The game changed when Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett stepped on the field for the first time Saturday night.
Penn State contained No. 1 Ohio State for the first 15 minutes of the game with Cardale Jones at quarterback.
Then, Barrett started the second quarter and immediately provided another dimension to the Buckeyes offense. Barrett converted on third-and-seven with his feet on his second play, and one play later, ran for a five-yard touchdown off a play-action fake.
Barrett sparked the running game during a 21-point second quarter in Ohio State’s 38-10 victory over Penn State at Ohio Stadium on Saturday night. Barrett scored two rushing touchdowns in the second quarter and threw for two touchdowns in the fourth quarter to punctuate the Buckeyes’ seventh win this season. Barrett rushed for 102 yards on 11 carries, and running back Ezekiel Elliott ran for 153 yards on 27 carries, his 12th straight 100-yard game.
“Barrett makes a difference for them,” Penn State coach James Franklin said. “There’s no doubt about that.”
When Jones, a drop-back passer, was at quarterback, Franklin felt his defense played well.
The Nittany Lions bottled up the Buckeyes early.
Nittany Lions linebacker Troy Reeder shot into the backfield to corral Elliott for a loss of one yard on the first play of the game. Jones looked to throw to his right on the second play, but defensive tackle Anthony Zettel read the play, jumped with his arms up and jumped again to bat down the pass. Jones then misfired, and the Buckeyes’ first possession ended with a punt.
Penn State forced Ohio State to punt again on its next two drives. The Nittany Lions limited the Buckeyes to 23 rushing yards on seven carries in the first quarter, which ended with the Buckeyes scoreless facing second-and-13 at the Penn State 31-yard line.
Enter Barrett — and the Ohio State offense came to life.
Elliott ran for six yards on second down, and Barrett took off on third-and-seven, racing toward the left sideline for a 12-yard gain. Elliott then picked up eight yards to set up Barrett’s five-yard touchdown run on the read option to give Ohio State a 7-3 lead.
“That’s what he does to their offense,” Penn State defensive end Garrett Sickels said. “It makes them more dynamic and gives them more options.”
The Buckeyes racked up 117 yards on the ground in the second quarter, led by the dynamic trio of Barrett, Elliott and wide receiver Braxton Miller. Miller took consecutive direct snaps, rushing for eight and 12 yards, to move Ohio State to the 10-yard line.
On first-and-goal, Elliott eluded a handful of tackles on his way to a touchdown to make it 14-3.
And the Buckeyes’ next drive ended on a 13-yard touchdown run by Barrett, who sliced through the defense after a play-action fake and into the end zone.
Ohio State took a 21-3 lead into halftime, thanks to Barrett’s play. He didn’t attempt a pass in the first half, but ran for 30 yards and two touchdowns on three carries.
“We prepared for both quarterbacks, and they’re a good team,” Reeder said. “When Barrett came in the game, we felt like we were prepared for that. We could have played his style a little bit better.”
Reeder said it was difficult to defend Barrett out of the read option.
“He’s a good player,” Reeder said. “Each person has a responsibility in the defense. We were prepared and we knew what he was capable of and we had a good scheme to defend it. We all have to do our job, and we know we can do better than we did today.”
Barrett finished the game 4 for 4 passing for 30 yards and two touchdowns, and Jones went 9 for 15 for 84 yards and was sacked twice.
Barrett executed a jump pass for a 5-yard touchdown to Miller, a play Ohio State coach Urban Meyer used during his time coaching Tim Tebow at Florida. That pushed the Buckeyes’ lead to 31-10 with 6:25 left in the fourth quarter.
More than two minutes later, he connected with Michael Thomas on a six-yard pass for the game’s final score.
The Buckeyes’ dual-threat quarterback was a difference maker in the 28-point victory.
“We game planned very well for both of them,” defensive end Carl Nassib said. “We lacked execution today.”