Notebook: Rutgers leaves Columbus with no small victories to show for in 58-point loss to No. 2 Ohio State
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Pitted up against a potent Ohio State offense Saturday at Ohio Stadium, the Rutgers football team couldn't have asked for a better start from its defense.
After forcing the Scarlet Knights into a punt on the game's first drive, Heisman Trophy candidate J.T. Barrett and the No. 2 Buckeyes set up shop at their own 9-yard line. Through six plays, Ohio State moved the ball out to its own 41, setting itself up with a second-and-eight.
On the play, Barrett fired the ball downfield in the direction of wide receiver Noah Brown when sophomore cornerback Blessuan Austin, who was in coverage against Brown, made a diving attempt on the ball. Austin tipped it away from Brown's vicinity and directly into the arms of senior safety Anthony Cioffi at the Rutgers 32.
Facing an offense that came in averaging 56.7 points on 545.3 total yards, forcing Barrett's second interception on the season was a more than encouraging start on the defensive side of the ball for the 38-point road underdogs.
But that would be the only time the Knights' defense would prevent the Buckeyes from ending a drive without a score until Ohio State's final offensive possession of the game late in a 58-0 rout.
Between those two stops on defense, Ohio State scored 58 points across nine consecutive possessions, including touchdowns on the final seven of those nine scores.
Rutgers (2-3, 0-2) managed to keep the Buckeyes (4-0, 1-0) at bay into the early parts of the second quarter, only trailing 9-0 as Ohio State began a drive with 11:14 remaining in the half.
But the Knights couldn't withstand the pressure forever and they eventually cracked.
Ohio State's final three possessions of the half went as follows:
Seventy-two yards on 12 plays and 5:23 of clock.
Fifty-seven yards on seven plays and 1:59 of clock.
Fifty-three yards on nine plays and 1:18 of clock.
Each was capped off by touchdown passes by Barrett, who had all four of his passing touchdowns on the day in the first half.
In just more than five minutes of game action, Rutgers' once manageable 9-point deficit had been turned into an unsurmountable 30-point hole heading into halftime.
"I didn't see any decent defense," said head football coach Chris Ash, who interrupted a reporter who started his question by stating the Knights' started decent on defense during the first quarter-and-a-half of the game. "I don't even think we made them punt today. So that's not good defense to me."
Ohio head coach Urban Meyer had no plans of taking his foot of the gas in the second half or showing mercy to Ash, who worked under him as co-defensive coordinator the previous two seasons.
It took the Buckeyes less than three minutes to tack on another score on the first possession of the second half, this time on a 46-yard dash from Mike Weber.
On Ohio State's next possession Barrett remained in the game and led the Buckeyes on a seven-play, 48-yard drive capped off by a 5-yard run from Parris Campbell.
It wasn't until the middle of Ohio State's subsequent drive that Meyer ended Barrett's day, substituting Joe Burrow into the game at quarterback late in the third quarter in addition to a number of other second-stringers earning some garbage time action.
Two plays later Demario McCall took a 20-yard run to the house, extending the Buckeyes' lead to 51-0.
Even without Barrett, Ohio State still drove the ball 73 yards on nine plays and scored its final touchdown of the game off a five-yard run from Johnnie Dixon.
The Buckeyes had eight touchdowns from eight different players.
"They got a go-to guy," Ash said when asked if it's hard to game plan against Ohio State because they don't have one defined go-to player. "Curtis Samuel is a go-to guy. Noah Brown is a go-to guy. They got a lot of go-to guys. That makes them tougher. So I look at differently, they got a whole bunch of them. They probably got six, seven, eight guys that I would consider go-to guys in any given moment."
Eight touchdowns in one game is impressive on its own, but the ease that Ohio State did it with was even more eye-catching. Of the eight drives that ended with a Buckeye touchdown, seven of them took less than 10 plays and five took less than three minutes of clock.
For the game Ohio State ran 89 plays, possessed the ball for 38:48 and gained a total of 669 yards.
Rutgers was coming off its season-best performance against Iowa last week, but as the Knights learned on Saturday, Ohio State is on a completely different level than any other team they've seen this season.
