COLUMBUS, Ohio- The Ohio State offense seemed to have one goal heading into its final non-conference game of the season; perfect the passing game. As a group, that was exactly what it accomplished in the Buckeyes 54-21 win over UNLV.
Quarterback J.T. Barrett set the tone for what turned out to be an air show on the offensive side of the ball. Completing 70.6 percent of passes, Barrett threw for 228 yards and five-touchdown passes to five different receivers.
Parris Campbell felt as though Barrett was connecting well with his fellow receivers all through the first half.
“He did incredible today,” Campbell said. “I've said it from the start, he's the best quarterback in college football. I think he's proving that every day."
With 3:32 left in the second quarter, the Ohio State coaching staff felt like it saw enough from its fifth year quarterback. When asked if he thought he was taken out too early, Barrett just talked about his goals for while he was under center
“While I am in there, score as many points as we can on offense,” Barrett said. “When coach says, tap me on the shoulder and says, ‘Hey, you are through,’ I go get a Gatorade and I’ll sit down.”
With Ohio State leading 37-7 near the end of the second quarter, backup quarterback Dwayne Haskins entered the game with only four collegiate passes under his belt after a cameo appearance against Army West Point.
Last week was a very different experience for Haskins, touching the field for the first time as a college quarterback.
“Last week was a little weird, getting in for the first time,” Haskins said. “After I got my first series of this game, I was like in the flow of the game now. I was pretty comfortable.”
According to Haskins, he was taking his first meaningful snaps at quarterback since he was in high school. He showed that while he was in the game. Completing 15 passes on 23 attempts, the redshirt freshman threw for a team-leading 228 yards, throwing his first two touchdowns of his career to walk-on wide receiver C.J. Saunders and tight end Rashod Berry.
After leading the Buckeyes on a six-play, 92 yard scoring drive in his first taste of action against the Rebels, Haskins did not even realize that he had thrown a touchdown to Saunders until after it had happened.
“I just threw it because it was a read and everything like that,” Haskins said. “Once we scored and I got back to the sideline, I realized I threw my first touchdown pass here, so it was a pretty special moment.”
Haskins developed that relationship with Saunders as his slot receiver on the second team through countless repetitions in practice. Despite his confidence in throwing into tight windows, Haskins still had some miscues.
“I would say that if there is a window, I can throw it in there, even if it is a little tight,” Haskins said. “I don’t want to force anything, but learn from mistakes and keep getting better.”
There was one main mistake that Haskins made that cost the Buckeyes. With 13 minutes to go in the game, he was trying to connect with tight end Luke Farrell, but instead threw an interception to Rebels defensive back Javin White, who returned the pick 65 yards for the touchdown.
Haskins said that he thought the coverage was going to be no deep, which was a different coverage than they have seen. However, when Ohio State brought a guy inside, the defensive alignment changed to Cover 1. Haskins meant to throw the ball outside to Farrell, but he said that the ball was neither outside nor high.
Meyer thought that that ball from Haskins should not have even been thrown.
“That's inexcusable,” Meyer said. “Throw it right to the guy. Obviously it's a young player, a freshman and they've gotta go through that.”
Even Haskins admitted that it was not the best ball that he has ever thrown, but it was a part of the growing process.
“It was a bad ball,” Haskins said. “It was on me, but it’s a learning experience.”
When Barrett was struggling in the passing game against Oklahoma, the reaction from fans called for Haskins to become the starting quarterback. Meyer knew that Haskins was not ready for that kind of role.
“I'm not going to take a poll and ask them,” Meyer said. “Not being disrespectful to our fans, but quarterback's a tough position and he's continuing to work on it.”
Even though he was not going to be named the starter, Haskins knew that he was going to get some playing time early in the season. He said that whenever and whatever time he would be put in, that he would make the most of it.
However, with all of the attention put on the young quarterback, calling for him to be running with the starters, Haskins never doubted his role on the offense.
“Despite the outside noise, even in classes or as I walk on campus, just go to practice everyday with my head down and ready to go to work.
And with that in-game experience, Meyer saw the potential that Haskins has as the quarterback at Ohio State.
“He's got work to do but you can see the talent,” Meyer said.