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J.T. Barrett was the Right Option to Beat Penn State
By Patrick Murphy
J.T. Barrett added a different dynamic to the OSU offense that Penn State couldn't stop
Photo by Dan Harker
 

COLUMBUS – Watching the end of Ohio State’s 38-10 win over Penn State felt like the return to J.T. Barrett as the starting quarterback.

In a fourth quarter where Barrett led the Buckeyes on two full touchdown drives after taking over behind center late in the third, the chants of “J.T. J.T.” start from the south stands of Ohio Stadium and carried through all 108,423 fans in attendance.

Those watching from the stands weren’t the only ones who saw Barrett as the deciding factor in what was still a close game in the third quarter.

I think Barrett makes a difference for them, there’s no doubt about that,” Nittany Lions head coach James Franklin said after the game.

“There’s no doubt that was different.”

Different is the key word with Barrett.

Before revealing a starting quarterback in the season opener against Virginia Tech, OSU head coach Urban Meyer said both players would play. Meyer didn’t know how or why, but said both guy had to be ready each week to help the team win.

On Saturday night, that guy was Barrett.

“I thought we actually were playing pretty good when it was a traditional drop back quarterback,” Franklin said.

“Now Barrett comes in and the speed and the athleticism that he has not only to beat you with his arm but also to beat you with his legs.”

Penn State’s pass rush is one of the best in the country and it starts with their defensive line. That group is led by defensive end Carl Nassib, who had eight total tackles, 3.5 tackles for a loss, and 1.5 sacks in a losing effort.

Nassib was a menace getting into the Ohio State backfield, but his name appeared only once in the box score in the fourth quarter after Barrett was installed full time. The Buckeyes went to the read option, something they don’t do with starting quarterback Cardale Jones, and it neutralized Nassib and the rush.

It just gives another element to your offense, and it was something that they obviously weren’t ready for,” co-offensive coordinator Ed Warinner said of the decision to go to Barrett and the option. “It worked well for us and we were able to gain some big plays out of that. It kept them off balance, so it was a nice little piece that we got in there once we got going.”

With Barrett in the game and the option game an option, the offense could dictate PSU’s rushers. If Nassib, or any pass rusher, followed the running back, Barrett would keep the ball. If they keyed on the quarterback, Ezekiel Elliott is capable of making plays.

Barrett hurt Penn State running the ball in his red zone role throughout the game, but once he was behind the controls on each drive, he got comfortable. The coaching staff let him throw the ball a bit late in the contest and the offense looked more like what Buckeye fans were accustomed to for most of last year.

It helped that I was able to run the ball,” Barrett said. “That kind of gets me into rhythm too and helps me relax myself.”

Behind all of this is Jones, who won the starting quarterback job and hasn’t lost that title. At times this season he has looked good, but at no point has it been good enough to quiet the whispers calling for Barrett.

Meyer said he would play whichever player helped the Buckeyes move the ball. Barrett was that quarterback and he helped Ohio State close out the win over Penn State and nothing more, but his performance has once against raised questions in this ongoing saga.

We’ll let this game settle overnight. Sleep on it,” Warinner said of the quarterback situation. “Then we’ll make some assessments. I don’t anticipate any changes, but we’ll see how it goes. It’s too early to make any decisions right now.”

Player profiles relevant to story:
16 - Barrett, J.T. | Coach - Warinner, Ed
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