Ohio State’s Tyquan Lewis, left, and J.T. Barrett celebrate after beating Michigan State. A 31-0 loss to Clemson in the season’s final game played a role in their decisions to return. ASSOCIATED PRESS
COLUMBUS — Officially, the Fiesta Bowl lasted exactly 3 hours, 23 minutes.
But for everyone on the visiting sideline, it felt like an eternity — and the wholly unpleasant experience weighed on the minds of two Ohio State captains who elected to return to school for their senior seasons.
Quarterback J.T. Barrett and defensive end Tyquan Lewis chose their final year at OSU against a shot at the National Football League, and the Buckeyes’ humiliating 31-0 defeat to eventual national champion Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl played a part in their decisions.
The unceremonious finish was not the only factor for the pair — both of whom are captains once again this spring — but it helped influence their thinking.
“I don’t like that sour feeling in my stomach, especially after losing like that,” Lewis said. “That was definitely on the list.”
Indeed, the Buckeyes’ showing against Clemson could not have gone much worse than it did.
Ohio State, which led the Big Ten in offense during the regular season, gained just 111 yards of total offense through three quarters, by which time the game was out of hand.
There were a number of superlatives for OSU, and none of them were good.
The 31-0 dredging was the first lifetime shutout at any level for Barrett, the first time an Urban Meyer-coached team failed to score a point, and the first shutout for any Ohio State football team in 23 years’ worth of games.
Clemson advanced and beat Alabama to win the national championship, though Barrett and Lewis didn’t want their last act at OSU to be the Fiesta Bowl disappointment.
“One of the main things that went into my decision to come back was it was really hard for me to leave Ohio State,” Barrett said. “That was, like, the worst game I’ve ever been a part of in my life.
“We didn’t score any points. I had never been shut out as the starting quarterback in my life. That was part of it.”
Both Barrett and Lewis have been mainstays for the Buckeyes in their careers.
Lewis has led Ohio State in sacks during both of the past two years, while Barrett has started for the majority of the past three seasons and broke the school record for total touchdowns in the process.
Yet as both looked toward the NFL, they believed they would be best served with one more season in college.
Particularly in Barrett’s case, he said the NFL’s opinion of him wasn’t high enough for him to leave early.
“With the NFL, the impression of me wasn’t where I wanted it to be,” Barrett said.
“Me playing quarterback, there were things out there that I could definitely enhance and improve. I think the better approach was to come back to Ohio State, a place that I love, and have an opportunity to win another national championship, and also enhance and improve my stock for the NFL.”
The Buckeyes already are the Las Vegas favorite to win the Big Ten next season and almost certainly will begin the year ranked in the top 10 once again.
As they prepare for one last chance at a second national title, Lewis said he’s confident he chose correctly.
“I had a lot to consider, the pros and cons of everything. I had to make the right decision, so I chose to come back,” Lewis said. “I felt like that was best for me.”