BALTIMORE — There might come a time when Ohio State coach Urban Meyer expands his offensive playbook to include various long passes, reverses and bootlegs.
Until his young quarterback gains confidence and his line grows up, the No. 5 Buckeyes will count on the kind of conservative game plan that proved good enough to beat Navy 34-17 on Saturday.
Redshirt freshman J.T. Barrett threw for 226 yards and two touchdowns in his college debut as Ohio State earned its 25th consecutive regular-season victory.
“The best thing about this game,” Meyer said, “is we won it and it’s in our rearview mirror.”
Elevated into a starting role after senior Braxton Miller injured his right shoulder two weeks ago, Barrett went 12 for 15 — including an 80-yard touchdown pass to Devin Smith that put the Buckeyes up 20-14 with 4:10 left in the third quarter.
Ohio State (1-0) managed two field goals in the first half. Although Barrett threw an ill-advised interception, he wasn’t entirely to blame for the poor showing.
“We wanted to open it up a little bit more in the first half but we didn’t. It wasn’t because of him; it was because of our offensive line,” Meyer said. “There’s a standard set for offensive line play for many, many years. It didn’t resemble an offensive line at Ohio State the first two quarters.”
Ohio State won despite allowing the Midshipmen (0-1) to gain 370 yards on the ground, including 118 by Ryan Williams-Jenkins. But a Navy fumble turned into an OSU touchdown and a blown coverage assignment by the Midshipmen led to the pivotal 80-yard score.
Barrett became the second freshman since 1950 to start a season opener at quarterback for Ohio State. He ran nine times for 50 yards, did not throw downfield often and relied heavily on a ground game that finally wore down the Midshipmen in the fourth quarter.
“It was better at the end than the start,” Barrett said.
After Navy closed to 20-17 with 13:54 remaining, the Buckeyes launched a 10-play drive that featured just one pass. Ezekiel Elliott converted a fourth-and-1 from the Navy 45 and Barrett threw a 19-yard completion before Elliott ran in from the 10.
Barrett’s 9-yard touchdown pass to Mike Thomas made it 34-17 with 2:09 left, and Meyer could finally breathe easy.
NO. 7 UCLA 28, VIRGINIA 20: In Charlottesville, seventh-ranked UCLA scored three defensive touchdowns in the second quarter and quarterback Brett Hundley led them on a critical second-half scoring drive as the Bruins escaped Virginia 28-20 in the opener for both teams.
Hundley, widely regarded as one of the nation’s top quarterbacks, was harassed all day by Virginia’s pressure defense, which sacked him five times, and made the biggest play of the day for UCLA with his feet. It came on a 6-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter when safety Quin Blanding met him around the 3 yard-line, and Hundley overpowered him.
NO. 11 STANFORD 45, UC DAVIS 0: In Stanford, California, Ty Montgomery returned his first career punt for a touchdown and caught five passes for 77 yards and another score as the Cardinal tuned up for a date with No. 15 USC next week.
The All-America kick returner, who was cleared to play earlier this week after offseason surgery on his right shoulder, looked ready to be the Cardinal’s do-it-all playmaker again. He ran his first punt back 60 yards for a TD and lined up all over the field, including once as a wildcat quarterback.
No. 15 Southern Cal 52, Fresno State 13: In Los Angeles, Cody Kessler threw for 394 yards and four touchdowns as Southern California won 52-13 in Steve Sarkisian’s debut as the Trojans’ head coach. The Trojans ran a school- and Pac-12 record 105 plays while racking up 37 first downs and 702 yards of total offense to Fresno State’s 16 first downs and 315 yards. In all, 10 different Trojans caught passes. For the Bulldogs, the loss was the third straight in the series with USC.
No. 17 NOTRE DAME 48, RICE 17: In South Bend, Indiana, Everett Golson threw touchdown passes of 75 and 53 yards and ran for three more scores in his return after missing the 2013 season for academic impropriety.
Golson was 14-of-22 passing for 295 yards and ran for 41 yards on 12 carries. He also had two near-misses on long pass attempts. He scored on an 11-yard run on a planned keeper, a 14-yard scramble and a 4-yard run on a blown handoff.
The Irish opened the season without five players who are scheduled to appear before the school’s honor code committee after being investigated for possible cheating. It was the sixth straight season-opening loss for the Owls.
NO. 20 KANSAS STATE 55, STEPHEN F. AUSTIN 16: In Manhattan, Kansas, Jake Waters threw for 223 yards and accounted for four touchdowns and Charles Jones ran for a pair of scores for Kansas State.
Waters threw touchdown passes to Tyler Lockett and Kody Cook while also running for two touchdowns as the Wildcats improved to 21-2 in season openers under longtime coach Bill Snyder.
The road is about to get tougher. Kansas State travels to Iowa State to open Big 12 play next weekend. Then comes a game against sixth-ranked Auburn at Bill Snyder Family Stadium.
NO. 22 NEBRASKA 55, FAU 7: In Lincoln, Nebraska, Ameer Abdullah ran for a career-high 232 yards, and Tommy Armstrong Jr. passed for a career-high 271 yards and two touchdowns.
The Cornhuskers rushed for 498 of their 784 total yards and won their 29th straight opener, the longest streak in the nation.
Abdullah had 178 yards by halftime while becoming the eighth Nebraska player to go over 3,000 yards rushing in a career. Terrell Newby added 107 rushing yards.
Florida Atlantic, with first-year coach Charlie Partridge, was paid $1 million to visit Lincoln and will get another $1 million for playing at No. 2 Alabama next week.
About the only negative for Nebraska was the loss of star defensive end Randy Gregory, who went out with a left leg injury in the first quarter and was in street clothes for the second half.
No. 23 North Carolina 56, Liberty 29: In Chapel Hill, North Carolina, Marquise Williams accounted for four touchdowns, and Jeff Schoettmer returned an interception for a score during North Carolina’s game-turning flurry.
Schoettmer’s 19-yard return came during a run of four touchdowns in less than 4 minutes.