For the second time in four years, quarterback J.T. Barrett was taken out of The Game due to an injury and did not return. In 2014, it was a broken ankle that forced him out; on Saturday it was “an ongoing meniscus issue where it pops out and has to pop back in,” according to the FOX reporter during the game. While what happened prior to the game remains in question in terms of the possibility that a cameraman ran into Barrett, causing the knee injury to worsen and then flare up during the game, the red-shirt senior finished his career 4-0 as a starter against his biggest rival even though he didn’t finish two of the games. Barrett is the first Ohio State Buckeye starting quarterback to go 4-0 against the Michigan Wolverines.
In 2014, it was Cardale Jones who relieved Barrett and not only led the Buckeyes to yet another win over the Wolverines, but eventually led Ohio State to a national championship in the inaugural College Football Playoff. In 2017, Dwayne Haskins came into the game following Barrett’s injury and led Ohio State to a win over Michigan; this time at the Big House.
The red-shirt freshman was thrown into the fire with his team trailing, 20-14, midway through the third quarter. Facing third-and-1 on their own 31-yard line, the Buckeyes were counting on their backup quarterback to not only lead them down the field, but to lead them to a victory as well. He delivered on both.
Ohio State couldn’t have asked for a better game from their backup quarterback. His stats proved that, but his poise, leadership, and ability to make plays under plenty of pressure like he was a four-year starter was most impressive. Haskins finished 6-of-7 in the air for 94 yards.
He had played in seven games this season prior to Saturday, but all of his playing time came when the games were already decided and the coaching staff just wanted to give their backup quarterback some playing time in order to get him somewhat prepared for moments like Saturday afternoon.
“His poise and accuracy was outstanding,” head coach Urban Meyer said of Haskins during the Big Ten Championship Game coaches’ teleconference Sunday afternoon.
Haskins’ most impressive throw came during the drive that he took over for Barrett. While Ohio State was conservative with their red-shirt freshman at first, calling running plays on four of his first five plays, Meyer was forced to open it up when the Buckeyes needed a big first down after consecutive false start penalties caused some to wonder if the team would fall apart. On third-and-13, Haskins found his roommate, wide receiver Austin Mack for a 27-yard gain. It was the perfect throw that came close to being incomplete after Mack was hit right when he caught the ball. Somehow, he hung onto the ball after the vicious hit.
Meyer was impressed by how Haskins was able to lead the offense, especially after he was able to convert that long third down to Mack.
“Dwayne came in and hit that third-and-long pass to Austin Mack, and then had a great couple crossing routes, handed the ball very well,” Meyer said of his backup quarterback. “We had two or three first downs and then he hit that one play, which was phenomenal to Austin Mack, and did a heck of a job. And then he scrambled for a big hit. And he took care of the ball.”
Although he attempted just seven passes for 94 yards, Haskins’ performance was so good that he had a quarterback rating of 198.5, good enough for the best rating by any Ohio State quarterback since 2014, according to Eleven Warriors.
“It’s crazy to go win the biggest rivalry in sports,” Haskins said following the game. “I never thought it would actually be a reality. I was always just preparing in meetings, learning, asking questions and got my number called, and it worked out for me thankfully.
“All credit to my coaches and my older guys and the players. Just always been preparing, and no matter what happens, if J.T. goes down, you got to be ready to get in the game.”
Via Eleven Warriors
While his ability to make big throws was impressive, Haskins’ ability to make plays while scrambling from the pocket should not go unnoticed. The quarterback finished with 24 yards on three carries, but the his biggest run set the Buckeyes up to take the lead on his first drive.
Just two plays after that impressive throw-and-catch to Mack, Haskins showed off his wheels with a 22-yard run on second-and-7 that was close to a touchdown. J.K. Dobbins ran in for an easy one-yard touchdown on the next play.
Even though Barrett was forced to miss the rest of the game, the red-shirt senior still made contributions throughout the rest of the game. He was seen talking to Haskins throughout the second half in order to help the red-shirt freshman. That right there proves just how great of a teammate Barrett is. He could have been down because he couldn’t participate, but instead continued to help his team beat Mich-Again.
Although Barrett said that he will play in the Big Ten Championship game Saturday night in Indianapolis, the red-shirt senior’s status is still uncertain until later in the week. If the Buckeyes are without Barrett, Haskins has already proved that he can be counted on to produce and make plays. Less than two quarters against Michigan won’t define Haskins’ legacy at Ohio State, but it is quite the start for the red-shirt freshman.