It looked rather different than what he had seen the weekend before, when Ohio State barely topped 300 yards, ran for just over 100, scored 21 points and gave up seven sacks in a 35-21 loss to Virginia Tech that was stunning not for its result but what it showed in how far the rebuilt Buckeye offense has to go.
“I wanted to see energy,” the Ohio State offensive coordinator said. “I wanted to see an offense at least that was angry about what happened. I wanted to see an offense that because of who we were playing, we knew we really needed to focus on fundamentals and execution, which we didn't last week. I was for the most part pleased."
How could he not have been? If the Virginia Tech loss showed where the Buckeyes were weak – inexperienced at quarterback, young on the offensive line and still developing at the skill positions – the 66-0 win against Kent State showed just how good the Ohio State attack can be.
The Buckeyes trusted redshirt freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett to distribute – he is known as “The Distributor,” after all – and he responded with the team’s first 300-yard passing game in four years as well as a record-tying six touchdown passes. By the end, nine different rushers had carried the ball and 11 different players had caught it, while the offense racked up 33 first downs and 628 yards.
Numbers like that show an offense that got its groove back, and in fact that was what the offensive staff wanted. After the Buckeyes’ showing against Virginia Tech, confidence could have been lost, but instead, the team got swagger against the overmatched Golden Flashes.
“That’s what Coach Meyer talked about with the loss last week and being at home, we should be mad, we should be angry, and it just so happened that Kent State was on the schedule,” Barrett said. “We're not going to soften up or anything like that. We lost a game so we came out a little more angry, a little more aggressive. It just so happened we let it out on Kent State."
Reflecting on the performance, the Buckeyes thought it was just what the doctor ordered.
“We really needed that,” said running back Ezekiel Elliott, who ran for 65 yards and caught 52 yards worth of passes in the first half alone. “After last week we just felt heartbroken with that sick feeling in our stomach. We needed to come out like we did today for ourselves and for Buckeye Nation.”
Over his tenure at Ohio State, head coach Urban Meyer has often spoke of how much he’s enjoyed coaching an angry team, one that can use that emotion to inspire its play on the field. He had that in the 2006 national championship game when he utilized the fact that Ohio State was the overwhelming favorite in the eyes of the national media, pumping up his Florida team with that disrespect until it was ready to post the upset.
After the Kent State game, Meyer admitted his team was still a work in progress but had overcome the emotions of the Virginia Tech game to continue to progress.
“Where are we and do I like where we're at? I think so,” Meyer said. “We're 2-1. You still have a sick feeling in your stomach about last week, but we're moving forward, and I see a lot of young guys that are going to have great futures at Ohio State.”
Wide receiver Mike Thomas, who caught two touchdown passes in the first half from Barrett, said that if anger inspired the Buckeyes, they might have to keep using that inspiration going forward.
“I felt like we were pretty angry,” Thomas said. “I felt like a lot of guys wanted to go out there and have something to prove. We have to always go out there with that same demeanor. Go out there ready to make plays and play fast.”