One mantra that has been a mainstay for Ohio State throughout the 2016 season is protect the football. Critics have ridiculed the Buckeyes – with quarterback J.T. Barrett taking the brunt of it – for not taking enough chances or being too cautious with the football.
Head coach Urban Meyer, however, prides himself on the fact that his quarterbacks do not put their team in danger in the passing game.
“The one thing you’ll never hear about our quarterbacks is that they are gunslingers, kind of risk takers,” Meyer said. “We just don’t do that. That’s not the plan to win and that’s not how we operate.
“So J.T. does (hold onto the football), but that also makes him one of the most efficient passers in college football. His touchdown-to-interception ratio will go down in history as one of the great ones. Does that mean every once in a while he’ll be a little late with the ball? I see it as well, and all you do is try to coach through that.”
Barrett currently owns a passing efficiency rating of 140.8 and has completed 61.8 percent (214 of 346) of his passes this year. Additionally, the junior signal caller has thrown 24 touchdowns against just five interceptions.
Barrett explained that he is a calculated passer because he does not want to put his team in bad situations, whether it be the offense or defense.
“That’s my thing, I think I’m really good at making good decisions, make sure that we’re not hurting the team as field position and things like that, and that’s me protecting the football and not turning it over,” Barrett said.
“So there is a fine balance with that, but I think it depends on the situation,” he added. “It might be third down and tight coverage and you got to give a guy a chance to get the ball, and I think that’s just trusting our receivers, which I do have. Then there’s also times where there might be a spy on me, just with my eyes underneath, or a receiver may have broken open late and I wasn’t able to get to him. So there’s certainly a balance between the two.”
Interceptions, of course, are only one of two avenues a team can give the football away. The Buckeyes have been even more careful of hanging onto the ball when it comes to rushing. OSU only has lost four fumbles in 2016.
A big reason for that low number has been because of redshirt freshman running back Mike Weber.
Out of 177 carries, he has only been charged with one lost fumble this season. The single slipup came at Michigan State on Nov. 19 in the first half.
Barrett is responsible for two of the fumbles while senior H-back Dontre Wilson has the fourth.
The nine total turnovers Ohio State has committed this year coupled with the 25 it has forced (19 picks, six fumble recoveries) has given the Buckeyes a plus-16 turnover margin. That only trails Western Michigan’s plus-19 margin and Washington’s plus-21 output.
Junior right guard Billy Price was asked what are reasonable expectations for Weber as OSU heads into its College Football Playoff semifinal game vs. Clemson, and his initial response had nothing to do with yardage or touchdowns.
“Zero fumbles, first and foremost,” Price said. “That’s probably the biggest expectation because turnovers are going to be key in this game or the next couple games, whatever they are.
“As far as stat numbers and numerical numbers, I just think whatever it takes to win the game. If he’s got to split between (junior H-back) Curtis (Samuel), whatever the coaches decide, just hold onto the ball.”
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