The middle-clogging defense has been a constant theme for Ohio State this year as teams have tried to short-circuit the Buckeyes’ inside run game by setting up double teams in the run game.
But before the snap, Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett had a counter. Barrett stepped forward and called out a new play, moving back Ezekiel Elliott from behind him to the side. At the snap, Ohio State rolled out a trap that that is one of its “bear-beaters” – guard Billy Price and center Jacoby Boren pushed their guys aside, then left tackle Taylor Decker led Elliott through the hole – for 14 yards and a first down.
The play showed two things. One, the Buckeyes now have a plan to not let the Bear beat them as it did vs. Virginia Tech, a game in which OSU ran for a Meyer tenure-low 108 yards.
But perhaps more important, it showed that Barrett is becoming more and more comfortable running the Ohio State offense after four games in charge. Or, as head coach Urban Meyer put it Monday, “We’re giving him more and more responsibility about getting us in the right play, which is a big part of what the quarterback's expected to do.”
“He’s an extremely intelligent guy,” Meyer said. “He understands we want to run a play., and there's certain looks that don't run against that. He did a very good job. In the second half he got us in a bunch of them. I want to say a dozen (times) he changed the plays.
“(Cincinnati) went to the Bear, and we had a Bear beater that he immediately got us in. We hit two big plays on them, and we got (them) out of it. That's what the quarterback has to do.”
Barrett has shown he’s a quick learner as a redshirt freshman, but of course he’s far from a finished product. One place that can be seen is in the fact the Buckeyes had six false start penalties against the Bearcats, something Meyer points toward Barrett to fix.
The second-year Buckeye from Texas has been pointed to as possessing uncanny leadership abilities, especially for his age, but he still needs to work on his command, Meyer said.
“When you see false starts, when you see a little bit disorganization, they said they couldn't hear him,” Meyer said after the game. “I kept screaming ‘Peyton Manning’ at him, because when I study or just get to watch games, Peyton Manning's still as good as I've ever seen as far as taking control. And he's not there yet. So take control of the offense.”
Of course, Manning has had quite a head start on Barrett when it comes to taking control of an offense, and Barrett might not be at the point that he’s going to scream “OMAHA! OMAHA!” before every play.
But Barrett does know he needs to continue to develop command of the offense, a fight Braxton Miller had to battle over the years as well.
“We just talk about making sure I know what’s going on, making checks, being loud and making sure everybody knows what to do so if I do make a check that we’re not like the Bad News Bears,” Barrett said after the game.
That’s not the only place Barrett has succeeded in the last two games. He’s thrown for 300 yards in back-to-back games, becoming the first Buckeye to do that since Troy Smith during the 2005 season, and he has a total of 10 touchdown passes over the last two games as well.
In other words, something is clearly working, and the more confidence Barrett gets, the more likely things are to work out for the Ohio State offense.
“I think he's taking a quarterback role and trying to make some audibles and direct traffic out there, and there's a process to that,” said offensive line coach Ed Warinner, who is OSU’s co-offensive coordinator. “That's something that is ongoing. And he's getting better and better at that. He's very capable of doing that mentally, and then just doing it on the field.”