ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer was not worried about injuries. He had no reason for concern. The game had not begun. Yet, nearing the game’s noon kickoff, he was told his quarterback, redshirt senior J.T. Barrett, was on the ground.
“I look on the sideline and he’s down,” Meyer said after his team’s 31-20 win against Michigan Saturday. “And I’m like, ‘What happened?’”
One of the hundreds of media members with cameras on the sidelines had hit his quarterback with a camera, knocking his knee, Meyer said with a rarely seen fury.
“Somebody just tried to squeeze through I guess just to not get close to our bench which is fine,” Barrett said. “I don’t really care as long as you don’t hit me, and he hit me and my knee kind of just shifted in and, like I said, twisted up on me and we were able to lock it out before the game, but that’s how it was.”
Meyer ominously said, with dozens of photographers and videographers in the press conference room, he plans to find out who hurt Barrett.
He seemed unable to comprehend how something like that could happen to his star quarterback, muttering “major college football” over and over.
“Too many damn people on the sideline,” Meyer said with disdain.
Meyer has reason for his anger. He was worried Barrett, who was looking to become the first quarterback in the history of the rivalry to win four games, would not be able to play through the injury.
But he sent Barrett into the game, anyway.
“He’s so tough, he went out there and played and obviously we didn’t do very well and then we got going and then tied things up at 14,” Meyer said.
In nearly three quarters behind center, Barrett completed just 3-of-8 passes for 30 yards. Without much success in the air, Barrett took to the Buckeyes’ ground attack. He had 15 rushes — third-most in any game this season — for 67 yards, including a 21-yard scramble for a touchdown in the second quarter.
He led two scoring drives, but Barrett also accumulated minus-three yards combined on his other seven drives as quarterback.
Then, with 6:07 remaining in the third quarter and his team down six points, Barrett fell to the ground after a 10-yard rush and the rowdy crowd quieted. Trainers helped Barrett up. But rather than have them look at him on the sideline, Barrett walked back to the locker room. His night was over. He returned to his team on the sideline in the fourth quarter, but did not have his helmet.
Meyer said Barrett’s knee “locked up” when the person with the camera hit the quarterback, but the trainers managed to “unlock” it. However, they could not manage to “unlock” it during the third quarter when Barrett reaggravated the injury, Meyer said.
“I mean before it happened the second time I looked like, running, cutting, playing, throwing the ball — like all that was fine, so it hasn’t affected me,” Barrett said. “It’s just in those little moments when it happens and then today I wasn’t able to pop it back in so it’s not injured.
“I’ll play next week,” Barrett added.
This was not the first time Barrett has aggravated his knee injury, he said. Barrett said he dealt with this injury earlier in the season in Ohio State’s 49-21 season-opening win against Indiana.
He said he has played with the issue for the entire year.
“When it happened in a game, I’d just lock my leg out and it’d pop back in and I’d continue to play,” Barrett said. “I didn’t need to go run into the trainer’s and tell anybody, like I was good and I felt fine running around cutting.
Meyer did not offer an update on Barrett’s status following the win against the Wolverines, unlike Barrett.
Whether Meyer makes the decision to start Barrett or replace him with Haskins next week, who looked solid in three drives that totalled 10 points, has not been determined.
Given Barrett’s experience, it is hard to imagine Meyer would turn to Haskins with the season winding down, especially since Barrett said he will play in the Big Ten championship game against Wisconsin on Saturday.
Barrett had not missed any snaps this season due to injury, so how someone with a camera running into him reaggravated the issue remains unclear. Meyer said he’s “going to find out who” injured Barrett and “think about that.”