Cardale Jones must move the ball for top-ranked Ohio State
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) Now that Cardale Jones is starting at quarterback again for Ohio State, it will be his role to keep the ball moving not only down the field, but into the end zone.
Jones started the first seven games but was replaced by J.T. Barrett for the last game at Rutgers on Oct. 24, in part because Barrett does better in the red zone.
But now that Barrett is suspended for the home game this week against Minnesota after being cited Saturday night for operating a vehicle while impaired, the top-ranked Buckeyes (8-0, 4-0 Big Ten) will turn again to Jones, for at least one game. Jones is 10-0 as a starter the past two seasons.
Offensive coordinator Ed Warinner is well aware of Jones' struggles in the red zone and the fact the Barrett in the two games prior to Rutgers was inserted anytime Ohio State got near the opponent's goal line.
The Buckeyes have 15 touchdowns and a field goal in 18 trips inside the red zone the past three games after going 12 for 16 (six touchdowns) in the first five games.
Warinner doesn't expect the recent success to change even though the quarterback has.
''We feel like we have a good answer for the red zone right now, and we've kind of evolved into what we're going to do there, and we know what we can do,'' he said. ''(Jones) practices as part of that all through the last few weeks, even though J.T. has primarily done it. We'll use the things that play to his strengths.''
Barrett is a gifted runner who reads the option well but also can pull the ball back and toss a 30-yard scoring strike, as he did to Curtis Samuel in the 49-7 win against Rutgers.
Jones runs when needed but spends more time in the pocket and throws a better deep ball.
''They're a little bit different styles,'' coach Urban Meyer said. ''J.T., he's a little bit more a spread quarterback where he reads ends and Cardale, although he can do it, we have a little bit more drop-back pass game in.''
The question to be answered against the Gophers (4-4, 1-3) is who better suits the offense?
Even though Jones led Ohio State to the championship last season by winning the final three games after Barrett broke his ankle, the Buckeyes seem more in tune with Barrett this season.
He was on full display against Rutgers with 223 yards passing and 101 rushing yards. His dual-threat capabilities helped Ezekiel Elliott to his 13th straight 100-plus yards rushing game (142).
Left tackle Taylor Decker said Barrett will be missed during his one-game suspension but Jones will get the job done.
''I think it does affect the momentum because we were getting J.T. in there more and more and we were improving week to week,'' he said. ''At the same time, it just wasn't J.T. affecting our momentum. Everybody was playing better and better. We obviously know we have played really well with Cardale at times.''
The wild card in the quarterback derby is Braxton Miller. The former quarterback, now H back after shoulder surgery last year, will be the backup QB this week.
''He's a two-time Big Ten player of the year at quarterback,'' Decker said. ''That's all you need to say. The kid's a playmaker and he'll do whatever the team needs him to do.''
The Buckeyes unworldly depth at quarterback is a nightmare for Minnesota interim coach Tracy Claeys, who took over last week when Jerry Kill retired because of health reasons.
''The unknown is the role Braxton picks up from here on out because I'm sure they'll be something there,'' Claeys said. ''How we handle that will probably have a big part in the outcome of the game. We can set up here until midnight drawing up ways that they're going to get him the ball and may not be right on one of them.''