Just when it seemed J.T. Barrett was playing like never before, reality smacked him and his Ohio State teammates in the face last week with the lopsided loss at heavy underdog Iowa.
But they haven’t had much time to mope, since they face the Big Ten bounce-back team of the year, Michigan State, on Saturday. The winner will gain sole possession of first place in the East Division with two games to play.
“It’s get back to the fundamentals of what we do, executing … and then move on from last week,” Barrett said Tuesday of his inner monologue this week. “We’d like to get it back, but we can’t. So with that we just have to grow from it, learn from it, get better.”
Coach Urban Meyer said Tuesday that also was his message, and not just to Barrett.
“Move forward,” Meyer said. “It’s the same with advice to a coach or self advice — move forward. We have great trust, great confidence (in Barrett).”
The Buckeyes rallied from 18 points down to beat Penn State 39-38 on Oct. 28, riding a passing performance from Barrett that included a school-record 16 straight completions. It was a win that vaulted them back into the College Football Playoff conversation and moved Barrett into Heisman Trophy contention.
At Iowa, Barrett’s first pass was intercepted and returned for a touchdown as part of a four-interception day, his worst as a collegian, as the Hawkeyes rolled 55-24. The Ohio State defense also played poorly, but as the leader of the offense, Barrett's struggles drew the most attention.
On Tuesday, Barrett was polite and soft-spoken during time with the media, including when he was asked whether this latest loss stung more than the five others he's experienced as a fourth-year starter.
“We lost the game, so it wasn’t like this loss hurt more than other ones, really,” Barrett said. “The most different one was when we didn’t score against Clemson (the 31-0 loss that ended last season). But … a lot of times when we lose it’s like I didn’t play well, so with that, I was disappointed in the way I played. But it didn’t feel any different (from past losses). I don’t know how to explain it any better than that.”
In short, he said, “I was upset. … I was still trying to get better (coming off the Penn State game) and I just didn’t play well.”
A big part of his game against Penn State was how at times he boldly challenged tight coverage with pinpoint passes. On a couple of the interceptions at Iowa, that boldness hurt him, such as on an interception that Iowa turned into a touchdown just before halftime for a 31-17 lead.
“There’s a little bit to that, but I think it’s more just knowing when those times are to take those chances,” Barrett said. “I think in the fourth quarter early we were in position where I didn’t have to press the issue like I did. And with that, just understand the situations of things.”
It was lessons learned the hard way.
“But we’ve got to move on. We’ve got Michigan State coming to our house and playing good football,” Barrett said. “So we’ve moved on, doing better. It helps being around the guys … It’s being around family, so that’s good.”