Barrett looks sharp as Ohio State starts strong and keeps pressure on … Samuel scores three touchdowns as coaches keep him active … Buckeyes building momentum for stretch run.
Anybody following Ohio State knows its downfield passing attack has been the one glaring weakness on offense this season. Most high school teams have been more proficient at it. There might be a few PeeWee squads that have had less problems with it, too.
That’s why one play in particular stood out in a 62-3 win over Maryland. The coaches called for a deep shot for the first time late in the opening period, and quarterback J.T. Barrett delivered.
For the second game in a row, he hit Curtis Samuel in stride on a long-distance throw. It was a 36-yard rainbow for a TD after a 75-yard strike against Nebraska last week.
The completion gave the Buckeyes a 21-3 lead and was important on multiple fronts. For all his brave comments to the media, Barrett had to be plagued by self-doubts after repeatedly swinging and missing on bombs this season.
The Buckeyes also have needed to start stretching defenses. For as lethal as that zone-read ground game can be, it’s not as effective when opponents don’t have to fear a pass going over their heads and can crowd the line.
Barrett had two other long-range attempts in the second quarter and didn’t connect. Samuel had one in his hands but dropped it as he fell to the ground. The other was an overthrow.
The 9-1 Buckeyes kept churning out yards, and they’ll make future foes more cautious because of a more daring passing game.
Samuel also is getting more involved. He’s a home-run threat every time he handles the ball, and he had three TDs on 10 touches, all in the first half: four rushes for 38 yards and two scores, five receptions for 74 yards and another TD and 11 yards on a punt return.
The complaints about him being an afterthought on offense have stopped.
The previously slow-starting Buckeyes have taken off like dragsters on their opening possessions of late, scoring for the third straight game on their first series.
It didn’t look good after two snaps. There was a holding call on guard Billy Price and an apparent interception by Barrett.
But Maryland was called for interference before the pick, and the Buckeyes rambled to a two-yard run by Samuel.
They went the distance again the next time out, making it 14-0. They scored on seven of their nine possessions in the first half for a 45-3 lead.
The defense was piranha-like, not allowing positive yardage on Maryland’s first six plays.
The Terrapins showed some life after replacing starting quarterback Perry Hills, who aggravated a previous injury.
They appeared to score on an impressive drive behind backup QB Caleb Rowe, but the Buckeyes were the beneficiaries of a bad call.
Rowe appeared to score on a QB draw on third-and-goal from the 2. It was reviewed, and he clearly looked as if he crossed the stripe. But the refs marked him one foot short.
A false start moved them back five yards, and the Terps had to settle for a 23-yard field goal for a 14-3 deficit.
Replay. Gotta love it.
Ohio State’s offensive line was nearly flawless for the second straight week. Barrett was 18-for-27 passing for 253 yards and two TDs before exiting late in the third quarter. He was sacked once, but that was because he held the ball too long.
The Buckeyes had 581 yards and 32 first downs, while the Terps had 176 and 10.
For the first time in four road games, Ohio State wasn’t facing a ranked opponent at night — or one with a bye week to prepare like the previous two — and that made the task much less daunting.
The 5-5 Terps also aren’t an upper-tier Big Ten team. They lost to Michigan, 59-3, and gave up 660 yards.
But while they faced an overmatched foe, the Buckeyes were able to build on their 62-3 thrashing of Nebraska last week (yep, same final score), and they’ll carry momentum into their final two games at Michigan State and in the showdown with their rivals in Columbus.
We were waiting to see whether that dominant showing against the Cornhuskers was just an aberration or a sign of things to come.
Based on what they did for an encore against Maryland, it’s starting to look like the latter.