COLUMBUS – There is precedent for Ohio State’s hope that history might repeat itself.
After a shaky performance in which it surrendered seven sacks in an early loss to Virginia Tech in 2014, Ohio State’s offensive line turned into a dominant group toward the end of the Buckeyes’ national championship season.
Since allowing six sacks in an unexpected loss two weeks ago at Penn State, this year’s offensive line allowed one sack in a 24-20 win over Northwestern and didn’t not give up a sack in a 62-3 win over Nebraska last Saturday night.
“Everything was just clicking on every cylinder on Saturday night,” OSU center Pat Elflein said about the win over Nebraska.
Quarterback J.T. Barrett called the offensive line “the main thing” in the Buckeyes putting 62 points on the scoreboard.
“When it was a pass I was able to distribute the ball. When I was running, they were driving those guys off the ball. When the offensive line plays like that, that’s when you have games like that,” he said.
Like in 2014, this year’s offensive line came into the season with a majority of the starters in their first year in the lineup.
In 2014, Taylor Decker was the only returning starter. This year, guard Billy Price and Elflein at center are the only returning starters. Left tackle Jamarco Jones, right tackle Isaiah Prince and freshman Michael Jordan at guard are all new.
“We kind of dropped the ball a little bit. We had a rough game. That’s not who we are,” Jones, a junior from Chicago, said about the Penn State game.
“We protect the quarterback and we run the ball. We take pride in that. We had to regroup and get ready for the next game (Northwestern) and the one last week (Nebraska).
“It was small things we were doing wrong that were fixable. It wasn’t like major things, it was small things but they all came out at one point. You don’t want that to happen. It’s kind of a good thing it happened because it came out early. Better early in the season than later,” he said.
Jones arrived as a 4-star recruit but had to wait his turn to start. He says he made good use of his two years as a back-up.
“I feel like I have a pretty good grasp. I felt last year I was prepared. I prepared every game because I never knew if my number might need to be called, but it never had to be last year.
“That helped me a lot. This is my first year starting but the coaches rely on me a lot because I’m an older guy and I know the playbook really well and stuff like that,” he said.
Like in 2014, Ohio State knows it has no margin for error if it wants to get to the Big Ten championship game and possibly the College Football Playoff. The next step toward those goals will be a game at Maryland on Saturday.
“Coach Meyer does a really good job of making sure we focus on each opponent. We can’t look past anybody, especially because we’ve already taken a loss this year,” Jones said. “It just shows you that you can’t look past anybody.”
• MENTOR-STUDENT AGAIN: Meyer will be coaching against a former assistant for the second time this season when Ohio State plays at Maryland on Saturday.
Maryland head coach D.J. Durkin was a graduate assistant with Meyer at Bowling Green and then was a special teams coordinator for him at Florida. Earlier this year, he coached against former OSU assistant Chris Ash when the Buckeyes played Rutgers.
Meyer said he spotted Durkin as a coach to watch right away. “I immediately gave him full-time responsibility after the first few weeks we were together. I left to go to Utah, but I had plans to hire him full time immediately after that first year,” he said.
Durkin is in his first season as Maryland’s coach. He was Michigan’s defensive coordinator last season. The Terrapins (5-4, 2-4 Big Ten) will take on Ohio State (8-1, 6-0) at 3:30 p.m. Saturday in College Park, Md.
• A COUPLE OF TEXANS: OSU quarterback J.T. Barrett, who grew up in Wichita Falls, Kan., needs two more touchdowns to pass fellow Texan Drew Brees for the most touchdowns responsible for in the Big Ten. Barrett has 94 combined passing and rushing touchdowns, one behind Brees’ total of 95.
“That’s just crazy to think about,” Barrett said earlier this week about passing Brees. “If you had told me when I was a sophomore in high school, ‘J.T., you’re going to be doing this,’ I’d have called you a liar or I just wouldn’t have believed you. It’s going to be an honor. I’m not going to take that lightly.”
• NO FRIDAYS FOR OSU: Ohio State was not among the teams on the schedule of Friday night games in the Big Ten in 2017, which was announced on Tuesday.
The schedule starts with two games on Sept. 1, Washington at Rutgers and Utah State at Wisconsin. On Sept. 8, Ohio University will play at Purdue. Nebraska will go to Illinois on Sept. 29 and Northwestern will play on a Friday twice in three weeks, going to Maryland on Oct. 13, then having a home game against Michigan State on Oct. 27.
Reach Jim Naveau at 567-242-0414 or on Twitter at @Lima_Naveau.