COLUMBUS — J.T. Barrett hadn’t found himself in this position very often.
Ohio State’s 38-17 win over Indiana on Saturday at Ohio Stadium was different from most of the 21 wins the Buckeyes have had with Barrett as a starter at quarterback in the last three seasons.
Usually, in an Ohio State win, Barrett is a major contributor both as a passer and a runner. But one component – the passing side of his game – was not quite up to par on Saturday.
Barrett rushed for 137 yards on 26 carries and scored a touchdown. But he was 9 of 21 for only 93 yards passing and his only touchdown pass was a late icing-on-the-cake throw with OSU up 31-17 late in the fourth quarter.
It was only the third time as a starter he had thrown for less than 100 yards and only the second time as a starter he’d completed less than half of his passes.
At one point, he went from early in the second quarter to late in the third quarter without a completed pass.
But OSU and Barrett handled it well enough to win – and win comfortably – for the fifth time in five games this season.
“I didn’t play well today,” Barrett said. “I have to do a better job of getting the ball to our playmakers. I didn’t do a good job of hitting the deep ball today. I’m grateful for the win, but there’s a little frustration because we know we can play better.”
The running game accounted for 290 of Ohio State’s 383 yards total offense. Curtis Samuel had 82 yards on nine carries and Mike Weber added 71 yards on 15 carries.
OSU coach Urban Meyer called it “an awkward game.” Defensive lineman Sam Hubbard said Indiana threw a lot of things at Ohio State it wasn’t expecting and that it was a taste of adversity the Buckeyes probably could use.
Maybe it was all of those things, along with a reality check that not every game is going to look as easy as Ohio State’s first four wins.
Meyer said OSU was actually only a few plays from feeling very good about Saturday’s game. And all three of those were in the passing game.
“It was a hard-fought victory but we left a lot of pass offense on the field. I think we all would feel a lot better about ourselves if we had hit three of those downfield passes,” Meyer said.
No. 2 Ohio State (5-0, 2-0 Big Ten) jumped out to a 24-10 halftime lead, with the help of two second-quarter touchdown drives that began inside Indiana’s 10-yard line.
The first of those came on a much-questioned call, upheld by replay, that gave OSU the ball at Indiana’s nine-yard line on a fumble by quarterback Richard Lagow. Two plays later, Weber scored on a 9-yard run for 17-3 lead with 3:32 left in the first half.
When Indiana responded with a touchdown that cut the lead to 17-10, Parris Campbell returned the kickoff 91 yards to IU’s six-yard line and two plays later Barrett ran the ball in for a score and a 24-10 lead.
That was a preview of what was coming in the second half. After rushing the ball 10 times in the first two quarters, Barrett ran 10 times in the third quarter and 16 overall in the second half.
Questioned about whether that was using Barrett too much as a runner, Meyer said, “That (26 carries) is way out of whack. We had to win the damn game and he’s one of our best players.”
After Indiana marched 89 yards on 13 plays on its opening drive of the second half to cut the lead to 24-17, Ohio State answered with an 85-yard, 13-play drive that ended with a one-yard scoring run by Mike Weber.
From there, OSU’s defense shut down Indiana and Barrett connected with Dontre Wilson on a 37-yard touchdown pass for the 38-17 final score. The defense’s big moment came when it stopped Indiana on a fourth-and-one situation at the four-yard line with 10:10 to play when the Hoosiers were trying to make it a one-score game again.
Reach Jim Naveau at 567-242-0414 or on Twitter at @Lima_Naveau.