ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — For J.T. Barrett, playing in the 93rd East-West Shrine game was more about showing what type of leader he is than impressing statistically.
“I think, at the end of the day, I wanted to show I could command the offense,” the Big Ten’s career total yardage leader said Saturday.
“I think that’s part of who I am, and at quarterback that’s what you need,” Barrett added. “I was able to do it at Ohio State, and I think I did a pretty good job this week of commanding the offense and owning it.”
Barrett completed a 30-yard pass to move the East into West territory, however his bid to pull off a comeback ended with four consecutive incompletions.
“Nic threw a great pass, and I couldn’t do anything but catch it,” said Dunbar, who had three receptions for 52 yards. “It was a play we tried a couple of times, and it was finally there. I’m just thankful to be in a position to do this.”
Wisconsin safety Natrell Jamerson returned Barrett’s early fumble 68 yards for the West’s other TD in the nation’s longest running college all-star game.
Barrett amassed 12,697 yards and accounted for 147 TDs in four seasons at Ohio State.
He wasn’t impressive statistically Saturday in trying to show he has what it takes to make a successful transition from a college spread offense to a pro-style system.
The former Buckeyes star did, however, shrug off his first-quarter turnover to throw a 4-yard scoring pass to Slippery Rock’s Marcus Martin that put the East ahead 10-7.
Northern Iowa’s Daurice Fountain had three catches for 61 yards and set up Barrett’s TD throw to Martin, the NCAA Division II sack leader and 2017 lineman of the year, with a 30-yard punt return and a 16-yard reception.
“A long time ago I heard Andrew Luck say, ‘You can’t go broke taking a profit.’ I didn’t want to get greedy and skip that first read, so with that, I took it, and our guy did a great job to catch it and score,” Barrett said of the completion to Martin, a defensive end in college who may have a future as a fullback.
“It felt amazing, it was something I always thought about and wanted to play, but in the offense we ran at Slippery Rock we didn’t really use a fullback,” Martin said. “I asked the coaches if they minded if I played some fullback, and I spent all week learning the playbook.”
Barrett said during the week that his main objective was to get better rather than prove anything to NFL scouts assembled for four days of practices and the game.
South Florida’s Quinton Flowers was another dual-threat quarterback expected to showcase his passing skills after excelling in a spread offense at USF. He practiced all week but withdrew from the game due to a death in his family.
Barrett completed 64.7 percent of his passes for 3,053 yards and 35 touchdowns, while also rushing for 798 yards and 12 scores in leading Ohio State to the Big Ten championship as a fifth-year senior.
He was just 5-of-12 for 69 yards passing Saturday and watched Jamerson return his first-quarter fumble up the sideline in front of the East bench for the game’s first TD.
“I saw the ball behind the line of scrimmage and I didn’t hear a whistle, so I just ran to the ball and scooped it up and went to the end zone,” Jamerson said.
With Flowers missing the game, Barrett shared playing time with Memphis’ Riley Ferguson, who set up a first-half field goal with a 38-yard completion to Fountain.
Fountain was chosen the game’s most outstanding offensive player. Jamerson received the award for most outstanding defensive player.