Buckeyes break free:
Barrett and mates get their retribution
Ohio State fans have restored faith after the performances of QB J.T. Barrett and teammates they might have dismissed.
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Seems as improbable as the outcome, but the the deluge of fans who rushed field to celebrate Ohio State’s epic Oct. 28 comeback at home against Penn State was the calm after the storm.
“Coach Mick (strength coach Mickey Marotti) says that to start a riot somebody has to throw the first punch,” receiver Terry McLaurin said after his Buckeyes thrust themselves back into the College Football Playoff picture by rallying from two 18-point deficits for a 39-38 victory over a Penn State team then ranked No. 2 in the polls and No. 1 in scoring defense.
The way quarterback J.T. Barrett and Co. threw haymaker after haymaker in the final 11 minutes seemed somewhat improbable. . Many fans and members of the news media believed Barrett — whom Penn State coach James Franklin jokingly referred to as a 16th-year player leading up to the game — was all punched out against everyone except, to use a boxing term, tomato cans.
Penn State is no tomato can. And Barrett, who completed his last 16 passes, including all 13 in the fourth quarter for three touchdowns, still has plenty of fight left for the big stage.
“It was heartbreaking to see all of those messages that J.T. needs to be out (as the starter),” says Johnnie Dixon, who caught the first two touchdown passes in the fourth quarter. “It’s a process, man.
“This is a very demanding place, and we understand that, but he went 16-for-16. That says enough for me. When we needed him most, he did what he did. He may not have all the measureables, but you can’t measure that heart and that leadership. And that’s what won us the game.”
The outcome was not only vin- dication for Barrett, but for Dixon, whom fans were ready to give up on after repeated injuries, and tight end Marcus Baugh, whose game-winning touchdown catch with 1:48 left should put off-thefield issues early in his career in everyone’s rearview mirror.
Knee issues had limited Dixon to just 14 games in his previous three years and he contemplated quitting after the Buckeyes’ 31-0 loss to eventual national champion Clemson in last year’s Playoff.
“Me and Parris (Campbell, the team co-leader in receptions before he left the Penn State game early with an undisclosed injury) were like, ‘Man, we need you to come back,” McLaurin says. “It’s going to be different next year.
“What he did for this offense (in the victory) ... he’s a leader.”
Baugh, part of the 2013 recruiting class with Barrett, was discriplined twice early in his career for underage drinking. As recently as a month ago, coach Urban Meyer said Baugh had not lived up to his potential.
But that was before he hurdled a defender for a touchdown against Maryland and cemented his place in OSU lore with his TD grab against Penn State.
“I never thought they’d throw me the ball for a go-ahead touchdown,” Baugh says. “I dropped a ball early, missed a block ... I thought I was letting the team down.” Redemption led to delirium. “I (almost) blacked out,” Baugh says. “I was so excited.”
The Buckeyes, who jumped three spots in the Amway Coaches Poll to No. 3, are the only East Division team still unbeaten in Big Ten play heading into this weekend’s game at Iowa. The Hawkeyes are only 5-3, and have scored more than 19 points once in their last five games, but they held Wyoming and top NFL quarterback prospect Josh Allen without a touchdown and beat an Iowa State team that has since knocked off two Top 5 opponents
So the Buckeyes will need to maintain their focus. Like they did in the fourth quarter of the Penn State upset.
“One of the biggest things we talk about is playing with emotion; don’t let emotion play with you,” co-offensive coordinator Ryan Day says. “The easy thing to do is let your emotions get the better of you when things aren’t going well.
“I felt we did a nice job of pushing through. Coach (Meyer) said before the game, ‘Let it go. Don’t play it close to the vest.’ So we didn’t. When things weren’t going well, we kept pushing, and it showed in the end.”
Ohio State tight end Marcus Baugh celebrates after catching the game-winning touchdown against Penn State. After the game, he said, “I never thought they’d throw me the ball for a go-ahead touchdown.”