Saturday, November 14, 2015

J.T. Barrett takes the first step towards redemption

                                      Photo Credit: Geno Green

In football, adversity is always the norm, even in wins and losses.

For Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback J.T. Barrett, the struggles dragged off the field after being arrested for operating a vehicle while intoxicated on Oct. 31, which happened to fall during the bye week.

A reserved Barrett acknowledged making a mistake in Saturday's postgame press conference.

"I am truly sorry about my actions," Barrett said. "I know that the consequences are going to be long-term, but I apologize to Buckeye Nation. I never want to hurt Ohio State because they have done a lot for me and I will admit that it was a selfish act."

After being suspended for last week's Minnesota game by coach Urban Meyer, Barrett returned as the Buckeyes' starter in Saturday's 28-3 win at Illinois Memorial Stadium in Champaign, Ill.

J.T. Barrett did not miss a beat, completing 15 of 23 passes for 150 yards through the air and a touchdown, to go along with 16 carries, 74 yards and a TD.

Getting a chance to focus on football after all of the troubles off the field two weeks prior, Meyer admitted there is plenty of room for Barrett to improve.

"I wouldn't call [J.T.'s performance] exceptional, because I think he got pressured a little bit," Meyer said. "But he is a very good tempo quarterback, and that's something we are evaluating too."

Barrett felt the mental pain of having to watch his teammates from the sidelines on Nov. 7 vs Minnesota, but was glad to be back on the gridiron.

"Last week was rough not being able to play out there, but in this game, I didn't try to force anything, but I am trying to get better through each game," Barrett said.

Ohio State put together a solid opening drive highlighted by Barrett's 18-yard run on 3rd and 2, but failed to come away with points as placekicker Sean Nuernberger missed a 24-yard field goal attempt. 

After OSU wide receiver Curtis Samuel's blocked punt on Illinois' Ryan Frain, the Buckeyes would start on the ILL 49. Barrett would help facilitate the offensive tempo with a 22-yard pass to WR Michael Thomas up the middle of the field.

Thomas stayed on the field for the next play and Barrett rewarded the receiver with a 24-yard reception for a touchdown to open the scoring with 3:43 left in the opening quarter.

The Buckeyes offense would fall into a lull in the next four possessions, highlighted by a Barrett fumble on the third drive in the stretch with a fumble recovery from Illini LEO Dawuane Smoot at the opponent's 31-yard line.

Meyer gave credit to punter Cameron Johnston for managing field position and giving Barrett and the Ohio State offense more opportunities to capitalize in the second half.

"Our punter did a heck of a job in terms of field position and when things bogged down, we went tempo and gave it to Zeke with the body blows running throughout the game to open things up," Meyer said.

Barrett would find his groove again on OSU's last drive of the first half, finding wide receiver Jalin Marshall for a 23-yard reception on the first play. The play would lead to Barrett's score from six yards out later in the drive on the keeper to go ahead 14-3 at halftime.

OSU running back Ezekiel Elliott wore down the Illinois defense with seven carries for 55 yards and a one-yard touchdown run in its second possession go the half to go up 21-3 as things would end up on the smooth side for Barrett and the offense.

Elliott's 10-yard touchdown run with 9:47 left in regulation would cap off the 25-point win on the road, but for Barrett, he felt at home on the field and could get away and think about being 10-0 overall and 6-0 in the Big Ten West division with games vs Michigan State and at Michigan left in the regular season.

"The greatest thing about [being 10-0] is that you don't have be at your best right now with two games left in the season, but you want to be at your best at the end of the season," Barrett said.

Football teaches a lot of lessons and in the game of life, it is not about being at 100 percent all the time, but working towards progress, not perfection.

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