Five first-half touchdown passes by redshirt freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett paced an Ohio State offense that had little trouble with the Golden Flashes (0-3). The Buckeyes (2-1) had eight offensive possessions in the first two quarters and reached the end zone on six of them. Of the other two, one ended on a field goal by freshman Sean Nuernberger and the other on an interception in the red zone. The second half was more of the same, despite the Buckeyes liberally substituting with the game well in hand.
One week after the Buckeyes fell to Virginia Tech in the Horseshoe, Ohio State bounced back in a big way and recorded its 39th consecutive victory over an in-state opponent in front of 104,404.
Barrett completed 23 of 30 passes for 312 yards with six TDs and one pick in an abbreviated afternoon. He played the first half and one possession in the third quarter before giving way to sophomore Cardale Jones. Before departing, however, Barrett became the first OSU quarterback to throw for 300 yards since Terrelle Pryor vs. Indiana in 2010 and the first signal caller to toss a sextet of touchdowns for the Buckeyes in a game since Kenny Guiton last season vs. Florida A&M. Called “The Distributor” by his teammates, Barrett lived up to that nickname by completing passes to 11 different players.
Sophomore tailback Ezekiel Elliott had his best day as a Buckeye despite only playing in the first half, rushing for a season-best 65 yards on seven carries and adding four receptions for 52 yards. Sophomore wide receiver Michael Thomas caught a pair of touchdown passes, while junior tight end Nick Vannett hauled in four passes for 40 yards.
Freshman Curtis Samuel rushed for 100 yards on 15 carries and added 52 yards on four receptions – most of the yardage coming in the second half, which is when both of his touchdown runs were scored.
Ohio State dominated the stat sheet. The Buckeyes outgained the Golden Flashes 628-126, led 33-10 in first downs and averaged 7.2 yards per play. Junior linebacker Joshua Perry, sophomore safety Tyvis Powell and freshman safety Erick Smith both recorded interceptions for the Buckeyes, who blanked an opponent for the first time since last season’s 76-0 blanking of Florida A&M. Freshman linebacker Raekwon McMillan posted a team-high seven tackles with two sacks.
The Buckeyes wasted little time setting the stage for the blowout. Kent State won the coin toss and deferred, allowing Ohio State to receive and go on offense first. After sophomore Dontre Wilson took the opening kickoff 38 yards to the OSU 42-yard line, it took Barrett and company just five plays to reach the end zone for the first time. Barrett completed three passes on the march, including a connection with a wide open Thomas over the middle for a 14-yard touchdown. After Nuernberger’s point-after kick, the Buckeyes led 7-0 less than two minutes into the game.
The onslaught continued from there. Ohio State’s next drive featured Vannett, who caught three passes on the nine-play possession. Fifth-year senior Rod Smith extended Ohio State’s advantage to two scores by catching a screen and going untouched for an 8-yard TD.
The Buckeyes’ lone non-scoring drive came on its next possession, one that started on an acrobatic interception by Powell. Kent State quarterback Colin Reardon rolled to his right on a second-and-10 from the KSU 42 and had a pass at the sideline tipped by Ohio State senior cornerback Doran Grant that was caught by Powell at midfield. It took Ohio State five plays to reach the Kent State 8, but that is where Barrett had a pass tipped and intercepted by linebacker Matt Dellinger at the 2.
Ohio State forced a KSU punt after the interception and took over at the OSU 46 following an 11-yard punt return by Wilson. That kicked off the Buckeyes’ next touchdown drive, one that lasted seven plays and lasted 2:17. Barrett completed all four of his pass attempts, and Smith capped the drive with a 1-yard touchdown burst up the middle. Following Nuernberger’s PAT, the Buckeyes held a 21-0 lead late in the first quarter.
Nuernberger, who missed a pair of field goals a week earlier vs. Virginia Tech, made his first and only field goal attempt of the afternoon on Ohio State’s next possession. Taking over at the KSU 31 following a short punt and 22-yard Wilson return, Ohio State managed only 7 yards before Nuernberger booted a 41-yard field goal with 14:16 left before halftime.
The Buckeyes added three more touchdowns on their final three drives of the half. Thomas caught a pass on a curl route and raced past the Kent State defense for a 63-yard touchdown with 12:43 left in the quarter. Redshirt freshman Marcus Baugh caught his first collegiate touchdown pass on a 2-yard score with 4:34 left before the break and Devin Smith capped the first-half scoring with a 50-yard touchdown connection from Barrett with 98 seconds left in the half.
While Ohio State could not be stopped on offense, Kent State never reached OSU territory and punted five times in eight possessions – with two others ending in interceptions and the third ending with the conclusion of the first half. The Buckeyes outgained KSU 392-109.
The second half featured more of the same. The third quarter began with a three-and-out for the Golden Flashes, and OSU junior Jeff Greene blocked the ensuing punt. Unfortunately for the Buckeyes, junior Ron Tanner scooped up the loose ball and had the ball stripped. Kent State recovered at the KSU 2, giving the Golden Flashes the ball again after an unusual special teams play.
It did not change the momentum of the game, however, as the Buckeyes forced another punt from the back of the end zone. Redshirt freshman Jalin Marshall returned the boot 15 yards to the KSU 28. Barrett’s final drive of the game ended in yet another touchdown pass, with Marshall hauling in a 3-yard score with 9:20 left in the third quarter. Nuernberger’s PAT made it 52-0.
Ohio State added one more third-quarter touchdown with Barrett out of the game. Following a 51-yard punt return by Marshall to the KSU 37, Jones led a five-play scoring drive that was capped by a 3-yard TD run up the middle by Samuel – extending the OSU lead to 59-0 following the PAT with 5:08 left in the quarter.
Samuel added a 1-yard score with 12:38 left in the fourth quarter to end set the final margin of victory.