BALTIMORE – Three weeks ago, if J.T. Barrett gave any thought to what he’d be doing after Ohio State’s season opener against Navy, he probably figured it would go something like this:
First, make a quick change out of a uniform that was so lightly used he could probably wear it again the next week without throwing it into the laundry. Then grab one of the pizzas in boxes on a table outside the locker room for his post-game meal, head for the bus to the airport and wait for Braxton Miller and the other starters to finish their interviews.
But life changed in a hurry when Miller suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in practice and Barrett became Ohio State’s starting quarterback.
He was neither overwhelmed nor nonchalant after he completed 12 of 15 passes for 226 yards and two interceptions in Ohio State’s season-opening 34-17 win on Saturday.
The only major flaw was a first-half interception inside Navy’s 10-yard line, a throw he said he wished he could have had back as soon as he let go of it.
Still, he couldn’t avoid thinking a little bit about how far he’s come in the last two weeks since Miller went down. After spring practice, he wasn’t even Miller’s backup. That role belonged to Cardale Jones.
“It was just the week before that (Miller’s torn labrum) I got announced as the second-string quarterback,” Barrett said Saturday.
His first start in college was also his first game since a nasty knee injury in the fifth game of his senior year of high school in Wichita Falls, Texas.
“It was the first game I’d played since high school so there was definitely anxiety and things like that. But there was nothing crazy,” he said.
“Coach Herman (offensive coordinator Tom Herman) looked me in my eyes and said, ‘Don’t try to be something you’re not. Just go out there and play the game, play with confidence. That helped settle me down. I told myself I’m not Braxton, I’m J.T.”
Herman said, “Really the only down was the interception in the red zone. You never want to throw interceptions in the red zone. And maybe he got happy feet at times, which is to be expected from a guy starting his first game as a redshirt freshman in that atmosphere.
“The positives were he managed the game, he was an unbelievable presence on the sidelines. He was accurate when we asked him to throw the ball down the field. I came away very pleased, understanding we’re not going to get where we want to go unless we get the few downs fixed, though.”
Before Miller’s injury, replacing four starters on the offensive line was Ohio State’s biggest concern.
And Saturday’s game indicated it still might be. At least it looked that way in the first two quarters.
“I was very disappointed. We didn’t resemble an offensive line at Ohio State the first two quarters. I thought we played much better in the second half,” Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said. “We have to settle in on a starting five. And we have to play much better if we’re going to make a dent in the Big Ten Conference.”
One thing that wasn’t dented was Barrett’s calm exterior, even when he was sacked, even when he threw the interception.
“He was good, he was really good. No matter what happened, even after the pick, he was smiling and saying everything was going to be OK,” running back/wide receiver Dontre Wilson said.
Tight end Jeff Heuerman wore No. 5 in honor of Miller. There was no word if this was a one-game change or if it will last all season.
Last year linebacker Ryan Shazier wore Christian Bryant’s number after he was lost to a season-ending injury.
RUNNING BACK LEADER?
Sophomore Ezekiel Elliott started at running back, gained 44 yards on 12 carries and scored on a 10-yard touchdown run. But there was no one running back who dominated the statistics for Ohio State.
Freshman Curtis Samuel gained 45 yards on 7 carries, Dontre Wilson had 43 yards on 6 carries and Jalin Marshal (3 carries for 7 yards) and Rod Smith (2 carries for 6 yards) also got into the game.
Freshman kicker Sean Nuernberger connected on both of his field goal attempts in his first college game, hitting from 46 yards and 28 yards.