Piscataway, N.J. — J.T. Barrett has brought peace to Ohio State’s volatile quarterback situation — at least for a couple weeks.
Barrett was nearly flawless in his first start of the season, throwing three touchdown passes and running for two scores as No. 1 Ohio State trounced Rutgers, 49-7, on Saturday night.
Ohio State (8-0, 4-0 Big Ten) extended its winning streak to 21 games, best in the nation, and heads into its off week with no doubt who the starting QB will be when Minnesota comes to Columbus on Nov. 7.
It will be a nice change for coach Urban Meyer, who started Cardale Jones in the first seven games of the season before making the switch to Barrett this week. Facing one of the worst defenses in the Big Ten, Barrett went 14-for-18 for 223 yards and ran for 101 yards on 13 carries. Jones entered in the fourth quarter when the score was 49-0 and completed all three of his passes for 24 yards.
“J.T. Barrett came in and played very well, energized us,” Meyer said.
Rutgers (3-4, 1-3) missed a short field goal on its first possession and didn’t get past the Ohio State 40 again until late in the fourth quarter.
The latest phase of Ohio State’s long-running quarterback soap opera has Barrett as the Buckeyes’ leading man.
“I didn’t really feel pressure to know I was going to play well or not,” he said. “It was just letting the game come to me.”
Meyer made the switch this week after the Big Ten player of the year had lost a preseason competition to Jones, who led the Buckeyes to the national championship after Barrett broke his ankle against Michigan last year.
Jones was inconsistent as a starter, but Barrett didn’t really make a case to reclaim the job until accounting for seven touchdowns in relief during the past two games.
Meyer said he is starting to see in Barrett the player who set a Big Ten record by accounting for 45 touchdowns last season.
“I think he’s full swing now,” Meyer said.
Barrett gives the Buckeyes more of a running threat and a better ballhandler on their zone-read plays. He scooted 39 yards with a keeper on his first carry of the game.
Barrett doesn’t have Jones’ powerful arm, but he is no liability in the passing game. When the Buckeyes opened it up, they found big plays against Rutgers’ injury-depleted secondary. Barrett hooked up with Michael Thomas on a short throw that turned into a 50-yard touchdown to make it 14-0 in the second quarter.
Barrett was a little short on a deep sideline throw to Braxton Miller, but the quarterback-turned receiver made a juggling 45-yard grab. A couple plays later, Barrett scooted in from a yard and it was 21-0.
“He is the prototype dual-threat quarterback and he puts a tremendous amount of stress on your defense whenever he has the football because he can run it like a running back and he throws it very well as a quarterback,” Rutgers coach Kyle Flood said.
The deep ball looked better from Barrett next time. He found Curtis Samuel, who grew up in nearby Brooklyn, in the end zone for a 30-yard TD to make it 28-0 less than two minutes into the second half.
“They threatened us to throw the ball deep,” Meyer said.
Ezekiel Elliott ran for 142 yards and two scores in his 13th straight 100-yard game.
The Buckeyes first trip ever to Rutgers drew a sellout crowd of 53,111 at High Point Solutions Stadium and their scarlet-clad fans blended in nicely with the Rutgers supporters — until a corner of the stadium broke into an “O-H! I-O!” chant. By the end, they were pretty much the only ones left.
It was the first time since 2002 the Scarlet Knights hosted the No. 1 team in the country and the first time as a member of the Big Ten. The prime-time, nationally televised game was exactly what Rutgers hoped for when it joined the Big Ten a couple years ago. The move has no doubt been good for the bottom line, but on the football field, the Scarlet Knights are still running a deficit against the Big Ten’s best.
Ohio State has outscored Rutgers, 105-24, the past two seasons.
After weeks of dealing with this quarterback quandary and the constant questions about it, Meyer admitted it brings him some comfort to feel as if things are somewhat settled.
“It really does. I don’t want to admit that,” Meyer said, “but it does.”