Oct. 4, 2014
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COLLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) – Thanks to a little experience and a spot of tea, J.T. Barrett slept better on his second trip to the state of Maryland as Ohio State’s starting quarterback.
And it showed.
About a month ago, Barrett was a bundle of nerves prepping for Navy after Braxton Miller was lost for the year after shoulder surgery. He did OK, but he was what he was — a redshirt freshman making his collegiate debut for a marquee program.
On Saturday, he returned and spoiled Maryland’s first home game as a member of the Big Ten, throwing for 267 yards with four touchdowns and running for 71 and a score in the No. 20 Buckeyes’ 52-24 win.
“He’s playing very well,” coach Urban Meyer said. “And the neat thing is, we can still get better.”
Barrett is starting to run Meyer’s score-all-the-time offense as if he’s been doing it forever. The Buckeyes (4-1, 1-0) scored on drives lasting 3:01, 3:27, 1:18, 1:46 and 0:05 to take a 31-10 halftime lead and hush the first sellout crowd at College Park in nearly six years. Ohio State has scored 168 points in three wins since losing to Virginia Tech, a stumble that now seems as distant as that Navy game that had Barrett so antsy.
Asked to compare the two, Barrett smiled.
“It was one of those deals, popping up in the middle of the night, I think I popped up at like 2 o’clock, 3 o’clock and, like, 5:30,” he said. “Just nervousness and having butterflies in my stomach. Compared to last night, you sleep easy. The thing I do now, I take the Sleepytime tea, so I go to sleep so I’m not sitting there with my thoughts at night. It’s way better than it was.”
Sleep was a major topic in general this week for Meyer, whose team had a noon kickoff at a stadium he had never seen. He put the players to bed at 9 p.m. Friday in an effort to eradicate what he called “that dullard look coming out of the locker room.”
“It’s 50-50 when you go on the road for a noon game,” Meyer said. “Sometimes it’s the middle of the first quarter before they wake up and that other team jumps on you. All of a sudden, it’s 7-0 and you’re playing uphill the entire game. We went nuts this week with that. Our coaching staff, I was grinding them pretty hard Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday about a fast start.”
They sure got it. The Buckeyes might have never played Maryland before, but they marched up and down the field as if they owned the place. The 51,802 fans, at least those rooting for the home team, must’ve wondered what their great conference shift had wrought.
The Terrapins (4-2, 1-1) had an impressive Big Ten debut win on the road the previous week at Indiana, but their top highlight Saturday was a school-record 57-yard field goal by Brad Craddock.
“Our guys know now that here’s the league that we’re in,” Maryland coach Randy Edsall said. “Between them and some of the other teams in our division, this is the standard-bearer.”
C.J. Brown started for Maryland despite leaving the Indiana victory with a sprained left wrist. He played the first half and was ineffective and often under pressure, completing 11 of 18 passes for 71 yards with three sacks. He also threw an interception deep in Terrapins territory late in the half.
For the second half, Edsall turned to Caleb Rowe. The coach said the move wasn’t injury-related and that he was going with a more traditional drop-back quarterback because he wanted to throw the ball more. Edsall said Brown made some poor decisions but added: “C.J.’s our quarterback.”
The change mattered little to the outcome. The Buckeyes went back to work making the Terrapins look like, well, terrapins. An 80-yard drive needed only four plays and 1:27 before Barrett hit Devin Smith for a 30-yard down-the-middle strike to make it a four-touchdown lead. Barrett later added a 9-yard scoring run to cap a 60-yard drive that took 4:02 off the clock.
Ezekiel Elliott finished with 139 yards on 24 carries for the Buckeyes, and the defense had four interceptions.
Rowe finished 13 for 22 for 173 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions, including one returned 19 yards by Raekwon McMillan for a Buckeyes score.
Nothing summed up the game better than the two coaches’ attitudes about their impending byes. Meyer wished his streaking Buckeyes didn’t have next week off. Edsall is welcoming it with open arms.
“We’re looking forward,” Edsall said, “to taking a deep breath.”