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J.T. Barrett, Ohio State make second half turnaround

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Redshirt-freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett carries the ball during a game against Indiana on Nov. 22 at Ohio Stadium. OSU won, 42-27. Credit: Mark Batke / Photo editor

Redshirt-freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett carries the ball during a game against Indiana on Nov. 22 at Ohio Stadium. OSU won, 42-27.
Credit: Chelsea Spears / Multimedia editor

After just 11 games as Ohio State’s starting quarterback, J.T. Barrett has his name scattered across the program record books.

But the redshirt-freshman — despite finding his name in the Heisman Trophy race — hasn’t been perfect this season.

After Barrett threw two first-half interceptions during the Buckeyes’ 42-27 win over Indiana on Saturday, senior tight end Jeff Heuerman stressed that there will always be ups and downs in football.

“You play so much, everything’s not gonna be perfect,” Heuerman said of Barrett’s play. “You’re gonna make mistakes, that’s part of the game, that’s part of sports.”

As Barrett’s interceptions — along with a fumble by redshirt-sophomore wide receiver Michael Thomas — slowed OSU’s momentum, the Buckeyes took just a 14-13 lead into the half after going up 14-0 early. In that first half, Barrett completed 10 passes for just 79 yards and one score.

“We had our foot on the gas and then just kind of relaxed after the first two scores,” Barrett said after the game.

The touchdown tied the Wichita Falls, Texas, native with Troy Smith for the single-season school record for touchdown passes at 30, but the signal caller said he was more concerned with keeping the game from going in Indiana’s favor.

“It’s all about the team and winning games and all the individual stuff and breaking records, that’s cool,” Barrett said. “But it wouldn’t have mattered if we didn’t win.”

While their quarterback didn’t turn the ball over the rest of the game, the Buckeyes continued to struggle in the second half. Indiana eventually took a 20-14 lead, giving Barrett and the OSU offense a gap to close.

The Rider High School product’s early struggles came after a week during which he was thrust into the heat of the Heisman Trophy conversation. When asked if that conversation might have affected Barrett’s play, coach Urban Meyer didn’t want to give the answer he ended up with.

“I’d like to say no, but I’ve done this a long time,” Meyer said after the game. “So I don’t know.”

Meyer — who has coached multiple Heisman candidates, including one winner in Tim Tebow — elaborated by comparing the situation to ones he’s seen in the past.

“Your mouth starts to go dry and all those kinds of things when you mention Heisman,” Meyer said. “Did that happen with (Barrett)? I’d like to think not, but I also have been around for a while. So probably.”

Barrett, on the other hand, said he only wants to focus on what he can control, which doesn’t include the Heisman conversation.

“When I think of that, Heisman and all that, I can’t control that,” he said. “I try to handle things that I can control, and one of those things was so the offense could go out there and play well today. And we didn’t start out like that today.”

Whether or not postseason awards were on his mind, Barrett said he did what he could to keep himself from getting worked up over his early mistakes.

“I try not to get mad,” he said. “If it was a silly one, like ‘come on J.T., you know better than that,’ then I get mad at myself. But then that’s for like a split second, then … go about it because you’ve gotta play the next play.”

Barrett’s ability to put those mistakes — and a potential Heisman race — out of his mind helped to spark not only his own performance, but the Buckeyes as they walked away with a win.

In the process, Barrett found redshirt-freshman H-back Jalin Marshall for his 31st touchdown pass of the season, moving him ahead of Smith in the OSU record books.

“J.T. has played well, great all season,” Marshall said after the game. “He definitely deserves the record. I told him just give me the ball and I’ll make something happen for you.”

Heuerman — who caught Barrett’s 30th touchdown pass of the year in the first half — said the quarterback’s personal turnaround helped the entire team turn around its performance and come away with the 15-point win.

“He did a great job coming back and leading us at halftime and coming out and getting us ready for the second half,” Heuerman said.

And with everything that happened in the game — from new school records to costly interceptions — Heuerman described Barrett as “outstanding” and a “good leader,” and said he was just happy to be part of it all.

“I’m just so happy for him and all his success,” Heuerman said. “It couldn’t happen to a better person, so I’m just glad to be a part of him and his success and his leadership and everything.”

With his new record in tow, Barrett and the Buckeyes are set to cap their regular season Nov. 29 against Michigan at Ohio Stadium. Kickoff is set for noon.

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