Ohio State’s first game without Braxton Miller wasn’t easy, but things came together in the second half in a hard-fought 34-17 win over Navy in Baltimore.
Redshirt freshman J.T. Barrett made his first start at quarterback. Despite early struggles, he lived up to his dual-threat billing with 226 passing yards and two touchdowns and 50 rushing yards. Barrett threw just 15 passes, completing 12, as head coach Urban Meyer relied heavily on a bevy of talented running backs, three of whom rushed for more than 40 yards.
With a new quarterback and four new starters on the offensive line, the Buckeyes’ offense looked a bit out of sorts from the jump, but a bruising running game wore the Midshipmen down as the game went on.
The first half trudged to a close after a DeBrandon Sanders one-yard TD run for Navy and two Sean Nuernberger field goals for OSU. The second half was a different story.
Less than two minutes into the third quarter, Ohio State linebacker Darron Lee returned a Keenan Reynolds fumble 61 yards to give the Buckeyes their first touchdown of 2014. Navy was able to quickly respond, however, when a 67-yard run from Ryan Williams-Jenkins set up a 1-yard TD run from Reynolds on the next drive to retake a 14-13 lead.
Later in the third quarter, Barrett found Devin Smith behind the Navy secondary for an 80-yard touchdown pass to give OSU a lead it would not relinquish for the rest of the game. Though it did allow a field goal, OSU’s defense stiffened while the running game grinded out the clock and sealed the victory.
So what did we learn about the fifth-ranked Buckeyes? For one, the offense won’t look a whole lot different under Barrett compared to Miller, it’ll just be a simplified version. Save for his interception inside the red zone, Barrett made most of the right decisions in his first game action.
Also, the Buckeyes have a slew of talented running backs who can shoulder the load. Though Barrett led the team in rushing, Curtis Samuel (7 rushes, 45 yards), Ezekiel Elliott (12 rushes, 44 yards, 1 TD) and Dontre Wilson (6 rushes, 43 yards) all showed flashes. The inexperienced offensive line wasn’t always opening up the biggest holes for the trio, but Meyer has options to work with in efforts to replace the effort of Carlos Hyde. The offensive effort as a whole was something to build on.
The defense looked solid in dealing with Navy’s option offense and another test awaits OSU next weekend when Virginia Tech travels to Columbus.
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