EAST LANSING, Mich. — Ohio State redshirt freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett’s lone mistake Saturday night came when the game’s outcome was already well in hand.
With the Buckeyes leading 49-37 with less than 40 seconds left on the clock, Barrett threw the ball away instead of going down in play to run the clock out. Ohio State fans will probably forgive him for the tiny mental lapse, though, because other than that irrelevant detail, he was pretty much flawless.
“J.T., boy is he playing well,” head coach Urban Meyer said.
Barrett finished the game 16 for 26 for 300 yards passing and three touchdowns. He also ran for 86 yards and a pair of scores. His five touchdowns gave him 34 on the year, three shy of breaking Braxton Miller’s single-season record of 36.
“I’m trying to make sure that I’m prepared so I can have the confidence in myself. That just kind of permeates through the offense and hopefully throughout the team so everybody has the confidence each and every week to just go out there and do their job and play to the best of their abilities.”
Offensive Line Steps Up
Against the two best defenses Ohio State had seen prior to Saturday night — Virginia Tech and Penn State — its offensive line struggled.
Against the Hokies, Barrett was sacked seven times. He went down three times and was constantly harassed against Penn State.
But on Saturday against Michigan State, Barrett was protected better than he had been all year against a Michigan State defense that came in ranked as fifth-best in the country. As a result, Ohio State was able to rack up 586 yards of total offense.
"I thought the offensive line, as a whole unit, I thought we executed well. I thought we were able to run the ball and kind of assert our will on them," left tackle Taylor Decker said. "Once we got up, we were able to just keep running the ball and J.T. was making plays, he was running all over the place even with the knee. It was just a great team effort from everybody."
Devin Smith Loves East Lansing
Two years ago, Devin Smith made a huge touchdown catch to propel Ohio State to a tough road win against the Spartans.
Saturday night, Smith had more than just a huge catch. He had a monster game, catching six balls for 129 yards and a score in a game Meyer called Smith's best as a Buckeye.
Hs huge 43-yard catch on third-and-23 allowed Ohio State to later tie the game up at 14-all early in the second quarter and his 44-yard touchdown catch with 56 seconds remaining in the first half gave the Buckeyes a 28-21 lead, an advantage they wouldn't relinquish.
“It’s a fun environment. They have a good football team and we came in here with a mission and that was to win," Smith said. "Everybody had their individual jobs and everyone did it so we came out victorious.”
Ohio State Gets Its Revenge
It had been a topic of conversation all week: Ohio State's players felt Michigan State stole something from them when the Spartans upset the Buckeyes, 34-24, in last season's Big Ten championship game.
The winner of this year's matchup almost certainly will get to play for a Big Ten title, and Ohio State was determined it would be them who would come out victorious.
"We came into this game with a chip on our shoulder," running back Ezekiel Elliott said. "We knew we had to take their will away and we were the underdogs. Everyone was counting against us so we had so much emotion. We just came out and played our best.”
The win helped Ohio State gain back some national respect it had lost in the last couple years and perhaps more importantly puts the Buckeyes right in the thick of the College Football Playoff race.
“We had something to prove after last year," Elliott said. "They took it away from us last year and we knew this year that we had a chance to get back and prove something.”