In its 38-10 victory over Penn State on Saturday night, Ohio State finally looked like the championship-caliber team it has been billed to be. The most pressing question afterward, however, was whether J.T. Barrett's performance has finally persuaded coach Urban Meyer to make him the starting quarterback ahead of Cardale Jones.
In its 38-10 victory over Penn State on Saturday night, Ohio State finally looked like the championship-caliber team it has been billed to be.
The most pressing question afterward, however, was whether J.T. Barrett's performance has finally persuaded coach Urban Meyer to make him the starting quarterback ahead of Cardale Jones.
>> Get the most out of your Ohio State experience, follow @BuckeyeXtra on Twitter
Since suffering a broken ankle against Michigan last year, Barrett has been unable to unseat Jones, who helped lead the Buckeyes to the College Football Playoff championship.
Barrett was installed as the red-zone quarterback against Maryland on Oct. 10, and Ohio State was 6 for 6 scoring touchdowns in what had been a problem area. Barrett's role was expanded on Saturday after the offense struggled with Jones at the helm.
Barrett entered the game at the start of the second quarter with the ball at the Penn State 31-yard line and Ohio State trailing 3-0. With plenty of help from running back Ezekiel Elliott and the offensive line, Barrett led the Buckeyes to three straight touchdowns.
The offense ran crisper under Barrett, whose niftiness as a zone-read runner and decision-maker confounded a Penn State defense ranked 10th nationally. He finished with 102 yards on 11 carries, including two touchdowns, supplementing Elliott's 153 rushing yards.
Barrett also threw two late touchdown passes to end any suspense about the outcome, the first a jump pass to Braxton Miller and the second a perfectly thrown fade pass to Michael Thomas.
Jones' stats weren't terrible; he completed 9 of 15 passes for 84 yards. But two of those completions were shovel passes, and he misfired on a few throws. He also lost 16 yards as a runner, including two sacks.
Meyer wasn't ready to anoint Barrett his starter in the postgame news conference, saying that would have to be evaluated.
Offensive coordinator Ed Warinner said he didn't anticipate making a change.
"But we'll see how it goes," he said. "It's too early to make any decisions right now. That's a head coach's decision, first of all.
"There's a reason we had Cardale starting. We just have to assess where we are right now."
Barrett answered the obvious question characteristically.
"It's ultimately Coach Meyer's call," he said. "At the end of the day, I'm just trying to help the team win, whether it's by going in the red zone or if I'm starting quarterback.
"I don't think it really matters. When I'm in there, I'm just trying to do the best I can to help the team win."
The Buckeyes defense, meanwhile, played solidly overall, with the notable exception of surrendering big plays. Penn State freshman Saquon Barkley, a budding star, ran for 194 yards, including a 56-yarder. Receiver Chris Godwin had receptions of 45 and 56 yards.
But the Buckeyes sacked Christian Hackenberg five times and allowed only seven completions. Ohio State stopped Penn State on 10 of 11 third downs and both fourth-down attempts.
Linemen Joey Bosa and Adolphus Washington were particularly dominating on a defense that withstood the early loss of linebacker Joshua Perry. The senior suffered a sprained ankle, but it was not believed to be a long-term injury.
Buckeyes get RB commitment
Four-star prospect Antonio Williams of New London, N.C., pledged to the Buckeyes' 2016 recruiting class, wrapping up a revolving door week in OSU's pursuit of running backs.
A week ago, Williams was committed to Wisconsin and running back George Hill of Hubbard, Ohio, was committed to Ohio State. Since then, each stepped back from those commitments and Williams, on a trip to Columbus this past weekend, opted to go with Ohio State.
"Officially committed to The Ohio State University," the 5-foot-11, 210-pound Williams tweeted on Sunday morning.
In the meantime, Kareem Walker of Wayne, N.J., considered to be the nation's No. 1 running back prospect and a long-time pledge to Ohio State, took a visit to Michigan two games ago and appears intent on taking other visits. But he told 247sports.com last week that "I'm 100 percent committed to Ohio State."