On the strength of a career-high 99 yards rushing to go along with 186 passing yards and three total touchdowns, Cardale Jones led Ohio State to an impressive season-opening 42-24 win against Virginia Tech and the Hokies’ well-respected defense.
Despite the success, however, Jones was adamant in the postgame press conference that his competition with fellow star quarterback J.T. Barrett was far from over. When No. 1 Ohio State’s latest depth chart was released Sept. 9, the quarterbacks were once again separated by an “or” as co-starters, confirming Jones’ sentiments.
Head coach Urban Meyer reinforced that point later that evening, admitting that even he is dealing with completely unfamiliar territory.
“Yeah, it’s delicate, man,” he said of balancing the two signal callers. “I don’t know. Well, I do know. The head coach saying, ‘I don’t know,’ boy, that probably sounds bad. All I know is J.T. had one rush for 40 yards and one pass for a touchdown and was engaged, was leading the team, knew he wasn’t going to take the first snap and talked to the team before they went out. There might be packages that I’m going to put in. We talked about that today with the quarterbacks, with maybe J.T. So I don’t know.
“They both have to be on call and ready to go. I’ve never been in a situation like that that they’re both pulling for each other. It’s the damnedest thing I’ve ever seen. It’s really cool to see that.”
Meyer also contradicted Jones’ postgame comments that the quarterbacks were unsure who was starting up until the first series against Virginia Tech, saying that he told both players a few days before the opener.
Jones was the choice against the Hokies, the head coach said, in large part because of the scheme that the coaching staff knew Virginia Tech would run. The big-bodied Jones was better equipped to stand in against the pressure the “Bear” defense would bring.
That choice was validated throughout the opener as Jones routinely made plays with defenders in his face or in some cases draped all over him. Meyer confirmed that opponent scheme will continue to be a factor in determining playing time at quarterback going forward.
“I don’t want to jump too far ahead,” the coach said. “Let’s go beat Hawaii. Whoever we think and I think can drive us down to score a touchdown against (each team) – I knew the defense we saw was going to be a (Cover-0) and a big dude is going to have to stand in there, and it worked. A couple of times he had to go over the top of people and make a play, and then there’s other times where J.T. has got incredible skill, too.
“We’re just trying to win a game. Just trying to score and win a game.”
Short Week Complications
After getting an entire offseason to prepare for Virginia Tech the Buckeyes were left with just four days to get ready for the home opener against Hawaii.
The team did not arrive back in Columbus until around 4:30 a.m. Tuesday, and the players were given the day off to recover from the game with the Hokies. The coaches, however, returned to the Woody Hayes Athletic Center after getting a few hours of rest to go over film of the Virginia Tech game and of the Rainbow Warriors that had been prepared by graduate assistants.
Even Meyer seemed a little disoriented by the quick turnaround to get ready for Hawaii.
“It’s awful,” he said Sept. 9 of the short week. “It’s Wednesday, right? So yeah, it’s real difficult right now. Guys are still sore, banged up. That was a tough game. Physical game, too. Sometimes you play east-west games. This wasn’t that. This was a downhill, sledgehammer game, and our guys are beat up, so we’ve got to be real smart here how we go about our business.”
The coaching staff had hoped to handle it a little differently. Meyer said OSU appealed to the NCAA to allow a meeting with the team Tuesday – its weekly mandated off day – following the Virginia Tech game, but the request was not approved.
That meant that while the coaching staff was going over film, the team did not start working on Hawaii until Wednesday. Meyer said the staff decided to focus solely on Virginia Tech leading up to the season opener because of the importance of that game.
Still, the team trusts that the coaching staff will put the Buckeyes in the best possible position to win.
“We’re just sticking to the coaches’ plan, (strength and conditioning coach Mickey Marotti) and Coach Meyer,” said middle linebacker Raekwon McMillan. “All of the coaches and the training staff, they all have a plan ahead of us. They know what they’re doing when they get us ready for the game. We just stick to their plan.”
Although the Rainbow Warriors opened the season four days before the Buckeyes with a 28-20 home win over Colorado, Hawaii has its own set of complications for the game with the Buckeyes. The team must travel more than 4,400 miles and eastward six time zones to play in Columbus.
Four Players Return
While most of the team is dealing with a short week, four Ohio State players will enter the game with the Rainbow Warriors fresh.
Defensive end Joey Bosa and receivers Corey Brown, Dontre Wilson and Jalin Marshall are all returning from their one-game suspensions for violating team rules in the offseason. While the Buckeyes will welcome them back in the fold, none is guaranteed to start.
Even Bosa, a unanimous All-American last season, was not listed alone atop the depth chart at defensive end. Instead, Bosa was listed as a co-starter with redshirt freshman Sam Hubbard. Marshall was listed behind redshirt freshman Paris Campbell at one of the three receiver spots while Wilson was behind Johnnie Dixon and Smith is behind Michael Thomas.
While the location of the returning players on the depth chart may be in some ways a continued punishment for offseason transgressions, it is also a comment on the depth of talent the Buckeyes have.
“We definitely have a couple of guys at ‘H’ now that (Marshall and Wilson) came back,” Curtis Samuel said. “We all just want to go out there and give it our all on the practice field, and Coach Meyer will make the decision.”
“We’re all a close group. Those guys are very hungry to come out and get back and show what they’ve got.”
While Hubbard and Jalyn Holmes filled in well for Bosa – both were graded as honorable-mention game champions, Meyer said – the All-American brings a different dimension to the defense.
“He’s big-play ability,” McMillan said. “You always know that he is going to play no matter what. It’s just his big-play ability.”
When asked specifically about Bosa, Meyer commended the junior defensive end for the way he has handled himself since being suspended. That didn’t surprise Meyer, he said, because of the type of family that Bosa comes from.
- Samuel, who scored the first touchdown of the season for Ohio State on a twisting, diving grab in the first quarter against Virginia Tech, said that despite his transition to wide receiver this offseason he is still going through some individual drills at running back. “I’m a receiver now but I know at any point in time Coach can tell me to go into the backfield and I have to know what I have to do,” he said. “So even though I’m playing H, I’m still studying running back stuff.”
- The Buckeyes used some exotic rush formations against the Hokies, including one that had McMillan and linebacker Joshua Perry serving as essentially stand-up defensive ends. “We just camped on the line to show something new,” McMillan said. “I would have put my hand on the ground if (the coaches) wanted me to. It was real cool to stand out there on the end and rush.”
- Cornerback Marshon Lattimore, who sat out last season with hamstring issues, will play against Hawaii, Meyer said. The redshirt freshman is listed on the depth chart as a backup to Eli Apple.
- The return of Wilson and Marshall adds two capable punt returners to Meyer’s special teams unit. The coach said that he didn’t know who would start at that position but that Braxton Miller is also pushing for reps.