The fastest quarterback on Ohio State’s roster wasn’t on the field Saturday in Minneapolis, and J.T. Barrett is willing to admit it.
“I feel like I have the ability to run, but I definitely don’t have crazy breakaway speed like Braxton (Miller),” the redshirt-freshman Barrett said after the Buckeyes’ 31-24 win against Minnesota.
But his lack of breakaway speed didn’t quite keep Barrett from breaking multiple rushing records that were previously held by currently injured senior quarterback Miller. The Wichita Falls, Texas, native opened his assault on the OSU record books with an 86-yard touchdown run in the first quarter, marking the longest run by a Buckeye quarterback in program history.
“J.T. Barrett took one 86 yards. Pretty good for a guy who runs a 5.5 (second) 40,” coach Urban Meyer joked after the game.
Barrett has the speed to run a faster 40-yard dash than Meyer suggested, but it took every effort for him to break Miller’s previous record of 81 yards.
The play added 86 yards to his season statline, but Barrett ran much more than that as he bounced the ball out to the left sideline before he cut back across the field and scored in the right corner of the end zone.
While the long run might have come as a surprise, co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Tom Herman said Barrett makes up for what he lacks in straight line speed when he steps on the field.
“He is deceptively fast, whatever that means,” Herman said after the game. “I know this, he’s a guy that can certainly run when the pads come on. There’s track guys, and there’s guys with football speed. I think he’s got really good, efficient football speed.”
On top of the long touchdown, Barrett also used what speed he has to break Miller’s single-game rushing record for a quarterback by piling up 189 yards on the ground.
Sophomore running back Ezekiel Elliott agreed with Herman that deception was the key to Barrett’s running, adding that the quarterback is “sneaky” when his legs get going.
“It doesn’t seem like he has that much speed, but somehow he always seems to break away,” Elliott said after he finished second on the team to Barrett with 91 rushing yards. “He has some nice moves in the open field.”
But running ability aside — at least partially — the Rider High School product also used his arm to break yet another Miller record against the Golden Gophers.
Barrett’s 30-yard strike to redshirt-sophomore wide receiver Michael Thomas in the third quarter was his 28th touchdown pass of the season. Coupled with nine rushing touchdowns, that gave him 37 total touchdowns on the season. The previous record was 36 — set by Miller just last season.
Not only did Barrett break the record, but he added another touchdown later in the game to extend his mark, and he’s done it in just 10 games.
Many might not have expected Barrett to put up Miller-like numbers — or now even better numbers — when he took over the starting job after the incumbent went down with a torn labrum during fall camp. Meyer noted he didn’t know exactly what to expect at the beginning of the season, but added Barrett has proven himself now.
“Early in the season, we had no idea who J.T. Barrett was. We have a very clear picture now,” Meyer said.
The third-year OSU coach added that his quarterback’s development has proven he’s a player the Buckeyes can lean on — alongside Elliott — on offense.
“Well, I think you can tell the kind of trust we have in him,” Meyer said. “In that kind of environment, you have to really hand pick who’s gonna touch the ball. We have a lot of confidence in (Elliott) and we have a lot of confidence in J.T.”
In total, Barrett carried the ball 17 times and threw it 25 times against the Golden Gophers. He completed 15 of those pass attempts for 200 yards and three scores, totaling 389 yards of total offense.
His final touchdown of the day — a 22-yard catch-and-run from senior wide receiver Evan Spencer — put Barrett close to yet another program best.
It was his 29th touchdown pass of the season, putting him within one of the record set by Troy Smith during his Heisman Trophy winning season in 2006.
But while Barrett has earned recognition for his numbers and records, he said the success of the team is his No. 1 priority.
“My mindset all the time is to win games. Individual accolades have come with that,” he said. “But I focus on winning the game.”
Barrett’s next swing at the record books is set to come on Saturday against the Indiana Hoosiers — who have given up an average of 432.7 yards per game this season — at Ohio Stadium. Kickoff is set for noon.