(AP) – Urban Meyer has heard others say his team is too young, or that it was crippled by the loss of two-time Big Ten player of the year Braxton Miller.
He doesn’t buy it.
After the Buckeyes came back from a slow start to beat Navy 34-17 in their opener, Meyer said he doesn’t want to hear anything more about inexperience or adversity as No. 8 Ohio State prepares for Saturday night’s big showdown against visiting Virginia Tech.
”They’re veteran players now,” he said Monday of those who saw their first college action last Saturday. ”Enough with the excuses and get going.”
The Buckeyes trailed 7-6 at the half and by a point midway through the third quarter. But they pulled away late behind some big plays by the defense and by Miller’s replacement at quarterback, freshman J.T. Barrett.
Barrett, in his first college game, completed 12 of 15 passes for 226 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran for 50 yards and was honored by the Big Ten as one of its freshmen of the week.
He gave himself a stern talking to after throwing an interception while Ohio State was on the march inside the Navy 10 midway through the second quarter.
”After the interception, I was, like, `J.T., you know you shouldn’t have thrown it, but you still threw it and now you’ve got make up for it,”’ Barrett said later.
For a 19-year-old playing his first game since midway through his senior season at Wichita Falls (Texas) Rider High, Barrett was solid. He became the second Ohio State freshman to start at quarterback in a season opener since 1950.
Asked how Barrett has to improve against the Hokies, Meyer hesitated.
”I’m just trying to think of the mistakes he made,” Meyer said. ”He’s just not the dynamic guy. I wouldn’t mind, when he decides to run, to really go. But he played pretty well.”
The Hokies are no stranger to the big stage, but they’ve struggled to show they belong in recent years. Since winning 10 of 15 games against ranked opponents from 2008-11, they have lost six of the last seven.
Texas Tech transfer Michael Brewer figures they could change that in one night. The Buckeyes have won 25 consecutive regular-season games, the longest streak in the nation, and 64 in a row at home against unranked nonconference opponents.
”That would be huge,” Brewer said. ”It’s going to be a tough matchup. We know that going in, but I’m excited about the challenge and the task at hand. This is what college football is all about.”
The Hokies showed signs of more consistent offense in their 34-9 victory against William & Mary in last Saturday’s opener, with Brewer connecting on 23 of 30 passes for 251 yards with two touchdowns and an interception.
The meeting will be the first between the schools, and Buckeyes linebacker Darron Lee said seeing Brewer in the pocket will be a welcome relief for the defense after opening against Navy’s run game.
”I’m sure the D-line’s really happy that they get to pass rush now as opposed to taking on double-teams all day,” Lee said. ”It’s a bit of relief, not so much a specific job description as it was for Navy.”
Hokies coach Frank Beamer, in his 28th season, has long believed that a team makes it largest improvement from Week 1 to Week 2, and going from an FCS school to the Buckeyes requires it.
”Their defensive front, I’m not sure anybody’s better in the country,” Beamer said, adding that Ohio State, across its depth chart, ”certainly has the talent of a national championship team.”
If Barrett got a passing grade in his debut, Meyer wasn’t thrilled with the play of those blocking for him. The offensive line, with four new starters, was average for the most part except for a couple of key plays that turned the tide in the second half as Ohio State scored 21 of the final 24 points.
Having finally gotten a look at their growth chart, now the Buckeyes must tweak things so that everybody is on an upward arc.
”It’s not just J.T. When we say expand the play book, it’s for J.T. and it’s for the offensive line,” Meyer said. ”Once those two groups come together, which I’m expecting that to happen rather quickly … well, it better or we won’t win this (Virginia Tech) game.”