A lot has been said about Ohio State’s quarterbacks in the past year. From fall camp to the National Championship Game, the torch was passed from Braxton Miller to J.T. Barrett to Cardale Jones, and aside from some early season hiccups, fans can’t be anything but ecstatic about the play of Buckeye signal callers in 2014.
Among the 74 NCAA, conference, and school records that Ohio State set or tied in 2014 were the program marks for completions (26), passing yards (3,707), and passing touchdowns (42). Barrett set a school record for passing touchdowns. It was a phenomenal year for the OSU passing game.
So it’s time to take a look back at the top passing plays of the year, as chosen informally by the 11W staff, considering timeliness, importance and ‘wow’ factor. You can argue with these selections in the comments section below, but there were way too many to narrow down to 11. We did it anyway.
11. Barrett and Smith Bomb Navy
The dream season didn’t start all that dreamy. For almost three full quarters the Buckeyes struggled against Navy behind an offensive line that was only in the infancy of becoming a legendary group of grinders.
But Ohio State found itself behind 14-13 late in the third, when the defense forced a punt and Barrett took over at the 20. On the first play of the drive, J.T. hit the first of what would be many bombs to Devin Smith. This one covered 80 yards and gave the Buckeyes the lead for good. Without that play, the championship season might have been over in August.
10. Marshall Golden against the Gophers
Ohio State led 7-0 late in the first quarter, and the offense faced a third-and-7 from the OSU 43-yard-line. Barrett dropped back to pass and was quickly pressured by Minnesota’s defensive line. He scrambled left and then had his retreat cut off. Looking up, he saw Jalin Marshall 16 yards away and threw a perfect strike.
Not content with the first down, Marshall scorched down the left sideline to the end zone to make it 14-0. The Buckeyes held on to win by a touchdown in a very difficult road game under harsh conditions.
9. Barrett Burns Blue
As has been the case the last few years, the Buckeyes found themselves in a dog fight with That Team Up North. The game was tied at 14 at halftime, and Ohio State had the ball to start the second half.
After converting a third down with a strike to Jeff Heuerman, Barrett dropped back on the next snap from his 46 and let fly a rainbow to Devin Smith, who made a great catch with Michigan senior defensive back Raymon Taylor all over him. That play set up Barrett’s 2-yard touchdown run and Ohio State never trailed in the game again.
8. Key Conversion Sparks Sugar Bowl Comeback
Midway through the second quarter, Ohio State looked dead in the water. The Buckeyes trailed mighty Alabama, 21-6, and faced a third-and-10 from their own 29-yard line. Cardale Jones dropped back and was pressured, but he managed to hit Marshall on an out route for 26 yards and a huge conversion.
Prior to that completion, Jones was just 5/13 passing for 61 yards (40 on one play) with an interception and a sack. The third-down conversion started a 71-yard touchdown drive that pulled the Buckeyes within 21-13 and settled the team down.
7. Wilson Wows vs. Virginia Tech
It’s best not to dwell too much on the Virginia Tech game, but there were a few nice plays that are worth remembering. The most memorable was courtesy of Dontre Wilson.
Trailing 14-7, Barrett threw a 40-yard bomb to a well-covered Wilson, who reached around the helmet of cornerback Chuck Clark and made a spectacular catch while tumbling to the turf. The drive ended in a missed field goal, and Ohio State lost the game, but sometimes you just have to tip your hat to an incredible play.
6. Smith Shrugs Off a Duck for a Big Play
The Buckeyes faced a crucial third-and-12 near midfield in the second quarter against Oregon in the College Football Playoff title game. Jones dropped back and felt pressure. He first stepped up and then rolled right.
With a flick of the wrist he sent the ball deep for Devin Smith inside the Oregon 10. Smith fought off Reggie Daniels to haul in the pass 45 yards downfield at the Ducks’ 6-yard line. The play set up Cardale’s 1-yard touchdown plunge three plays later to make it 21-7.
5. Thomas Torches Sparty
Ohio State trailed late in the second quarter in East Lansing, 21-14. After a missed Sparty field goal, the Buckeyes breathed a sigh of relief and took over at their own 21.
On the next play, Barrett faked a run and threw a slant to Michael Thomas, who made his man miss and streaked 79 yards for a touchdown. It was a huge turning point in an important game that the Buckeyes went on to win handily.
4. Smith Streaks Through East Lansing
Thomas’s slant tied Michigan State at 21. But the Buckeyes weren’t done tossing the old pigskin around on Sparty’s home field in the first half. In the final minute, Barrett engineered a drive to the MSU 44-yard line.
After an incompletion on first down, Barrett faked a handoff to Ezekiel Elliott and threw a laser 44 yards to Devin Smith, who split the two deep safeties and put the Buckeyes ahead, 28-21, with just 56 seconds remaining in the first half. Sparty never led or tied the game again.
3. Like Footballs off a Duck’s Back
The Buckeyes trailed Oregon 7-0 in the National Championship Game in the first quarter. Ohio State, pinned deep against its own goal line, got some breathing room on a 26-yard strike from Jones to Corey Smith.
On the next play, Jones went 26 yards again—this time to Jalin Marshall. Cardale rolled left and fired a back-shoulder pass to Marshall, but the back shoulder it hit was that of Oregon safety Erick Dargan. Marshall calmly plucked the ball off Dargan’s back and secured it while falling onto his back. The play was an integral part of Ohio State’s first touchdown drive en route to the title.
2. Cardale Rains Bombs on Wisconsin
This may be cheating, but how can you split these three plays up? Cardale Jones and Devin Smith put on a deep ball clinic against the Badgers in the Big Ten Championship Game, burning Wisconsin for scoring strikes of 39, 44 and 42 yards, sending Gus Johnson into apoplectic seizures of ecstasy.
The Badgers never knew what hit them and Smith fought hard for his quarterback all night. Just watch the video and enjoy.
1. Spencer, Thomas Shock Bama
What was perhaps the best passing play of the season wasn’t even thrown by an Ohio State quarterback. As the first half wound down and the Buckeyes trailed the Crimson Tide in the Sugar Bowl, a Cardale Jones scramble suddenly had Urban Meyer thinking touchdown instead of field goal.
After a timeout, Meyer dusted off a trick play. Jones handed to Marshall, who pitched to Evan Spencer. The senior wide receiver pulled up and threw a dart just over Cyrus Jones to Michael Thomas, who made a leaping catch came down with one foot just an inch or so inside the line for a touchdown. Ohio State pulled within 21-20 at the break and seized momentum entering the second half.
So that’s our passing play countdown. There were so many memorable plays through the air this season. Some that didn’t quite make the cut:
- Kent St.—63-yard catch and run by Michael Thomas with a sick move to freeze a defender
- Maryland—back corner throw to Thomas who caught it over Will Likely for 25-yard touchdown
- Rutgers—a perfectly executed 26-yard seam pass to Nick Vannett for a touchdown
- Rutgers—11-yard pass to Spencer who made a leaping one-handed catch for a score
- Minnesota—22-yard bubble screen TD to Spencer for Ohio State’s final TD
- Indiana—54-yard TD on tap pass to Marshall to put Indiana away late
- Indiana—Marshall’s one-handed grab for a 15-yard touchdown
- Michigan—22-yard pass to Vannett sprung with a huge Corey Smith block
- Oregon—Double-clutch dart to Vannett for an early score
What do you think? How'd we do?