To listen to 97.1 The Fan or ESPN 1460AM we ask that you provide a zip code so that we may give you the best audio connection possible.
|By Mike Young|
Ohio State’s passing attack has dealt with constant criticism and bouts of inefficiency since the beginning of October.
Those concerns did not go away during Saturday’s thrilling double overtime win over Michigan. Quarterback J.T. Barrett finished the game 15-of-32 for 124 yards and an interception after a slightly errant pass hit H-back Curtis Samuel’s hands, landing in the hands of Wolverines safety Jabrill Peppers.
In a first half with the field position battle strongly tilted towards Michigan, Barrett completed 5-of-11 passes for only 40 yards and was sacked three times. Overall, Michigan had eight sacks.
“J.T. didn’t start out very good. We had some misfires. We weren’t playing very well,” head coach Urban Meyer said. “We had some protection issues. And the pass game is a constant. It’s either protection issues or a misfiring.”
Considering the quality of the Wolverines’ defense, it was difficult to expect much out of the Buckeye offense coming in. Michigan allows 135.9 passing yards per game — the fewest in the country — and ranks No. 1 in Football Outsiders.com’s Passing S&P+ metric. Peppers, as well as corners Jourdan Lewis and Channing Stribling are highly-touted NFL prospects.
Meyer and his offensive staff grasped for ways to kickstart the offense throughout the game. That included a failed fake punt deep in their own territory, which gave the Wolverines a short field to score a touchdown.
“That’s why you run a fake punt. That’s why we were trying to get the ball downfield and we just weren’t hitting them. And, yeah, we were trying — we needed sparks,” Meyer said. “But then our defense kept hanging in there, hanging in there, and they provided sparks. And the offense kind of took over in the fourth quarter and overtime.”
The Buckeyes found a groove through the air during the final drive of regulation. It capped off a quarter in which Ohio State outgained Michigan 127-5.
Michigan defensive back Delano Hill’s pass interference on 3-and-7 cannot go unmentioned when referencing this drive, of course. Otherwise, Barrett’s nine-yard pass to K.J. Hill, a 16-yard pass to Samuel that put OSU into Michigan territory, a floating 14-yard lob to Noah Brown and a quick 13-yard pass to Marcus Baugh helped set up a short field goal to tie the game.
In addition to those clutch completions, Barrett’s ability to consistently gain positive yardage on the ground are key reasons why Ohio State beat its archrival. It was evident on their game-winning overtime drive when Barrett narrowly converted on a fourth down carry that ignited more conspiracy theories than the Roswell Incident.
The team’s confidence in Barrett in short-yardage situations is part of the reason why the team converts nearly 70 percent of their fourth-down attempts — good enough for No. 11 nationally.
“I mean, honestly, when it’s fourth and short, I feel like we can go for it every time. I know field position plays a part of it, but we’re on their side of the 50, I’m really jacked about it,” Barrett said, following the game. “Like let’s go do that, because that’s what we do. We are in those situations countless times before the season starts and spring ball. And then when it comes to the season that’s what we do; we take risks and we have a great offensive line to go out and get those first downs.”