Barfknecht: J.T. Barrett proves there’s no reason to worry

Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett threw for four touchdowns against Nebraska after not accounting for a touchdown for the first time in 25 games last week against Northwestern.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Five minutes and 41 seconds. 

That’s how long it took Saturday night for Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett to assure OSU fans he hadn’t turned into some sort of stumblebum.

Buckeye fans were in an uproar over the fact that a week earlier, the redshirt junior failed to account for a touchdown (rushing or passing) for the first time in 25 games. Horror of horrors, they cried, even though Ohio State still beat Northwestern 24-20 and remained No. 6 in the national rankings.

So against Nebraska, Barrett calmed the masses on Ohio State’s first possession, and a whole bunch more during a 62-3 stomping of the No. 9 Huskers.

After an OSU kickoff return to the Nebraska 43, Barrett completed a 9-yard pass on the first play of his first drive. Soon, he followed with a 6-yard completion for a first down.

When a holding penalty and a delay of game put Ohio State into third-and-20 at the NU 31, Barrett calmly found H-back Dontre Wilson with a 22-yard pass for a first-and-goal.

Nebraska stretched Ohio State out to third down again. But from the 7, Barrett scrambled left and zipped a touchdown pass to wide receiver Terry McLaurin — ending Barrett’s streak of games without a touchdown at one in a row.

By the time Saturday’s rout ended, the 6-foot-2, 222-pound quarterback from Wichita Falls, Texas, had boosted his school-record total of career touchdowns accounted for to 94 by adding:

» A 1-yard touchdown pass with three seconds left in the first half.

» A 75-yard touchdown pass 12 seconds into the third quarter.

» A 6-yard scoring toss just five minutes into the third quarter.

The mark for the most touchdowns accounted for by a Big Ten player in the past 20 years is 95, set by Drew Brees of Purdue. That standard might have fallen Saturday night had Barrett not hung up his helmet after three quarters and his team leading 55-3.

“I thought J.T. played fantastic,’’ OSU coach Urban Meyer said. “He was very sharp, he spread the ball and he spread the entire field. We finally hit some downtown shots.’’

Barrett’s brutal efficiency — 26 of 38 passing for 290 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions or sacks, plus 39 yards rushing — puts him in control of the All-Big Ten quarterback race.

Michigan fans will clamor for junior Wilton Speight to get strong consideration, and he should. The first-year starter has managed the Wolverine offense admirably, with 13 touchdown passes to three interceptions and a .628 completion percentage.

But the 6-6, 243-pound Speight provides little to no true running threat, and his passing statistics trail Barrett, who has 21 touchdown throws to four interceptions and a .645 completion percentage.

Not everything went Barrett’s way against Nebraska.

Twice, he overthrew wide-open receivers deep for sure touchdowns. Also, as a wide receiver in Ohio State’s wildcat formation, he missed a block on the edge that likely would have turned Curtis Samuel’s 11-yard run off a direct snap into a 76-yard touchdown.

But that’s picking nits. Meyer almost glowed when talking about his offense getting its mojo back.

The previous four games, Ohio State had averaged 26.5 points and 409.5 yards in regulation time. Against a Nebraska defense ranked 15th nationally in scoring defense and 20th in total defense, the Buckeyes piled up 48 points and 590 total yards.

“I saw some explosiveness that we’ve kind of been lacking at some positions,’’ Meyer said. “I think relief is probably the correct word.

“We’ve all been waiting for that to happen. There’s no better time than November to get that thing going.’’

Barrett saw his counterpart — Nebraska’s Tommy Armstrong — get knocked unconscious when he was flipped out of bounds at the end of a quarterback keeper in the second quarter. Barrett walked over to check on Armstrong while medical people strapped him to a backboard.

Armstrong returned to the stadium in the second half after being checked out at a hospital. Barrett and Armstrong hugged and talked briefly after the game.

Nebraska’s loss means the Huskers gave up control of their destiny in the Big Ten West Division. The two West teams that could get to Indianapolis on Dec. 3 by winning out are Wisconsin and Minnesota. They play on Nov. 26.

Ohio State also doesn’t control its destiny in the Big Ten East.

The Buckeyes need either Michigan to win its two remaining games before its trip to OSU on Nov. 26, or Penn State to lose to get into position to claim a title-game trip.

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