COLUMBUS, Ohio — Surely, you’ve seen the video by now.
In the Planet Earth II documentary, an iguana hatchling spends two minutes outracing dozens of horrifyingly fast-moving snakes. Naturally, it doesn’t look good for the iguana most of the way. At one point, he’s wrapped up by, oh, six of the serpents. Upon freeing himself, all he has to do is outclimb even more snakes, which have suddenly gained the ability to scale cliffs. However, none of that was enough to stop him.
Watch for yourself – it was quite the feat.
— ✏️ (@MrLukeJohnston) November 7, 2016
For Ohio State fans, it may have conjured feelings of déjà vu.
Against Penn State, whose defensive line bore down for four full quarters, OSU quarterback J.T. Barrett got a chance to showcase his escapability. Even for Barrett, who had shown such skill throughout the season, the game against the Nittany Lions featured an insane display of awareness and athleticism. One play in particular illustrated just how adept he is at making plays amid chaos.
With less than three minutes left in the second quarter, Ohio State had the ball at its own 49. It was first-and-10, and the Buckeyes were looking to extend a 6-0 lead before halftime. Barrett dropped back, and three Nittany Lions immediately surrounded him. A 9-yard sack appeared imminent.
Much like the iguana, who at the 1:35 mark found himself wrapped up by half a dozen snakes, Barrett was in a bit of trouble. And then — boom — a breakthrough.
First down, Ohio State.
Barrett has continued to make plays like that throughout the season. His mobility advantage is not so much as a runner but as someone who can avoid the pass rush and extend a play. The aforementioned play led to a 19-yard rush, but there have been plenty of touchdown passes that started with Barrett ducking out of the grasp of a defensive end.
“He’s really good,” Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said. “He did that in high school. He’s strong, is what he is. He’s very strong and twitched up, and he’s amazing at some of that. He gets out of those things.”
He’ll likely need to call upon those skills at some other point this season. His elusiveness has helped an inexperienced offensive line rank 19th nationally in fewest sacks allowed, but there will be bigger challenges. Maryland’s defense is 50th in sacks, and Michigan’s is seventh. (Michigan State, inexplicably, ranks third-to-last at 125.)
“I just try to do my best to make sure we don’t have those negative plays,” Barrett said.
For Ohio State — and for iguanas — that’s been a winning formula.