COLUMBUS — Saturday in Ohio Stadium was just another day for J.T. Barrett.
Through his five years and four played seasons at Ohio State, the quarterback from Wichita Falls, Texas, has been the face of the Ohio State football program for much of that time and has faced unparalleled scrutiny for a player with 141 career touchdowns and 35 Big Ten or school records.
That noise has never distracted Barrett. However, he did pay attention to the noise from the crowd as he jogged out of the tunnel in the Horseshoe for the final time as a Buckeye.
He patted his chest twice, pointed up to the heavens with his name and No. 16 announced through the stadium speakers and jogged out to the 40-yard line where head coach Urban Meyer embraced him.
“J.T., J.T., J.T.” was chanted throughout the stadium. Barrett embraced his parents and gave his mother roses, just like the 18 seniors that were recognized Saturday did before him.
Then it was business as usual.
Barrett led the Buckeyes to four straight touchdown drives to begin the game against overmatched Illinois, and exited the game with 5:44 remaining in the second quarter and a 38-0 lead. The Buckeyes had 351 yards in Barrett’s six-plus first-half drives on 40 plays.
“There’s a last thing for everything,” Barrett said. “With that, I tried to do my best while I was out playing here in Ohio Stadium and I think we went out in a good way as far as the seniors today.”
He finished Ohio State’s 52-14 victory 11-for-19 passing for 141 yards and two touchdowns; and rushed for 33 yards with one score on five carries.
Yes, it’s Illinois, but the offense still had to execute and Barrett did his job like Meyer expects him to do every time.
Barrett’s final game was thought to be over, until Meyer sent him and the first-team offense back on the field after three straight fruitless drives from the backups.
“I was so pissed,” Meyer said. “I just didn’t want it to turn into a clown show, which it looked like it for a minute.”
The three-time captain threw a 12-yard touchdown pass to Marcus Baugh in a five-play, 29-yard drive.
Saturday was the proper send-off in front of the home fans Barrett had earned through his time at Ohio State. Meyer lauded the home crowd for its appreciation of Barrett, but he didn’t spend any time reflecting on Barrett’s career in Ohio Stadium with three more games guaranteed.
“When we say goodbye, it’s going to be a tough one,” Meyer said. “But that was not a goodbye.”
The reality is there’s work to be done to squeak into the College Football Playoff.
Barrett is expected to perform like a senior for the impressive wins the team needs against Michigan next week and Wisconsin in the Big Ten title the week after to have a shot at a playoff berth. But don’t expect him to focus on national implications.
“It’s like all the other stuff right now really doesn’t matter because at the end of the day, you come to Ohio State for certain things,” Barrett said. “Bottom line is when you play the Team Up North, go out there and win.”
Barrett exited after that final touchdown drive and watched the future of a program, sans him, through a torrential downpour that lasted the entire second half.
He took his time leaving the stadium. The red jacket he was wearing repelled as much rain as it could, but Barrett soaked in the scene as he trotted around the south end zone with the Illibuck trophy in hand for the final time at Ohio Stadium.
Ohio State turns the page to Michigan week on Sunday, and Barrett will have the chance to become the first quarterback in Ohio State history to win four games against the Wolverines.
But Saturday, though it was his final game at home and he took in every last moment before exiting back through the tunnel to chants of his name, it was just another game for No. 16.