A week after redshirt junior quarterback J.T. Barrett broke the school’s passing touchdown record and coach Urban Meyer proclaimed Barrett to be a Heisman Trophy candidate, the Wichita Falls, Texas, native followed up his performance against Rutgers with a somber outing versus Indiana on Saturday.
Barrett was 9-of-21 passing for 93 yards, one touchdown and one interception that went off the hands of redshirt junior tight end Marcus Baugh. Barrett’s touchdown pass gives him 60 for his career.
OSU’s identity through its first four games has been its running tandem of redshirt freshman running back Mike Weber and junior H-back Curtis Samuel as well as its suffocating defense. In the No. 2 Buckeyes 38-17 victory over the Hoosiers, Barrett was the centerfold of the running game.
He carried the ball 26 times for 137 yards and a touchdown, moving him within two scores of the OSU record for most touchdowns accounted for (Braxton Miller, 88). Meyer said during fall camp that he wanted to keep the number of hits Barrett received at a minimum, but when he needs a play, he turns to his captain.
“We were having trouble executing the pass game, and they we plus-oneing us in the box. We had to win the damn game, and he’s one of our best players,” Meyer said. “My security blanket is he’s one of the best players in America. Go get a touchdown, J.T.”
Barrett completed just two passes to a wide receiver in redshirt sophomore Noah Brown and three to senior H-back Dontre Wilson. This was not the first time the offense started slow with deficiencies in the passing game. The season-opener against Bowling Green started with a pick-six. Against Tulsa, Barrett was 8-for-14 for 65 yards at halftime. On Saturday versus the Hoosiers, Barrett’s struggles were consistent throughout the game.
Samuel was a missing element for much of the first half, not earning a touch until the second quarter. Meyer said that Samuel’s nine carries on the day weren’t enough and that he has to be involved in the passing game more. Of all the inefficiencies in the passing game against the Hoosiers, Barrett and the receivers didn’t connect on any deep balls. Samuel was underthrown when he had about five steps on the cornerback and redshirt junior James Clark was overthrown later in the game that would’ve been another score.
“If you can’t hit a deep ball, as a defense, they’re going to sit on every route so that doesn’t allow short routes to be open,” Barrett said. “If you run past them and complete a deep ball, that opens up a lot for your offense. That’s something I didn’t do a good job at today.”
In previous games, OSU has had a moderately balanced offense. Meyer’s go-to is the run game, but likes to spread it around the field to numerous receivers. Barrett said Indiana’s defense knew at times where he was going to go with the ball, but believes the lack of balance in the offense was an anomaly.
“It has been balanced. Today, we had our struggles in the passing game and that’s part of a season. That tends to happen, but you have to find a way to win the ballgame,” Barrett said. “Today it didn’t happen to be that way. We just have to keep on getting better.”
OSU was still able to rack up 290 yards on the ground. However, Barrett took the lion’s share of the carries. Weber had 15 carries for 71 yards and Samuel had 9 carries for 82 yards. In total, OSU ran 50 times out of 71 plays. Normally that ratio wouldn’t seem disproportionate, but when there were only nine completions, the offense looks dysfunctional.
“We got players all over the field. Offense, it didn’t go the way we wanted it today,” said redshirt sophomore wide receiver Parris Campbell. “The team knew that and other players had to step up and make plays.”
One of those players to step up was Campbell. When OSU allowed a late touchdown in the first half, Campbell received the ensuing kickoff and returned it to the Indiana six yard line, setting up a touchdown run by Barrett.
The defense and, now, the special teams has aided a lackluster OSU offense and provided a momentous boost at an opportune time. Barrett did have a late touchdown pass to Wilson which should help his confidence. However, next week at No. 11 Wisconsin, the Buckeye offense may not have much room for error.
“We know we can play better,” Barrett said. “We’re grateful for the win. It’s hard to win in the Big Ten. There is just some frustration knowing we can play better.”