For the second time in less than four months, the Ohio State football team will have to turn to its backup quarterback.
Redshirt-freshman quarterback and Heisman candidate J.T. Barrett suffered a broken ankle during the second half of OSU’s 42-28 win over the Michigan Wolverines Saturday afternoon, forcing redshirt-sophomore Cardale Jones into action in The Game.
Barrett is scheduled to have surgery Sunday, and will miss the remainder of the season.
OSU co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Tom Herman said after the game he did not envision losing two possible Heisman candidates at the same position to injury in the same year.
“I wouldn’t have asked for that,” he said. “This game is very crazy at times, throws you a lot of curveballs and you have to be able to adapt and adjust and I am sure we will be able to do that.”
Senior tight end Jeff Heuerman, who was on the field when Barrett’s injury occurred, said, at first, he didn’t think the injury was severe.
“I heard him yell, and I looked over…at first I thought he just got his bell rung (but) as soon as everyone got off of him, I just went over there and as soon as I saw his ankle…he (Barrett) didn’t realize it at first,” Heuerman said. “That is when I told him ‘you need to stay down for a second.’”
With Barrett out for the season, Jones is set to make his first career start as a Buckeye next week in the Big Ten Championship Game.
The Glenville High School product entered Saturday having attempted just 14 passes, eight of which were completed for 111 yards and two scores through the air.
Jones finished the win over Michigan two for three on pass attempts for seven yards and added another 18 yards rushing on two carries.
Herman said he was pleased with how Jones responded in such an intense atmosphere.
“Great mentally. He missed the one pass to (redshirt-sophomore wide receiver Michael) Thomas, but mentally he was very in tune,” Herman said. “He keeps a headset on the entire game so he is in tuned to everything we are talking about. He is very engaged in everything that goes on in terms of in-between series adjustments, halftime adjustments, so he was ready to go.”
OSU coach Urban Meyer said following the win that the Buckeyes will start preparing for the Big Ten Championship Game on Sunday, adding that the game plan won’t be adjusted that much with Jones at the helm.
“We gotta go and we have a lot of confidence in the guy that’s going to be doing it, his name is Cardale Jones. He’s been here I think for 120 years,” Meyer said jokingly. “The good thing is they (Barrett and Jones) have a similar skill set and so it’s not like we’re going to have to drastically change things.”
Sophomore safety Vonn Bell, who started the game with an interception on the second play from scrimmage, said the Buckeyes will continue to move forward with Barrett out.
“We lost one of our soldiers today,” Bell said after the game. “Somebody has to pick up the rifle and keep on going.”
Herman said after the game that although Barrett is out for the season, he does not want to discount the win over Michigan.
“We are really, really happy for this team. You are happy for what we have accomplished in the regular season, you are happy to beat our rival at home and get a third pair of gold pants,” Herman said. “At the same time, your heart goes out to J.T. because he has not only meant so much to this team, but this team has meant so much to him and his growth as a young man. We will keep him involved as much as we can, and move forward.”
Herman said that he believes the Buckeyes can still be successful with Jones, OSU’s third-string quarterback coming into the season.
“The quarterback doesn’t have to win games for us anymore. The quarterback has to manage games, distribute the football and lead,” Herman said. “We have seen that throughout this season and so as long as he is mentally prepared…I have nothing but the utmost confidence that he (Jones) can get the job done because of what we have got around him.”
One of those players will be sophomore running back Ezekiel Elliott, who rushed for 121 yards and two scores against Michigan Saturday on just 17 carries.
Elliott said after the win that he believes Jones’ experience in the off-season will help him moving forward.
“He got a lot of reps in the spring, he got plenty of reps this fall, I think he is ready,” Elliott said. “I don’t think there will be a drop-off.”
As another one of the offensive weapons, Heuerman said he believes Herman will be able to coach Jones to success.
“Coach Herman has obviously already been through this. Offensively man, we have a lot of talented guys that have played a lot of football this year. They are going to have to step up and make up for lost ground,” Heuerman said. “Cardale is an outstanding athlete, has a super strong arm. He can make the big plays we need to get this team rolling. We are going to have to rely on him, offensively and as a team.”
The Buckeyes are set to travel to Indianapolis to take on Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game Dec. 6. Kickoff is set for 8 p.m.