Buckeyes' Barrett shows NFL scouts his resiliency in comeback win over Badgers
J.T. Barrett stepped up when it mattered most on Saturday against Wisconsin
Wisconsin Badgers had control for most of regulation, but Ohio State Buckeyes 's J.T. Barrett proved to be the difference as he led the Buckeyes to an overtime victory over the Badgers, 30-23.
Ohio State put themselves in an early hole due to inconsistency on both sides of the ball in the first half. But the steady, calming leadership of Barrett kept the Buckeyes above water, sending the game to overtime, where his seven-yard touchdown toss to Noah Brown was the difference.
Barrett went 17 for 29 for 226 yards and one touchdown, although it was his toughness and determination with his legs that helped sustain drives. He finished with 92 yards on the ground and two scores. The downfield passing game has been a question mark for the Ohio State offense all season, but late in the game when it mattered the most, Barrett was relaxed and trusted his weapons to make plays, including a clutch 43-yard pass to Dontre Wilson that set up the game-tying field goal.
With so many young talents around him, Barrett has a lot on his shoulders, but also the trust of the coaching staff that he can handle it.
"It's the quarterback's responsibility to go pick up the level of play," Meyer said after the game about the youth around Barrett. "That's what makes J.T. so special."
From a NFL perspective, Barrett still has a lot to prove as a downfield passer, but the mature make-up and resilient confidence will endear him to coaches at the next level.
Junior running back Curtis Samuel saw a heavy dose of action with 18 touches on offense (12 rushes, six catches), resulting in 104 total yards, including eight plays of at least nine yards -- two on the Buckeyes' only overtime drive.
For Wisconsin, it was another fantastic performance by the Badgers' swarming front-seven, specifically T.J. Watt . His edge speed was a substantial reason why the Ohio State offense struggled, creating congestion in the pocket and forcing Barrett to use his legs.
Although probably best known as the younger brother of J.J. Watt , T.J. is starting to make a name for himself with his unrelenting effort off the edge. He has outstanding speed to win the corner and arrives with violence, delivering blows with outstanding contact balance to work off the block and find the ball-carrier. Ohio State blockers, specifically sophomore right tackle Isaiah Prince , had very few answers for Watt.
At 6-foot-4 and 250 pounds, Watt doesn't have the same size as his older brother, but he showed he has the point-of-attack power to set the edge and filter runs inside, allowing his teammates to contain.
The Ohio State defense is immensely talented with a depth chart full of future NFLers. But their collective inexperience showed in Madison Saturday night as they consistently struggled while Wisconsin executed on key downs.
The Buckeyes entered Saturday ranked No. 4 in college football in total defense, allowing only 246.5 yards per contest. However, the Badgers had little trouble marching up and down the field on several drives and totaled 313 total yards in the first half alone. Ohio State allowed their first rushing score of the season, becoming the final FBS team to give up a score on the ground in 2016.
Senior running back Corey Clement rushed for 164 yards on 25 carries, including a 68-yard scamper in the first quarter. And junior wide receiver Jazz Peavy gashed Ohio State with the jet sweep, accounting for 70 yards on only six carries -- also recording four catches for 76 yards and a touchdown.
But just like for Wisconsin, the Ohio State pass rush was a major plot point in this game. Sam Hubbard , Nick Bosa, Tyquan Lewis and others made redshirt freshman Alex Hornibrook uncomfortable at key moments in the game, especially in overtime. Safety Malik Hooker had a fantastic second half after several missed tackles earlier in the game. And cornerback Gareon Conley showed why he is one of the best defensive backs in the nation.
However, if Ohio State is going to continue to win this season, it will be because of the resilient leadership of Barrett.
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