COLUMBUS, Ohio -- J.T. Barrett lay writhing in pain on the field.
No. 7 Ohio State (11-1) leading Michigan (5-7) 28-21 at the start of the fourth quarter, the Wolverines fighting for bowl eligibility, the Buckeyes eager to keep hope alive for a spot in the inaugural college football playoff.
Leading up to this moment, Barrett was just beginning to find a rhythm for the Ohio State offense, already racking up 267 total yards of offense and three touchdowns, on a day in which he passed former Purdue quarterback Drew Brees for the most total touchdowns by a player in one season.
But none of this was important.
An Ohio Stadium record crowd of 108,610 sat -- or stood -- frozen, speechless, as the press announcer indicates the redshirt freshman quarterback is the one receiving medical attention on the field. The crowd slowly begins to chant ‘J-T! J-T! J-T!’
Michigan senior quarterback Devin Gardner could’ve been doing about a million other things on the sideline; chatting with offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier about the next drive, motivating the defense to get the ball back for him, or even selfishly fight off his own inner emotions in what was beginning to look like the last game of his Michigan career.
Gardner did none of that though, instead slowly jogging onto the field to embrace Barrett, uttering some encouraging words just prior to Barrett’s departure up the tunnel, in a cast, and on a cart.
“It’s like having a little brother out there get hurt and I didn’t like to see that at all,” Gardner said after Michigan’s 42-28 loss at Ohio State Saturday afternoon. “I just let him know I’m praying for him and told him to keep praying and everything will be all right.”
If anyone could offer support of this nature, it’s Gardner.
Dealing with as many injuries and sheer adversity as any Michigan quarterback in recent memory, Gardner has been through the losses, the pain, the thoughts of doubt, read criticism, responded to criticism; but every time the Detroit native and Michigan graduate responds.
Tossed into a situation he certainly wasn’t expecting this year following the season ending injury to senior quarterback Braxton Miller, Barrett has assimilated himself nicely to the position, leading Ohio State to an 11-1 mark with the offense humming, scoring 42-points or more in five of their final seven games of the season.
And more touchdowns will come; at least those were some of the words Gardner used as he knelt next to a clearly dejected Barrett.
“I’ve talked with him a little bit through the season,” Gardner said. “You hate to see any player get hurt, but especially a guy like him who is a great guy, high character guy, hard worker, and he’s been called upon, given a shot and he’s executed and done it humbly.”
Following the game Ohio State announced Barrett has a right ankle fracture that will require surgery, which is scheduled for tomorrow, and a fully recovery is expected by next season.