Just a few weeks ago, fans and media alike were calling for J.T. Barrett to be benched. Saturday night, the Ohio State quarterback thrust himself squarely into the Heisman Trophy discussion while simultaneously keeping his Buckeyes in the thick of College Football Playoff contention.
Trailing by 18 points on two occasions to No. 2 Penn State, Barrett — with a huge assist from a swarming defense — was the triggerman behind No. 6 OSU’s remarkable come-from-behind win that left the Buckeyes in complete control of the Big Ten East. And, to put them in such a position, the ofttimes embattled signal-caller put on a performance that will live in Buckeye lore.
All Barrett did was complete 33 of his 39 passes — he completed his last 16 to set a single-game school record — for 328 yards, four touchdowns and, most importantly, no interceptions. For good measure, he led the team in rushing with 95 yards on 17 carries. By any measure, it was a virtuoso performance from a player who’s taken shots from many sides over the past couple of years.
Afterward, and perhaps because of the sting of the criticism that’s built up, the normally-reserved Barrett let loose with a rousing stream of emotion that let those inside the locker room know just how much this game — and those listening — meant to him.
Not to be outdone, Urban Meyer heaped unadulterated praise on the redshirt senior quarterback in his postgame press conference. Below is just a brief snippet of the adulation the head coach expressed for Barrett in his exchanges with the media, in quotes distributed by the team:
You guys can figure out all the records. I’ll just tell you, man-to-man, this is one man talking about another man. I don’t know if I’ve ever had more respect for a human being and as a person, because you earn respect and you witness people in very dire straits at times, tough situations.
I’ve never had a kid play perfect, but damn he was close tonight — 33 of 39. I can count four drops off the top of my head and two penalties that kept him from big completions. And he’d be the first one to tell you he’s a product of those around him, which he is — receivers and offensive line played. That’s the No. 1 defense in America, we have great respect for. And I just can’t — just how proud of J.T.
Q. You said earlier in the week teams are won by leadership. J.T., you see him behind the scenes… What did you see this week in him?
COACH MEYER: I think I’ve had him for five years. I’ve seen it ever since he’s been playing for us. I heard about this J.T. Barrett guy, and he came on as a redshirt freshman. And he wasn’t tall enough, wasn’t this or that. But he’s tough as a lion and he has an incredible skill to lead others.
Since wetting the Week 2 bed in a loss to Oklahoma — barely completed 50 percent of his passes, season-low 183 yards passing, no touchdowns, one interception — Barrett has been on an absolute roll. In the ensuing six games, he’s completed 75 percent of his 176 pass attempts, thrown 22 touchdowns and zero interceptions. Throw in 327 yards and another four touchdowns on the ground, and you have someone who should very much be in the thick of the Heisman talk.
“I think that H word is appropriate after today’s game,” Meyer said when asked if Barrett’s performance today was Heisman Trophy candidate quality.
Based on the last six games, I’d say it’s more than appropriate.