Barrett begins to restore confidence
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-
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