The Ohio State football team moved on from its loss to Virginia Tech last week in emphatic fashion, defeating the Kent State Golden Flashes Saturday, 66-0.
The blowout win allowed for multiple freshmen and young players to get playing time they would not normally get. In fact, 23 redshirt and true freshmen took the field for the Buckeyes, something coach Urban Meyer said he wanted to take away from Saturday’s game.
“I wanted to see a quick start, I wanted to see some young players play, even players that are considered starters here,” Meyer said after the game. “There are just so many guys out there from the (redshirt-freshman offensive lineman) Billy Prices to the (redshirt-senior offensive lineman) Darryl Baldwin’s, just want to get them a lot of reps, and we did that today.”
Even though he is a starter, J.T. Barrett qualified as one of those young players as Meyer said he wanted to see what his redshirt-freshman quarterback could do following the loss to Virginia Tech.
“I wanted to force him to make plays, and receivers — it’s not just him, it’s the whole combination of quarterback/receivers. I thought he played good.”
Barrett, who tied the OSU single game passing touchdown record at six, said he feels as though he is improving with each game.
“I feel like I’m progressing each week. I’m just trying to get better each week,” Barrett said. “I definitely feel more comfortable every week as I get more reps. Things are starting to slow down for me in the game.”
Including the six scores, Barrett lived up to his “distributor” nickname as he completed passes to 11 different receivers and finished with 312 yards passing.
Barrett became the first OSU quarterback to amass 300 passing yards in a game since Troy Smith did so in 2006.
Senior wide receiver Devin Smith, who exploded for a 50 yard score from Barrett in the second quarter, said after the game that having a plethora of receivers makes the offense a more complete unit.
“We have people playing multiple positions, like myself, (senior wide receiver Evan Spencer) and a few other guys that can play,” Smith said. “I think it’s great to have a rotation to keep guys fresh and keep the offense fast.”
Another one of those receivers was redshirt-sophomore Michael Thomas, whose 63-yard score in the first half ignited the crowd of 104,404 at Ohio Stadium.
Thomas said following the game that the near-capacity crowd motivated him to elevate his play.
“It was a great experience,” Thomas said. “Also having that great crowd out there, Buckeye nation was real strong today and it helped us. They give us momentum.”
Meyer said he also appreciated the crowd and echoed Thomas’ comments.
“I’ve seen places where all of a sudden that stadium is half full,” Meyer said. “There’s disinterest involved. That stadium was packed, and our players fed off of that.”
Another one of those players was freshman linebacker Raekwon McMillan, who despite not starting led the team in tackles with seven total, including two sacks.
McMillan said post-game that he feels he is starting to settle into his role with the Buckeyes.
“I practice hard for the games during the week so the game will be easy,” McMillan said. “I learned from what the guys around me are doing, so I feel like I can play more loose now.”
Co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach Chris Ash said that even though young players got to see the field, his expectations for them are the same as veterans.
“We wanted to make sure that the expectations were still the same whether it’s the ones, twos or threes out there,” Ash said following the win. “We walked away with a zero on the scoreboard and that is always a great feeling.”
The shutout marked the first time the Buckeyes have held an opponent scoreless since a 76-0 victory against Florida A&M last season.
The Buckeyes are set for a bye week before taking on Cincinnati on Sept. 27 at 6 p.m. in Ohio Stadium.
Watch Lantern TV’s highlight reel of the Ohio State v. Kent State game below.