Fortunately for the redshirt sophomore and the Buckeyes, school was not in session Saturday. But Jones did give provide the lesson in the Big Ten Championship Game, won by Ohio State 59-0 against Wisconsin.
The Buckeyes (12-1) did all they could to state their case for the inaugural College Football Playoff. Head coach Urban Meyer addressed the issue after the game, and as usual, he did not shy away from revealing his true feelings.
“I don’t think there’s any doubt that we’re one of the top four teams in America,” Meyer said.
Jones, who has greatly matured since that ill-timed tweet and made his first collegiate start in place of injured QB J.T. Barrett, had nothing short of a stellar debut. The Cleveland Glenville product completed 12 of 17 passes for 257 yards and three touchdowns. He led the Buckeyes through, around and past a Wisconsin defense that entered the night ranked second nationally in total defense.
The underdog Buckeyes thoroughly dominated the Badgers in every facet of the game. Ohio State outgained the Wisconsin 558-258, limited the nation’s top tailback Melvin Gordon to 76 yards and no touchdowns and even the special teams went OSU’s way. Sophomore punter Cameron Johnston had two punts downed inside the UW 5-yard line and recorded a career-long boot of 73 yards.
Senior Devin Smith, long known as a deep-ball threat for the Buckeyes, had immediate chemistry with Jones. He caught just four passes, but three of them went for touchdowns of 39, 44 and 42 yards. Sophomore tailback Ezekiel Elliott outshined Gordon, rushing for career-high 220 yards and a pair of touchdowns, and the Buckeyes outrushed the run-heavy Badgers 301-71.
Not to be overlooked is the OSU defense. The Buckeyes forced four turnovers, two both coming during a dominant first half. Sophomore safety Vonn Bell and redshirt freshman linebacker Darron Lee led the unit with seven tackles apiece. Senior defensive tackle Michael Bennett, who wore the No. 53 of late teammate Kosta Karageorge, recorded two sacks and four tackles for loss and forced a pair of fumbles.
Wisconsin (10-3) also got little from its passing game. Quarterback Joel Stave completed 17 of 43 passes for 187 yards with no touchdowns and three interceptions. The Badgers were shut out for the first time since Aug. 24, 1997, vs. Syracuse.
The Buckeyes claimed their first conference title since 2010. Jones was named the game's MVP.
Circle City Shocker
It did not take Jones long to make an impact. Wisconsin won the opening toss and deferred, and Jones quickly led the Buckeyes 77 yards to a touchdown in just six plays. He completed all three of his pass attempts, including a 39-yard touchdown pass to Smith. Jones took a shotgun snap, faked a QB run by taking a step to toward the line of scrimmage and dropped back to pass. He flung the ball deep into the end zone, and Smith muscled past Wisconsin cornerback Sojourn Shelton for the ball in the end zone for a TD.
Freshman Sean Nuernberger came on to add the extra point, giving the Buckeyes a 7-0 lead just 1:59 into the game.
The Ohio State defense passed its first test against Gordon, holding him to three yards on a pair of carries on Wisconsin’s first drive, which ended with a punt after a three-and-out. Ohio State
Ohio State extended its lead later in the first quarter. This time it was Elliott taking a starring role. The Buckeyes started the drive at the OSU 7 and gained 12 yards on an Elliott run up the middle. The next play was much like the first, only Elliott went untouched up the middle 81 yards for a touchdown.
Elliott took the Jones handoff and immediately had plenty of room to run. OSU senior right tackle Darryl Baldwin had a key pulling block, and sophomore center Jacoby Boren had another crucial block to spring Elliott, who outraced the Wisconsin defense down the field.
Nuernberger’s PAT made it 14-0 Ohio State with 4:06 remaining in the opening quarter.
A Stave interception turned into points early in the second quarter. Jones drove the Buckeyes from the OSU 41 to the UW 1 before a false start penalty and a dropped potential touchdown pass by Elliott forced Ohio State to settle for a 23-yard field goal by Nuernberger that upped the lead to 17-0 with 14:14 left before halftime.
Jones continued his stellar play with another deep touchdown pass that extended the lead to 24-0 with 11:09 remaining in the first half. It was another quick TD drive, lasting just three plays. At the UW 44, Jones dropped back and stood tall in the pocket, taking a hit as he threw deep for Smith again. And again, Smith came down with the ball in the end zone for another score. Nuernberger added the extra point to give the Buckeyes a commanding lead.
After throwing his second TD of the night, Jones had completed 7 of 9 passes for 165 yards – and one of those incompletions should have been caught for a third TD.
The onslaught continued with another Ohio State touchdown later in the second quarter. The Buckeyes marched 69 yards in six plays, facing little trouble against the Wisconsin defense. Elliott capped thing with a 14-yard touchdown run that, following the Nuernberger PAT, made it 31-0 with 6:36 left before halftime.
Ohio State concluded a near perfect half with another key play in the final minute of the second quarter. Following another impressive punt by Cameron Johnston that was downed at the Wisconsin 5. The Badgers advanced the ball to the UW 11 in the final minute of the half before Bennett forced a Gordon fumble. The ball was scooped up at the UW 4 by sophomore defensive end Joey Bosa, who rumbled into the end zone.
Following the Nuernberger PAT, the Buckeyes boasted a 38-0 lead that they took into halftime.
The first-half stats told the story of Ohio State’s dominance. The Buckeyes outgained the Badgers 364-91. Jones completed 10 of 13 passes for 211 yards and two touchdowns. Elliott scored a pair of touchdowns and had 150 yards on 12 carries. Smith caught three passes, including two for a TD, for 95 yards.
Conversely, Gordon was limited to 43 yards on 14 carries, an average of 3.1 yards per carry. Stave completed just five of 14 passes for 58 yards and an interception.
Not to be overlooked was Ohio State’s defense, which forced five punts and forced two turnovers. The longest drive the Buckeyes allowed was 38 yards, and three UW drives went for negative yards.
Jones and Smith connected again for a third touchdown in the third quarter. The Buckeyes extended their lead to 45-0 with 9:24 on the clock on a 42-yard touchdown pass from Jones to Smith. On a play-action play, Jones again threw a ball up for Smith to beat a Wisconsin defender on in a one-on-one situation. And again, Smith did just that, bringing down the ball in the end zone for a third time.
Freshman Curtis Samuel capped the scoring with a pair of fourth quarter touchdowns. The first came on a 12-yard touchdown with 11:39 remaining. Nuernberger added the PAT to up the OSU lead at 52-0. With 2:25 remaining, Samuel added a 1-yard score that set the final score at 59-0.