This one was in the books long before the final whistle. The Buckeyes jumped out to an early lead, and refused to take their feet off the gas during the first half. Going into the break, OSU led 45-0, a margin that only got bigger in the 2nd half. The Buckeyes needed a decisive victory at home after last week's debacle, and they got it. After a few early drops, the receivers looked sharp, with Michael Thomas and Devin Smith each taking a long reception to the house. The running game also showed some serious pop for the first time this season, adding another dimension to an offense that looked decidedly lackluster last week against Virginia Tech's defense.
The real story today was quarterback J.T. Barrett. He had his best game as OSU's starter, a much-needed confidence builder after his decision-making was called into question following the VT loss. Barrett also hit 11 different receivers over the course of the game.This was a classic Urban Meyer contest from start to finish, featuring a blocked punt (his 61st kick blocked as a head coach), an absurdly high margin of victory against a lesser opponent, and a refusal to take the proverbial boot from the throat--the Buckeyes only punted once today, and Meyer even went for it on 4th-and-short in the 2nd-quarter with a 31-point lead.
Three things we learned
1. Tight ends are still a thing. OSU's tight ends went without a single reception in the Virginia Tech loss. That wasn't the case today, as J.T. Barrett went to his biggest targets early and often in this one. With Jeff Heuerman on the bench still nursing an injury, the Buckeyes targeted 2nd TE Nick Vannett multiple times resulting in first down grabs. Freshman Marcus Baugh, like a shooting star, made a brief but glorious appearance, snagging a touchdown pass in tight coverage. The tight ends were more than a safety valve for their young quarterback today--they were legitimate playmaking options--so here's hoping they continue to get looks in the Buckeye offense.
2. With time in the pocket, J.T. Barrett is a real threat. The much-maligned offensive line came to play today. Barrett had a comfortable window just about every time he looked to pass, and it showed in his decision-making. He threw for a ridiculous 5 touchdowns in the first half, en route to a record-tying performance. Barrett matched the previous OSU record for single-game touchdown passes (6), which he now shares with Kenny Guiton. The freshman was pulled with 6:30 to go in the 3rd quarter, allowing Cardale Jones to come in and play
The reads weren't always perfect, of course, and that showed in Barrett's rushing stats--he carried 8 times for just 6 yards. There were several times when he had extra time in the pocket and decided to tuck and run anyway, usually only getting back to the line of scrimmage. Still, it's hard to give Barrett much criticism, after he finished with a 76.7% completion clip and that buffet of TD passes mentioned above. He was also the first Ohio State QB to clear 300 passing yards (312) since Troy Smith back in the halcyon days of 2006.
3. The young guns are the real deal. Besides Barrett's bonkers stat line, we saw a lot of upside from the freshman class today. Curtis Samuel got burly, going for 100 yards on 15 carries including two bruising touchdown runs. Cardale Jones also hit Samuel on a 30-yard swing pass to get the Buckeyes off of their own goal line. Jalin Marshall had an electrifying 51-yard punt return that put the Buckeyes firmly in Kent State territory, making us drool at the prospect of what's to come from him. Certified Bad Man Darron Lee held down the linebacking corps with a few big plays. Sean Nuernberger shook off the monkey on his back and connected on a 41-yard field goal. And much-heralded freshman Raekwon McMillan impressed in his first significant playing time as a Buckeye, conclusively proving that Wu-Tang Clan ain't nothin' to...run up the middle on.