By Jim Naveau
COLUMBUS — It’s still Cardale Jones’ job.
Urban Meyer considered changing quarterbacks during Ohio State’s season opener at Virginia Tech and did send J.T. Barrett in for two offensive series in the second quarter in the home opener against Hawaii last Saturday.
But Jones will still be the starter when No. 1 Ohio State (2-0) takes on Northern Illinois (2-0) at 3:30 p.m. Saturday in Ohio Stadium.
“Cardale is the starting quarterback. I met with him yesterday. J.T. has not beat him out yet,” Meyer said on Monday at his weekly press conference. “He’s going to continue to have opportunities to do that because J.T. is a very good player and Cardale’s got to perform.
“Neither played that well Saturday, but a lot of it was extenuating circumstances about protection. We just didn’t play very well,” Meyer said.
Jones completed 12 of 18 passes for 111 yards and no touchdowns in a 38-0 win over Hawaii. Barrett hit 8 of 15 for 70 yards and no TDs.
Asked if he was disappointed how Jones and Barrett played, Meyer said, “I don’t think disappointed is the right word. I think we have two excellent quarterbacks, and I expect them to play very well. Neither of them played very well Saturday. Disappointment, I don’t like that word. We’ve just got to better prepare them.”
Barrett and Jones were part of a general offensive malaise for Ohio State against Hawaii. OSU led only 17-0 before scoring three touchdowns in the final 9:07 of the game and had more than 200 fewer yards total offense than it did against Virginia Tech.
Meyer’s message to the team after the game was that even though they needed to play better, a 38-point win should always be celebrated, even if there were some flaws in the performance which produced that victory.
“The first thing he said when he came into the locker room was, ‘How cool is it to be at a place where you win 38-0 and we’re upset with that?’ ” offensive tackle Taylor Decker said.
When he talked about the need to improve on Monday, Meyer’s first target was the offensive line, a position group that has been almost universally praised since last season’s postseason run to the national championship.
“The offenive line gets a lot of credit around here. We are an offensive line driven, absolutely offensive line driven, program. Our success over the last three years and two games is because of our offensive line, and with that comes a lot of responsibility. We expect them to play much better. “Is that putting it all on them? No, but when we play well, I put it all on them too. So we’ve just got to play better. And the great thing is I have an excellent line coach and excellent players, and I imagine they’re going to have a great week,” Meyer said.
NO DUEL WITH BIELEMA: Meyer passed on the chance to comment about the relative strength of conferences, which became a hot topic when Arkansas coach Bret Bielema criticized Ohio State’s schedule and then saw his team lose to Toledo last week.
“I don’t have any idea. I don’t know where people have time to do all that. I don’t know anyone else’s schedule. I don’t care,” he said.
WEBER HEALTHY: Freshman running back Mike Weber, who was pushing for playing time before suffering a torn meniscus in training camp, is expected to be ready to play on Saturday.
“Mike Weber should be coming back this week,” Meyer said.
PLAYERS OF THE GAME: Safety Vonn Bell (interception, touchdown on a fumble recovery) and linebacker Darron Lee (two sacks, forced fumble) shared defensive Player of the Game honors for the Hawaii game.
Running back Ezekiel Elliott (101 yards on 27 carries, three touchdowns) was the Offensive Player of the Game.
“He played outstanding, he especially ran hard, but then also he’s the best back in the country without the ball in his hand. And he’s pretty damn good with it in his hand too,” Meyer said about Elliott.
BIGGEST IMPROVEMENTS: Meyer said starting cornerback Gareon Conley and receivers Parris Campbell and Terry McLaurin have made the most improvement between their freshman year and their second year in the program.
HURT AGAIN: Linebacker Kyle Berger, a 4-star recruit in the 2014 recruiting class who suffered a torn ACL in his left knee twice, is battling a problem in that knee again.
“He tweaked his knee again. He isn’t practicing,” Meyer said.
Reach Jim Naveau at (567) 242-0414 or follow him on Twitter at @Lima_Naveau.