BALTIMORE — Coming into the biggest start of his life, Ohio State redshirt freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett leaned on one piece of advice he received from offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, Tom Herman.
“Coach Herman told me, he looked at me in my eyes and was like, 'Hey, don’t try to be something you’re not. Just go out there and play your game, play with confidence.’ I felt like I did that today and that definitely helped me, settled me down."
Barrett didn't do anything spectacular in the Buckeyes' 34-17 win over Navy Saturday, but he didn't really have to. He managed the game, got the ball out quickly and led Ohio State to a 28-point second-half performance.
He finished the contest 12-for-15 for 226 yards and two touchdowns. When Ohio State trailed 14-13 late in the third quarter, Barrett hooked up with Devin Smith for an 80-yard touchdown that changed the game. He also carried the ball nine times for 50 yards. He only made one mistake: an interception in the first half when the Buckeyes were in the red zone.
"J.T., I thought, did OK. I’d grade him a B, I think," Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer said. "Every new player’s going to have a certain amount of mistakes. We wanted to open it up a little bit more in the first half and we did. It wasn’t because of him, it was because our offensive line."
The line struggled to protect Barrett in the first half as the Buckeyes were held to just six points and 162 yards of total offense. It was the first time since Meyer has been head coach that Ohio State failed to score a touchdown in the first half.
But something clicked for Barrett and the Buckeyes' offense in the second half, and it started with the long touchdown pass to Smith.
“I think it meant a lot for us as an offense, first and foremost, knowing that we can definitely pass the ball when we need to," Barrett said of the long touchdown. "Once we made that completion, the offense, you could see we got a little juice and started getting going.”
Ohio State had struggled to move the ball through the air until that point, but after Barrett ran a play-action fake to sophomore running back Ezekiel Elliot, he found Smith wide open down the middle of the field for the long TD.
"They were give us run, run, run, run and they caught us sleeping in the secondary," Navy safety Parrish Gaines said. "Ultimately, a big play will always kill you. I'm going to be thinking about that play when I go to sleep tonight."
“I was trying not to miss him, he was so open," Barrett added. "They bit so hard on the play action so I was just trying not to miss him. He made a great catch and ran away from him.”
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Six different Ohio State players caught passes from Barrett, who was making his first start since high school after redshirting last season as a freshman. His nickname throughout camp this season had been 'The Distributor' and he looked like exactly that against the Midshipmen.
Barrett was starting for Braxton Miller, who is out for the season after tearing his labrum in his throwing shoulder. Miller is the much more dynamic player, but Barrett did everything Ohio State asked him today entering Saturday.
"Coming in after Braxton, people expect you to do some crazy stuff," Barrett said. "I told myself I’m not Braxton, I’m J.T. and so I just go out there and play my game and that definitely helped me.”
Going forward, Barrett will be the guy leading the Ohio State offense and the Buckeyes, at least from an offensive standpoint, will face a much tougher task when they welcome Virginia Tech to Ohio Stadium next weekend. But for now, Barrett said he's just happy to get a win in his first collegiate start.
“We’re gonna enjoy this win, but definitely there’s a little relief as far as myself getting this one out of the way and under my belt. It was definitely a good team win," he said. "The defense definitely did their job and helped the offense out a whole bunch so there’s definitely a sigh of relief.”