Buckeyes turn to new QB for Big Ten championship

Published 12:23 am Monday, December 1, 2014

COLUMBUS (AP) — For the second time in four months, Ohio State is turning to a backup quarterback to lead the way because of a season-ending injury to the starter.

Coach Urban Meyer will go with Cardale Jones, replacing Heisman candidate J.T. Barrett who broke his ankle in Saturday’s win over Michigan, when the sixth-ranked Buckeyes (11-1, 8-0 Big Ten, No. 6 CFP) take on No. 11 Wisconsin (10-2, 7-1, No. 16 CFP) on Saturday in the Big Ten championship game.

“It’s his show,” Meyer said Sunday of Jones. “He’s got the keys to the car.”

Email newsletter signup

Braxton Miller, the Buckeyes’ three-year starter and two-time Big Ten MVP, was lost for the year two weeks before the season opener against Navy when he re-injured his right (throwing) shoulder, requiring surgery. Barrett, a redshirt freshman, was named the starter ahead of Jones, who had the edge as the backup coming into fall drills.

By any measure, Barrett had a spectacular season.

He set an Ohio State record for touchdown passes (34) and broke the conference record held by Purdue’s Drew Brees with 43 touchdowns running or passing in a season.

But on the first play of the fourth quarter in Saturday’s 42-28 win over archrival Michigan on Saturday. Barrett carried and was hit at the line, his body twisting as he went down, with his right leg buckling underneath him.

After being carted off the field, he was diagnosed with a broken ankle and underwent surgery on Sunday that will keep him out of not only the Big Ten title game but also any subsequent bowl or playoff game for the Buckeyes. Meyer said on Sunday that Barrett will be permitted to go through limited workouts in the spring — when Miller should also be available.

The loss of Barrett rocked Ohio State, but Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen didn’t know a thing about the injury until he got home after the Badgers’ West Division-clinching, 34-24 victory over Minnesota on Saturday night.

“(I’m sitting) on the couch and within 5 minutes my youngest son had pulled up the highlight video and showed me how great (Jones) was in high school,” Andersen said, laughing. “He throws that in front of me and says, ‘Dad, this guy is really good.’ First time it’s happened. Good scouting on him, I guess.”

Not so long ago, Jones was considered a longshot to even stay on Ohio State’s roster for long. In October of 2012, Meyer’s first season with the Buckeyes, Jones posted on his Twitter account, “Why should we have to go to class if we came here to play FOOTBALL, we ain’t come to play SCHOOL classes are POINTLESS.”

Multiple media outlets picked up the tweet before it, and Jones’ account, were deleted. Meyer suspended him immediately, saying “(a) very ignorant comment, but that’s a 19-year-old making an ignorant comment.”

Meyer said Sunday that Jones had difficulties academically in addition to other problems.

“He was a very talented guy, but just a mess,” said Meyer, who added that he had several meetings with Jones family that “weren’t pleasant.”

Meyer said Jones has made immeasurable progress maturing since that mistake on social media.

“I noticed last year a complete transformation from this very immature person, not just player, (but immature) person, to a much more mature one,” Meyer said. “He really started to handle his business.”

A couple of things are in the Buckeyes’ favor in this most recent transition. First, Jones is a redshirt sophomore and knows the playbook and knows what’s expected of him. Second, he now has a more experienced cast of teammates around him.

Andersen, a former assistant under Meyer at Utah, said the Badgers’ preparation won’t be affected by the change at quarterback by the Buckeyes.

“I’m sure Ohio State is going to stay within their offensive scheme and do what they do,” he said.


Follow Rusty Miller on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/RustyMillerAP