Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett was benched with 3:32 remaining in the second quarter against UNLV Saturday. Albeit that came after the fifth-year quarterback completed one of his most efficient games in his career at Ohio State, converting 12-of-17 passes for 209 yards and five touchdowns.
Barrett’s first touchdown pass was a bubble screen thrown to the right sideline to H-back Parris Campbell, who ran by the UNLV defense on his way to the end zone for a 69-yard score. It might have inflated Barrett’s statistics, but it was the beginning of a consistent performance from Barrett with fluid offensive possessions.
Barrett’s touchdown passes of 69, 16, 3, 4, and 11 yards to five different receivers epitomized an outing filled with accurate passes through tight windows as the offense continues to try to build confidence in its passing game.
“We knew with UNLV that we had opportunities to execute what we do offensively,” Barrett said. “So with that, just go out and make sure that’s something that’s done at a high level.”
No. 10 Ohio State defeated UNLV 54-21 Saturday and led 37-0 after Barrett’s final drive. UNLV certainly isn’t Oklahoma, Penn State or Michigan, so it’s difficult to judge how much Ohio State’s passing offense has improved since its loss to the Sooners in Week 2.
Yet, Barrett’s accuracy was as prevalent as it had been in weeks.
He fit several balls into tight windows across the middle and on the sideline throughout the first half. He made two touchdowns throws on fourth-and-goal from the 3-yard line to Binjimen Victor on a back-shoulder fade and to Terry McLaurin in the back-left corner of the end zone from the 4-yard line.
Barrett, the Big Ten’s all-time leader in touchdowns responsible for with 112 after Saturday, did overthrow receiver K.J. Hill in the first quarter on the team’s second drive, but then connected with Hill twice for 20 and 22 yards on the same drive and found Johnnie Dixon a play later through three defenders for a score. He had eight completions for more than 10 yards, seven in the first quarter.
“Let’s go do it against a team that’s equally matched,” Meyer said. “And that’s my challenge every day for myself, for our coaches.”
The tempo of the offense against UNLV was the most significant improvement, Barrett said, which likely yielded the confidence the offense had.
Campbell said Barrett has shown immense confidence in the wide receivers in practice, and it only magnified throughout the game. However, Barrett and Campbell seem to understand, as well as Meyer, that this game is just the example of what the offense should look like against a quality opponent.
“I don’t think we’re at our finished product yet,” Campbell said. “I feel like we have so much potential on the offensive side. We have so far to go, but we’re making strides and we’re pushing towards that. So we’re definitely in a good spot.
“What we did today, we have to be able to do against a like opponent, or it’s not worth anything. If you can’t do it against the best, then you’re not the best.”
Will Barrett’s accuracy and confidence in receivers translate to the following weeks? That’s the next step the offense will have to take as it enters a full slate of conference play.