Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller's first college start, as a true freshman in Game 4 of the 2011 season, resulted in him having 166 yards of total offense and no TDs in a 37-17 win over Colorado.
Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett's first college start, on Saturday against Navy, resulted in him having 276 yards of total offense and a hand in two TDs in a 34-17 win over the Midshipmen.
Barrett, a redshirt freshman who became the Buckeyes' starter when Miller was lost for the season earlier this month with a shoulder injury, did a solid job in his first game; he didn't necessarily make a lot of splash plays, but he avoided mistakes. He was 12-of-15 for 226 yards and two TDs through the air, and he also rushed for 50 yards on nine carries.
The Buckeyes led 20-14 entering the fourth quarter and finally put the Midshipmen away with two scores. Ohio State's last TD came on a 9-yard pass from Barrett to Michael Thomas with a bit more than two minutes left. Barrett's other TD pass came on an 80-yarder to Devin Smith late in the third quarter that gave the Buckeyes the lead for good at 20-14.
Ohio State's defense is supposed to carry the team this season, especially with Miller out, but Navy's triple-option attack rolled up 370 rushing yards. But the Buckeyes' defensive line, which might be the best in the nation, kept Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds (23 carries but for just 42 yards) under control, and Navy's undersized defense eventually wore down.
Ohio State rushed for 195 yards, but the Buckeyes' longest run was just 20 yards and the ground game didn't look all that explosive without Carlos Hyde, who now is with the San Francisco 49ers. Ohio State had three running backs who received at least six carries, but none stood out. Going forward, that is something to keep an eye on. A committee approach with Miller wouldn't be worrisome because of Miller's running ability. But Barrett isn't nearly as good on the ground as Miller.
The Buckeyes play host to Virginia Tech next week, and the Hokies' defense will provide a much sterner test for Barrett, particularly their secondary, which is one of the top three in the nation.