This whole red-zone quarterback thing is working well for Urban Meyer and Ohio State.
Meyer's strategy of utilizing J.T. Barrett once the Buckeyes reach the red zone has paid huge dividends in recent weeks, with Barrett accounting for four total touchdowns in Ohio State's 38-10 win over Penn State on Saturday night at Ohio Stadium.
The Nittany Lions had a 3-0 lead after a quarter, sparking the weekly panic over the Buckeyes' offense. But things changed in a hurry — another weekly tradition — with Barrett and Ezekiel Elliott teaming for a trio of touchdown runs in the second quarter.
Christian Hackenberg and the Lions showed a little bit of life to open the second half, with Hackenberg hitting Chris Godwin for a 56-yard gain and following that up with a screen pass to DaeSean Hamilton for a touchdown. But the Buckeyes got a field goal from Jack Willoughby and a jump-pass touchdown toss from Barrett to Braxton Miller in the fourth quarter, the latter reminding everyone of Meyer's former charge at Florida, Tim Tebow. Barrett pitched another touchdown throw after the Buckeyes' defense gave him a short field when recovering a Hackenberg fumble in the fourth quarter.
Barrett and Elliott made for a fearsome rushing tandem, combining for 255 yards. Elliott had 153 of those for his 12th straight game of more than 100 yards. He's rushed for triple-digit yardage in 16 of his last 19 games. Barrett went for 102 yards, doing almost all his damage with his legs, as he only threw four passes (two went for touchdowns). Cardale Jones, the Buckeyes' starting quarterback and quarterback for the other 80 yards of the field, completed nine passes for 84 yards.
While Barrett and Elliott had big nights, perhaps the most impressive offensive performance came from Penn State's Saquon Barkley, the freshman running back back in action after sitting out the last two games with an injury. Barkley toted the ball 26 times for a jaw-dropping 194 yards against a talented Ohio State defense. The youngster has proven himself far and away the most effective weapon on Penn State's offense, and he makes them a different unit when he's on the field and getting the ball. That being said, Saturday there was just too much for the Lions to overcome when it came to posing a challenge to the nation's No. 1 team.
The Buckeyes improved to a perfect 7-0 with the win and will likely remain atop the rankings. The Lions dropped to 5-2 with the loss.
Tough news out of Evanston this morning: Northwestern announced that running back Jeremy Larkin will retire immediately after being diagnosed with cervical stenosis.
Cervical stenois is the narrowing of the spinal canal in one's neck, according to Mayo Clinic. Larkin's condition is thankfully not life-threatening, though it does prevent him from continuing to participate in the game of football.
"Football has been a lifelong passion and it has been a process to reconcile the fact I won't be on that field again, given I've played this game since I was five years old," Larkin said.
"I'm extremely appreciative of the Northwestern sports medicine and athletic training staffs for uncovering this condition, and for my coaches and the medical staff for always putting my health first.
"I came to this University to engage at the absolute highest level on the field and in the classroom, and I'm grateful for the opportunity to continue one of those while supporting my teammates from the sideline."
Head Coach Pat Fitzgerald called the news "heartbreaking."
"This is heartbreaking because I see every day how much Jeremy loves the game, loves his teammates, and loves to compete," Fitzgerald said in a statement. "But this is the absolute best possible outcome for him.
"The discovery of this condition allowed Jeremy and his family to make an informed decision for his long-term health and well-being. For those of us who have known Jeremy Larkin since his high school days, his future is exceptionally bright. I can't wait to see the impact he makes in our world."
Larkin is a sophomore from Cincinnati. He finishes his Northwestern career with 156 carries for 849 yards and 10 rushing touchdowns.
Former University of Illinois tennis star Kevin Anderson completed a marathon upset against an all-time great on the highest stage of professional tennis.
Anderson came back from two sets down to beat Roger Federer in Wimbledon’s quarterfinals 2-6, 6-7, 7-6, 6-4, 13-11 on Wednesday morning. He will play in the semifinals of the tournament for the first time in his career.
As a native of South Africa, Anderson played three seasons with the Fighting Illini and won the NCAA doubles championship during the 2005-06 season as a sophomore. The 32-year-old was a three-time All-American in singles at Illinois.
Now, as the eighth ranked singles player on the ATP World Tour, Anderson is a force to be reckoned with at the professional level. He made it all the way to the US Open final in 2017.
The former Illini star will look to keep his recent success going when he represents Illinois in the semifinals of Wimbledon this Friday.