Two hundred fifty-seven yards. Three touchdowns. No interceptions. A 59-0 win that not only won the Big Ten, it sent Ohio State to the College Football Playoff.
Well, Jones wasn’t that impressed.
“Really, I think I played kind of OK,” Jones said. “A couple of the catches Devin (Smith) made and a couple of my throws were a little bit inaccurate. Devin made a couple of jump balls. It wasn’t like the second touchdown where he just ran under it. He made all the plays. The guys around me made all the plays. My performance overall was OK, actually.”
So can he do better New Year’s Day when the Buckeyes face Alabama in the Sugar Bowl?
“Yes, a lot better,” he said. “Making a couple reads quicker, getting the ball out of my hands faster and some decisions in the read option.”
The Buckeyes might need him to do so to upset the top-ranked Crimson Tide, who enter having won three of the past five national championships while boasting the fourth-best scoring defense in the nation.
Of course, Wisconsin also had a highly ranked defense, but Alabama seems loaded with the kind of guys who will be playing on Sundays in the near future. The team has been susceptible to the pass – it is 28th in the nation in passing efficiency defense and 57th in passing yards allowed as opposed to first in rush defense – but Jones will still be given a tall task in taking on an Alabama team that forced Missouri’s Maty Mauk to go 16-for-34 in the SEC Championship game.
Co-offensive coordinator Ed Warinner said the team could have something similar to a training camp or spring ball with nearly a month between the Wisconsin game and the Alabama contest. It was similar to the spring, when Jones as the first-string quarterback when Braxton Miller was out, and a little different than when the signal caller had just a week to get ready for the Wisconsin game.
“One of the advantages of playing in postseason play is that most teams try to get somewhere between 10 and 15 practices in to prepare for these bowl games especially if it's a New Year's or after bowl you can usually get about 15 practices,” Warinner said. “That's an entire spring when you look at it because you can only get 15 practices in spring ball.
“That being said, that gives Cardale an opportunity to have a lot of reps and a lot of time where he's in charge. So hopefully he can take a few steps in that process and I see him doing that.”
The time off could also allow Ohio State to expand the playbook some. The coaching staff has always excelled at putting together a plan that showcases the best of what its quarterbacks do, but the Buckeyes didn’t have to go too deep into the playbook in the win vs. Wisconsin.
That was partly because the offense was so efficient – it needed just 56 plays to put up the 59 points – but Jones didn’t have a big impact in the run game, rushing eight times for 9 yards. The passing game was somewhat diverse given Jones had just 17 throws, but much of it depended on going deep rather than a utilizing rollouts and screens.
“That's all part of playing quarterback,” Warinner said. “With one week to prepare, his focus was on how do I execute the offense? Now he's got time to learn how to manage the offense a little better, how to lead the team a little better, how to get more comfortable with the guys, maybe get more in sync with certain receivers and just get more comfortable with now he's the one standing up in front of the team and calling the plays and doing all that.”
Jones has matured a lot in his time at Ohio State and seems to have handled his newfound fame well. Now we’ll see if he can engineer another upset in his second game at the helm.
“Cardale is not one of those persons that gets kind of nervous,” his roommate, Tyvis Powell, said. “When I asked him about the Wisconsin game he said he wasn’t nervous at all, he said he was more ready. His preparation was so good so as long as he keeps the same preparation, he can go out there and do whatever. He knows he can do it, I know he can do it and everybody knows he can do it so now it’s up to him to just go out there and do it.”