ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Another backup quarterback saved The Game for Ohio State.
Dwayne Haskins might just get the chance to follow that blueprint all the way to a national championship.
Maybe it was fitting that Cardale Jones showed up on the sideline on Saturday at the Big House, since the echoes of history repeating itself were hard to ignore in the greatest rivalry in college football.
There was Ohio State’s chance at beating Michigan dangling with J.T. Barrett on the field with an apparent leg injury. The shot at the College Football Playoff was in serious jeopardy, and the Buckeyes were once again being forced to turn to a guy who started the season as a third-string quarterback to deliver when the stakes were at the highest.
Just like 2014, the Buckeyes had a strong-armed closer in the bullpen capable of finishing off the Wolverines, this time by a 31-20 score. And while Barrett’s status will be the most closely monitored situation in Columbus for the next week ahead of the Big Ten Championship Game, Haskins quickly proved that he wouldn’t back down from even the most monumental of challenges.
Down by a touchdown. Coming off the bench cold and on the road. Taking on a stingy Michigan defense that had made life miserable even for the full-strength Buckeyes.
All Haskins did was complete a clutch third-and-13 throw to Austin Mack for a critical conversion. Show off his mobility with a 22-yard scramble, setting up J.K. Dobbins for a go-ahead touchdown. And make his introduction to The Game one of the most memorable in series history.
Now, if Barrett is seriously injured, all Haskins has to do is follow that up by leading the Buckeyes against unbeaten Wisconsin with a Big Ten championship on the line.
No pressure, right? By the looks of it, the rocket-fueled redshirt freshman doesn’t feel any.
Take some time to appreciate what Barrett has provided not only throughout his decorated career but also the work he did to lead the comeback from the early 14-point hole on Saturday. His performance as a freshman often is overshadowed by the season-ending fractured ankle and the emergence of Jones during the postseason. But just like in that game, Ohio State would have never been in position to beat the Wolverines on Saturday without the three-time captain steadying the ship in the first half.
How long will Barrett be out now? That’s the championship question for the Buckeyes in the days ahead.
But with the starter on the shelf, Ohio State once again had a Game-winner ready in reserve.