By: Michael Bohm
Quarterback JT Barrett and the Buckeyes maintained control over the Rutgers Scarlet Knights all night long under the lights. Yet, Ohio State’s offensive performance still had its moments of weakness against an inferior opponent, leaving a number of unanswered concerns out on the field Saturday night in their 56-0 victory.
Ohio State’s offense stalled on their first drive, but an unrelenting Silver Bullet defense picked up the slack and earned the Bucks plenty of opportunities to regain their confidence.
Tailback Mike Weber reached the end zone twice for the first two scores, asserting the absolute dominance of the power running game. Along with a recurring dose of Barrett and freshman sensation JK Dobbins sprinkled into the play-calling, the Buckeyes tallied 268 total yards rushing. Weber would also score a third touchdown in the second quarter to cap off a 35-0 lead.
The biggest anchor to Ohio State’s lingering struggles, the passing game, continued to show faults. While there were some occasional moments of positivity with Barrett’s deep ball, consistency remained a clear concern Saturday night. During the first half, Barrett found a wide-open Johnnie Dixon for a 70-yard score. On paper, pure brilliance, while in reality, Dixon had to stop in his tracks to pull it down before sprinting the rest of the way for six. On the bright side, the play calling of the Buckeyes’ first year offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson drew the coverage so far away from Dixon that it did not make a difference.
Dixon hauled in the very next score on a short pass over the middle followed by an impressive tip-toe down the sideline for 39 yards. Perhaps Barrett’s most encouraging pass, another connection with Dixon deep down the field, was called back on an offensive pass interference.
Receiver Benjamin Victor displayed great ability to use his height advantage over opposing defenders to bring down a couple of jump balls. The first, on a deep toss by Barrett that was only slightly under thrown, but enough to allow a Rutgers defender to catch up and prevent many yards after the catch.
The second, however, was a brilliant spinning catch followed by a fall passed the goal line for a 23-yard touchdown. Considering Victor’s 6’4” height, Barrett’s throw was not all that horrible, as it was placed where only Victor could reach the high-lobbed football. This put Ohio State up 42-0.
From there, it was backup signal caller Dwayne Haskins’ turn to lead the offense, capping off his second drive with a score after hitting running back Demario McCall in stride for the 35-yard score to go up 49-0.
With third-stringer Joe Burrow at the helm, McCall would also notch the final score, showcasing speed that made the defense look like slow motion on a 48-yard sprint to the end zone.
Meanwhile, for the Ohio State defense, things appeared too easy, shutting out the Scarlet Knights and only allowing 209 yards while picking off two passes. The Rutgers offense gave the two-quarterback system a go, but it made no difference, as the Scarlet Knights struggled to even pick up first down throughout the night. The pass rushing and run-stuffing were in peak form with few exceptions.
Advancing to 4-1, Ohio State hosts Maryland in their next matchup, looking to continue to build their momentum before the likes of Penn State come to Columbus in three weeks.