13 for 13: The J.T. Barrett (in the Fourth Quarter) Story

Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

“J.T. Barrett only does well against bad opponents,” they said.

“J.T. Barrett can’t win the big game,” they said.

“Ohio State won’t do anything with J.T. Barrett behind center,” they said.

“Bench J.T. Barrett for Dwayne Haskins Jr.,” they said.

In case you didn’t know about the amount of criticism and doubt that has been thrown his way over the years, Barrett’s tweet from March 19, 2016 that he has pinned on atop his Twitter page says it all.

Since the Buckeyes’ loss to Oklahoma the second week of the season, Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett has lit up the scoreboard. Prior to Saturday’s game, he had a completion percentage around 70 percent, had thrown 18 touchdowns, and didn’t have a single interception since Week 2. The quarterback was leading the nation’s top offense, but most did not give him credit because of the level of competition (or lack thereof) that Ohio State had gone against in that span. All those critics were quieted Saturday night.

There was more than just Barrett’s legacy on the line Saturday night. With a battle that featured the Big Ten’s best, the conference title was on the line. A potential College Football Playoff appearance was on the line. With all of that on the line, Barrett was as cool as the other side of the pillow and led his team on a comeback for the ages.

In just 15 fourth-quarter minutes, Barrett changed the narrative of not only the Buckeyes season, but the college football season as a whole. The first three quarters of the game, the Buckeyes dominated in terms of yards, but were trailing 35-20 on the scoreboard heading into the final quarter due to plenty of self-inflicted wounds. Whether it was turnovers, questionable decisions, or a number of other things, it almost seemed as though Ohio State was trying to lose the game at times.

The Buckeyes were on the brink of losing their second home game of the season. Not only that, but it also would have been the first time that they would have lost two regular season games in the Urban Meyer era. But the fourth quarter was when the redshirt senior and program’s first three-time captain cemented his legacy. With his team on the brink of losing their second game of the season and all but saying goodbye to their Big Ten title hopes and Playoff chances, Barrett shined his brightest on the biggest stage that a regular season can give you and led his team on an incredible comeback. Just how big of a stage was it? FOX has reported that the come-from-behind win drew the best regular-season college football rating in the network’s history.

He was playing well leading up to the fourth quarter, but he kicked it up a notch when his team needed him the most. In the fourth quarter alone, the gunslinger was 13-for-13 passing for 170 yards and three touchdowns. He completed his final 16 passes of the game, in the process of surpassing former Purdue great Drew Brees on the Big Ten’s all-time touchdown passes list. At arguably the most important time of the season to date, Barrett not only stepped up, but was literally perfect. Even Meyer agrees.

“I’ve never had a kid play perfect, but damn he was close tonight — 33 of 39. I can count four drops off the top of my head and two penalties that kept him from big completions,” the head coach said of his quarterback’s incredible performance. “And he’d be the first one to tell you he’s a product of those around him, which he is — receivers and offensive line played. That’s the No. 1 defense in America, we have great respect for. And I just can’t — just how proud of J.T.”

On the final drive, one that turned into a game-winning drive for the Buckeyes, Barrett threaded the needle on two passes that somehow landed in the hands of his receivers, checked plays at the line like a veteran quarterback should, and led Ohio State to a touchdown on a beautiful 16-yard pass to tight end Marcus Baugh to cap off a five-play, 58-yard drive to give the Buckeyes their first lead of the game with just one minute and 48 seconds remaining.  It was a play that they installed on Wednesday and was executed to perfection Saturday afternoon, as described by Land of 10’s Austin Ward.

“The game-winner. I remember the call. It was 8-17, Y seam, look back. And they gave us the look that we needed. And those guys upstairs did a very nice job and executed to perfection,” Meyer said of the play.

Barrett gave all of his praise to the coaching staff for calling it and his offensive line for giving him enough time in the pocket. The quarterback could have easily taken all the credit, but once again, he proved just how great of a leader he is and praised other teammates and his coaches.

“We actually put that in like Wednesday. We had, like, two weeks to prepare, or I think it was Wednesday or Tuesday. And so with that, it was — put them in a tight spot, being that they played cover six,” he said. “They play cover two in the boundary. They’ve got two guys running up on him, so your guy’s gotta make a decision.”

And then the play action definitely helped. But I mean, I’m looking at the safety to see which one he picks because whoever he does he’s wrong.

But at the end of the day “O” line did their part and bargained with the play action. That was a gap play-action pass and that’s a tough thing to do, especially against those guys. And they did their part, and I threw it to a wide-open person.

While the quarterback will forever be remembered for his incredible fourth quarter, Barrett played very well for much of the first three quarters as well. He completed 33-of-39 passes for 328 yards and four touchdowns and also tallied 95 rushing yards on 17 carries. His 423 total yards set a school record and he now has at least 200 yards and three touchdown passes in each of his last six games. Keep in mind, all of this was against the No. 1 scoring defense in the country. A defense that dominated their way through the first half of the season. For his performance on Saturday that included that insane fourth-quarter comeback, Barrett is now back in the Heisman hunt. His head coach agrees.

“I think that H word is appropriate after today’s game,” Meyer said following the game.

Barrett knows that he is now in the Heisman race, but following the game, he proved just how focused he is. The veteran not only didn’t say the “H word” like his head coach, but he made it known that all of his focus is on Iowa, who the Buckeyes play next Saturday on the road.

“He said the H word. I’m going to say the same thing, that H word. I don’t really focus on it,” he said. “Next week we’ve got to go beat Iowa. That’s what I’ll go focus on.”

Although it seems as though Barrett has been a Buckeye for much longer than just the past five years, the Texas native can be assured that he will go down as one of the best quarterbacks to ever don the scarlet and gray, and that says a lot. Even if he doesn’t win the Heisman Trophy at season’s end, it can be argued that Barrett’s number should be retired by Ohio State. Some may even say that the school should build him a statue. That alone shows how much he has meant to the Ohio State University over the last five years.

Many may have criticized Barrett over the years, but his teammates have continued to not only stick by his side, but let their quarterback know how great of a leader he is both on and off the field, along with just how awesome of a quarterback he is, too. Here’s what wide receiver Terry McLaurin said about his quarterback following the game.

“We see him every day. We don’t care about what anyone else thinks about J.T. because we know what we think about J.T. and what he brings
to the table.” he said. “I know we had four drops, so we left that on the field. He’s an incredible leader. That’s a Heisman candidate right there.”

Saturday night was special. Not only because it was Ohio State’s biggest comeback since 1989, but because of how good Barrett was, including late in the game when he put his team on his back. Due to Barrett’s perfect fourth quarter and the Buckeyes’ improbably comeback, they are now in the driver’s seat to not only make the Big Ten Championship game, but their third College Football Playoff in four years as well. Ohio State’s defense had an exceptional game, but Barrett’s perfect fourth quarter will forever be remembered by not only Buckeye Nation, but by college football fans as a whole as well.

While the G.O.A.T. term is used more often than it should, the redshirt senior has a chance to be the greatest quarterback to ever put on the scarlet and gray. On a night that his team and the program needed him the most, Barrett delivered the performance of a lifetime. He is special, but Saturday night, Barrett proved just how special he truly is.