Buck­eyes break free:

Bar­rett and mates get their ret­ri­bu­tion

USA TODAY Sports Weekly - - INSIDE - Jon Spencer Spencer writes for the Mans­field (Ohio) News Jour­nal, part of the USA TO­DAY Net­work.

Ohio State fans have re­stored faith af­ter the per­for­mances of QB J.T. Bar­rett and team­mates they might have dis­missed.

Pre­dic­tions for Bed­lam, other top top games, Page 26

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.”

JOE MAIORANA, USA TO­DAY SPORTS

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.”

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