Then, he followed through with that idea Saturday, with flying colors. The Buckeyes scored on six of six red zone possessions, paving the way to a 49-28 homecoming win vs. Maryland.
It was a risky move, considering where Ohio State’s quarterback competition has been this season. Cardale Jones was coming off his first full-game performance of the season at Indiana, not to mention two solid performances through the air in wins vs. the Hoosiers and Broncos.
But to Meyer, the team’s struggles to score in the red zone – the Buckeyes, who led the nation in red zone scoring in 2013, had just six TDs in 16 chances – made it a worthwhile risk.
“J.T. is just a very good player,” Meyer said before even being asked at his postgame press conference. “We've been having some red zone issues, and the quarterback run, everything condenses so much in there. Either you have to be extremely accurate, which we're going to continue to work at that, or in the run game, you have to somehow find an extra hat. That's only done a couple of ways – that's option football or quarterback run to equate numbers.
“He provided an obvious spark for us in there. Of course, he's a leader and a guy that needs to be on the field.”
Barrett was the recipient of the spoils in his return to the field, as well, rushing for touchdowns on the day of 3 yards, 1 yard and finally 18 yards to give the Buckeyes their seventh and final touchdown on the day.
“Well, it was a little old school,” Meyer said. “When I kind of watched Tom Herman's, what he did – I watched Houston play the other night and they had that tempo. And Cardale can (run it), but that's not his niche, but we kind of had him going there for a little bit with the tempo, going as fast as we can.
“And we have a nice set of little plays that are built kind of for Braxton and J.T. I know J.T. obviously can throw it well too. So we're going to keep tinkering with that thing.”
Jones also held up his end of the bargain, posting career highs with 21 completions on 28 attempts with 291 yards and a pair of scores – a 19-yarder to Braxton Miller as well as a 48-yard bomb to Jalin Marshall that gave OSU the lead for good in the third quarter.
“I think he was great,” Meyer said of Jones. “He played his best game since last year. Very efficient, threw for 290 and some change. I thought him and Mike Thomas did a very nice job. He had a couple of deep balls right on target with Braxton and Jalin. Two Braxtons, if I remember right.”
For now, it appears that is the plan for Meyer and the Ohio State offense – using Jones between the 20s to take advantage of his prodigious arm while using Barrett and the threat of the run he provides when the field condenses near the goal line.
“It was great,” Jones said. “It was all within the coach’s plan to win and he felt like J.T. brings an extra element to the game down in the red zone and certain things he wanted to do in the run game, and he proved to be right once again.”
Jones said the subject was first broached early this week.
“Our program is a very open and honest program,” Jones said. “(Meyer) said he was going on his Monday walk or something like that and he was just thinking, and he decided to actually ask us about it to see how we feel about it and then let us think about it for a couple hours. He called us back up to the facility and we gave him what we thought about it. Like I said before, he was right.”
The 49 points was a season high for Ohio State, largely because of the improved efficiency in the red zone as coordinator Ed Warinner noted the offense had a little longer play list inside the 20, and the Buckeyes actually topped 500 yards for the third week in a row before a 25-yard loss on a bad snap late in the fourth quarter dropped OSU to 499 on the day.
“We have two great human beings who are unselfish and team-first and they’re both willing to do whatever it takes to help this team continue to win games and so there was no pushback from anybody – Cardale or anybody on the team – about how are we gonna help this offense move forward and be more effective in certain areas,” Warinner said. “So we went and did that and both guys have earned the right to help this team win.”
To this point, with one win under its belt, the system seems to have earned rave reviews from all sides.
“I think this system works perfectly for our offense,” running back Ezekiel Elliott said. “I think you are probably going to see this for the rest of the season.”