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Ohio State looks lost in ugly home loss to resurgent Virginia Tech

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Ohio State didn't look like a top-10 team when down 14 points with a lifeless offense at the half.

It didn't look like a top-10 team after crawling back with two second-half turnovers on defense.

And it definitely didn't look top 10 after losing a game 35-21 in which never led against an unranked Virginia Tech.

Make no mistake. Beamer Ball is not dead. The Hokies are raging after their first road non-conference win over a top-10 team in the regular season since 1989. A Bud Foster defense was never going to be an easy out. 

But this is the performance Ohio State fans dreaded the moment Braxton Miller went out last month with a torn labrum.

Actually, scratch that -- Miller's athleticism couldn't mask all the problems this leaky team has right now.

Ohio State averaged less than three yards per carry, quarterback J.T. Barrett barely completed 30 percent of his passes and a young offensive line couldn't keep Barrett off the Ohio Stadium grass.

Virginia Tech sacked Barrett six times in the last nine minutes. That's an amazing stat. No wonder Barrett threw an interception to Donovan Riley for a 63-yard touchdown return in the final minute. He couldn't feel his ribs.

Plays that Miller would find a way to score were ones Barrett and the supporting cast didn't have the same athletic gear to convert.

Now the Buckeyes' 25-game regular season winning streak is gone. Ohio State is a loser of three of the last four games dating back to the 2013-14 postseason.

"Coach Meyer let us know in the locker room that 11-1 isn't bad," Buckeyes defensive tackle Adolphus Washington said. "We just have to come back hungry next week."

Being hungry is good locker-room fodder but won't change the fact Ohio State on Saturday rarely showcased elite speed, a usual benchmark of an Urban Meyer team.

When Miller went down, the narrative became, 'Ohio State's offense will still be good because of all those running backs and receivers.' (I bought it, too).

That theory looked shaky when two first-half red zone trips resulted in zero points thanks to a dropped touchdown pass by Corey Brown in the back of the end zone and two missed Sean Nuernberger field goals.

Virginia Tech's defensive plan worked swimmingly -- stuff the box, apply a ton of pressure and let elite corners Kendall Fuller and Brandon Facyson handle the back end. The Hokies got burned a few times, including Barrett's 53-yard score to Michael Thomas, but the Buckeyes couldn't punish the corners.

Thomas was the only Buckeyes receiver to catch more than one pass, and no running back eclipsed 32 yards.

Foster said he did something Saturday that he hadn't in 20-plus years -- he ran what's called a 'double eagle' formation with extra nose tackle help to stop the run at all costs.

"He's going to be a good quarterback," said Foster of Barrett.

Key words are "going to be." He's a redshirt freshman. Maybe he'll be great in two years. But the job he inherits -- no Carlos Hyde, no NFL-ready tackles from last season, no Braxton to bail out the offense on broken plays -- will be a serious challenge.  

The best quarterback on the field was a Texas Tech transfer named Michael Brewer, who shrugged off an ugly sack-fumble that Ohio State turned into a touchdown and drove the Hokies 65 yards for a touchdown response.

The result is one of Frank Beamer's best wins in nearly 30 years in Blacksburg.

"It was all about how are you going to respond," said Brewer about the Hokies' fourth quarter play.

Somehow, Ohio State must take Brewer's advice.

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