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Penn State game destined to be decided in trenches

ADAM CAIRNS | DISPATCH

Defensive tackle Adolphus Washington, middle, and the Buckeyes take on a Penn State offensive line that has struggled because of youth and personnel issues.

It has been true since the dawn of football, and it certainly will be true tonight in front of a rabid, white-out crowd of 107,000 fans in State College, Pa. Most football games are won by the most basic factor: which team dominates the line of scrimmage.

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When Talk Isn't Cheap

Come the start of daylight savings time, there are going to be a lot of Buckeyes wishing they could turn back the clock…to the Virginia Tech game.

Everything about the way Ohio State has played since, and everything about the way Virginia Tech has played since, suggests a rematch would result in an entirely different outcome than the 35-21 loss OSU suffered September 6.

The scab was picked last night when the Hokies fell to the Miami Hurricanes 30-6. So today might best be spent thinking about the balm that has been the play of quarterback JT Barrett.

It also might be worth questioning whether Barrett’s present performance would be possible without that past adversity.

The redshirt freshman threw 3 interceptions and was sacked 7 times that evening. In the games that have followed, he’s completed 72 percent of his passes, thrown 17 touchdowns to just one pick, and averaged 293 passing yards a contest.

Plus, he’s taken the reigns of the team.

His teammates really noticed that when Barrett gave a speech before playing Kent State.

“He kind of put the offense on his back and took responsibility for the offense,” said H-back Jalin Marshall. “He told us that he’s got us, no matter what. I think that really sunk in to everybody on the offensive side, especially me. Being young, being in the same class as him, it meant a lot to me to feel he really had my back, because I really had his.”

“You could just tell he wanted everyone’s attention, and that’s what he got,” added running back Rod Smith. “He pumped everybody up, and we went out there and executed and have just been rolling.”

The address to the team was, in and of itself, nothing new. In fact, wide receivers coach Zach Smith said he noticed some of his players, wide-eyed and mouthing “Wow!” after Barrett’s pep talk before the season opener against Navy.

This speech, following a tough loss to the Hokies, though, carried an even deeper resonance.

“Him getting hit as many times as he did against Virginia Tech, and keep getting up and going, that was when he started to earn my respect,” explained head coach Urban Meyer. “I think for someone to stand up and to give a speech or whatever, it just depends on who’s standing up and what has he shown. And I think everybody, including Buckeye nation, saw a tough nut that got hit a bunch against Virginia Tech and kept swinging.”

Expect another speech from Barrett before tomorrow’s game against Penn State. The Nittany Lions have an even stingier defense (15.2 points/game) than the Hokies unit (21.3 points/game) that caused Ohio State such problems.

And senior Nick Vannett, who’s assuredly heard his share of pregame talks is looking forward to it. “Just to see the emotion from him gets you kind of riled up as an offense,” he said of Barrett. “He gets after it. It’s probably as good I’ve seen, honestly. So if football doesn’t work out for him, he’s got a backup plan.”

Posted on Oct 24, 2014 0 Comments

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