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Cardale Jones' MVP Performance Came as Little Surprise to Coaches and Teammates
By Patrick Murphy
Jones' teammates never doubted their QB despite the pessimism around the country
Photo by Jim Davidson

COLUMBUS, Ohio — When Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett remained on the turf after an awkward tackle against Michigan and eventually needed to be carted off with a broken ankle, many around the country thought the Buckeyes’ season was finished. Backup quarterback Cardale Jones came in and led the team to victory over their rivals, but many outside the Woody Hayes Athletic Center still doubted Jones and the Scarlet and Gray.

With the team’s third string quarterback at the helm, Ohio State became underdogs in Las Vegas for their Big Ten Championship game with Wisconsin. Many of those who cover college football picked the Badgers, citing Jones’ first start as a main reason and the chances of making the first College Football Playoff seemed a distant memory.

If any of those – Ozone staff included – had listened and trusted in what the Buckeyes coaches and players said last week, maybe they would have seen what was coming.

“Dude’s got a ridiculous arm. He spent a lot of time working. He was our number two guy in the spring so obviously he’s very capable,” linebacker Joshua Perry said of Jones last week.

“He’s extremely gifted and extremely talented. I don’t think anybody’s worried about that. It’ll just be the preparation side of things.”

He's certainly ready for the moment and he'll be ready when it comes to the game plan,” offensive coordinator Tom Herman added last Monday.

“When it comes to winning the football game on Saturday, he'll be ready for that as well.”

In the first start of his collegiate career, Jones backed up the confident talk heading into the game with an outstanding performance. He completed 12-of-17 passes for 257 yards and three touchdowns. He was named the Big Ten Championship game’s Most Valuable Player for his dismantling of the conference’s top defense.

The Wisconsin players, the television announcers, the national pundits, and the fans may all have been surprised with what Jones did to the Badgers, but his teammates were not.

Jones defied the odds with his performance
Photo by Jim Davidson

“I knew it. I knew exactly what he was going to do,” wide receiver Devin Smith, who caught all three touchdown passes from Jones, said of the quarterback.

”I played with him in high school. Everyone in this room knew what he was capable of doing. He just went out there and got the job done.”

The reports out of the Ohio State camp from spring practice were that Jones had a cannon for an arm, but he was not the most accurate of passers. In the annual Scarlet and Gray game, Jones was 13-of-29 for just 106 yards, not leaving a ton of confidence in the minds of those who witnessed the Spring Game.

On Saturday night, fans saw what Jones’ teammates have seen all fall in practice and that’s why they weren’t surprised.

“It doesn't surprise anybody. Cardale's got a rocket for an arm and he's accurate,” defensive lineman Michael Bennett said after the game.

“His composure was fantastic, his leadership was fantastic. We have a lot of weapons on offense and he was able to distribute the ball really well, make some plays with his feet. I don't think that surprised anybody what he could do if given the opportunity.”

Bennett was not alone in his sentiment for the quarterback. Redshirt freshman Jalin Marshall, who worked on the scout team with Jones last year, said he’s seen this performance every day.

“Not at all,” Marshall responded when asked if what Jones accomplished surprised him.

“I've been practicing with Cardale for two years now and he's done the same thing every day in practice. It just so happens that he has two great players in front of him.”

As the Buckeyes head into the College Football Playoff and take on number one ranked Alabama, it is likely questions will be raised of Jones again. Can he repeat his performance on an even bigger scale? What about against an SEC defense like the Crimson Tide?

These questions may circle around the nation in the three weeks leading up to the game, but there is no doubt in OSU’s practice facility that Jones can have a repeat performance. Maybe that’s where people will start looking for the answers.

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