The largest crowd in Ohio Stadium history fell silent in the final minute. You could have heard a pass drop — and plenty did.
Ohio State, ranked eighth in the Associated Press poll and seventh in the Amway Coaches Poll, suffered its first loss in a home opener since 1978, falling 35-21 to Virginia Tech on Saturday in front of a crowd of 107,517. The Buckeyes’ 25-game regular-season winning streak ended, as did their streak of 64 straight regular-season home victories against non-conference, unranked opponents.
Not even the presence of Ohio State superfan LeBron James, who watched the whole game from the sideline, could provide enough boost to keep those streaks alive.
“I was surprised,” Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said. “I thought our skill guys would perform better. I thought we would protect better. I’m disappointed.
“Obviously, we just have to work a little harder. I still have confidence we have the skill to get by people. It didn’t look like it, but we have to get by people or you’re going to see what you saw today every week.”
In his second start, redshirt freshman J.T. Barrett struggled. He completed 9-of-29 passes for 219 yards with three interceptions and a touchdown pass. He rushed 25 times for 70 yards and was sacked seven times.
Despite those numbers, which came a week after he completed 12-of-15 passes for 226 yards in a 34-17 victory over Navy, Meyer described Barrett’s performance as gutsy.
Virginia Tech played a zero coverage defense, Meyer said, meaning they sent a bunch of defenders after Barrett and left their cornerbacks exposed. Had the Buckeyes been able to hit a few more long passes — and they did have a few — they would have had to change their defense.
Meyer made sure everyone knows the fault doesn’t lie with just the quarterback in this loss.
“I don’t think our wide receivers played well,” Meyer said. “We dropped a touchdown early in the game. You start hitting some of those like we did, it puts them in the zone coverage. … Gutsy effort by our quarterback. Obviously not good enough, but a quarterback is a product of those around him, and we all have to get better.
Barrett almost rallied Ohio State in the second half. The Buckeyes trailed 21-7 at halftime but tied the score with a 53-yard touchdown catch by Michael Thomas in the final minutes of the third quarter and then a 15-yard touchdown run by Ezekiel Elliott early in the fourth. Ohio State defensive lineman Joey Bosa forced a fumble that Middletown grad Rashad Frazier recovered in the red zone to set up the Ezekiel touchdown.
After Ohio State tied the score, the Hokies (2-0) regained the lead on their next possession with a 10-yard touchdown pass from Michael Brewer to Bucky Hodges with 8:44 left. Brewer completed 23-of-36 passes for 199 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions.
“It was hard to get to the quarterback since (Brewer) was getting the ball out so quickly,” linebacker Curtis Grant said. “We were coming, but it was hard to get to him when it felt like he was getting the ball out after three seconds.”
The Buckeyes got the ball back three more times with a chance to drive for the tying score. They went three-and-out on the first drive. The Hokies intercepted Barrett to end the last two drives.
Ohio State (1-1) returns to action at noon Saturday against Kent State at Ohio Stadium.
“It’s a long season and anything can happen,” linebacker Joshua Perry said. “There are a lot of games to be played across America, so we have to wait and see. We have to play Buckeye football and, if we do that, we will put ourselves in a situation for something. We don’t know what it is yet, but we’re hoping.”
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