vid­u­ally and by Ohio State’s of­fense.

Sub­se­quent steps will be needed in com­ing weeks against UNLV, Rut­gers and Mary­land be­fore Ohio State heads into the meat of the Big Ten sched­ule against Ne­braska, Penn State, Iowa, Michi­gan State and Michi­gan.

Those tests will be much more telling than the one the Buck­eyes passed against Army.

By then, maybe — just maybe — the Ohio State of­fense will look like the of­fense ev­ery­one ex­pected to see be­fore be­ing sorely ex­posed by Ok­la­homa.

Kampf can be reached via email at JKampf@NewsHer­ald.com or on Twit­ter @JKBuck­eyes

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