"They’re a really well-coached team. I mean, this doesn’t define us at all, defines our D or what not," said sophomore linebacker Trevor Morris. "We just gotta step up and get back to it."
For all the acclaim that Ohio State's lethal offensive rightfully garners, its defense is just as imposing.
The Buckeyes completely shut down the Rutgers football team's offense for all four quarters Saturday and that suffocating defense was evident on the Scarlet Knights' diminutive stat sheet.
For starters, the Knights completed just three passes all game.
On Rutgers' first drive of the afternoon. junior quarterback Chris Laviano connected with redshirt freshman wide receiver Jawuan Harris for gains of 21 and 10. Two drives later, Laviano found Harris again for a 2-yard gain with under three minutes remaining in the first quarter.
That 2-yard reception was the Knights' final of the game.
Laviano went 3-for-12 for 33 yards before he was relieved of his duties in favor of Tylin Oden at the 7:18 mark of the third quarter. Oden remained in at quarterback for the remainder of the game but was unsuccessful on all four of his attempts.
Facing a 30-point deficit that seemed to never stop growing, Rutgers attempted all of five passes in the second half.
“We wanted to get Tylin reps. We wanted to get him reps in this game to begin with," said head coach Chris Ash on inserting Oden into the game. "We weren’t doing much on offense, so we wanted to put Tylin in there and see what he could do, and get him some game reps.”
The last time a power-five conference team had less than three completions in a game was November 28 of last season, when Boston College connected on just two of its 13 pass attempts against Syracuse.
The Knights became the fourth Big Ten team to complete three or less passes in a game since 2000, and the first since the 2014 season when Minnesota completed one of seven attempts against San Jose State.
For the program, it's tied for the least amount of completions in a game since Mike Teel and Jabu Lovelace combined for three completions on 12 attempts against Army in the 2007 season.
Despite trailing for the entire game, Rutgers finished with more than double the amount of rushing attempts than it had passing.
Although the Knights committed to the running game with 38 attempts sprinkled across three running backs, two quarterbacks and one wide receiver, Rutgers couldn't break through Ohio State's front seven regardless of who it handed the ball off to.
The Knights gained 83 yards on 38 carries, which was good for just a 2.2 average. Junior running back Robert Martin, who was coming off two consecutive 100-yard opponents, was Rutgers' most successful rusher with 13 carries and 40 yards (3.1 yards per carry).
Finally, with 13:40 left in the fourth quarter, Oden took a quarter keeper for a gain of a few yards to finally put the Knights over 100 yards of total offense for the game. Rutgers would tack on 16 more yards the rest of the way, giving them the program's lowest yardage total in a game — 116 — since 2002.
"They smothered us, they pressed us whenever they could. We struggled to get open, and that’s been a problem for us against teams that press us," Ash said . "We have to work on that, we have to find solutions to get that done. Whenever they wanted to press us, they could, but the bigger issue was protection. We have to protect the quarterback better. They’re rushing four guys and they are in our face — that’s a problem too.”
The Knights left last week's 14-7 loss against Iowa with small victories on offense and defense to show for, such as the defense playing a complete game and Martin continuing his success of the ground.
Saturday, it was hard to find anything Rutgers left Ohio Stadium with other than another loss on its record.
After remaining relatively healthy through the first three weeks of the season, save for sophomore free-safety Saquan Hampton's upper-body injury in week two, the Rutgers football team lost two crucial players in senior wide receiver Janarion Grant and senior defensive end Quanzell Lambert to season-ending injuries against Iowa.
In the first quarter Saturday, it appeared for a short time that the Scarlet Knights were going to lose another starter for an extended period of time.
With 6:31 left in the opening quarter, Mike Weber took a handoff from J.T. Barrett at Ohio State's 46-yard line up the middle for a first down and more.
Weber gained around 5 yards before he was wrapped up by sophomore linebackers Deonte Roberts and Trevor Morris. As Roberts pulled Weber to the ground on top of him, Morris lunged forward as he continued grapple Weber from behind.
The impact from the helmet-to-helmet collision knocked Jones to the turf and the senior remained flat on his back as the two sides began to reset in preparation for the following play.
Jones was on the ground for a few minutes before he would be carted off the field on a stretcher. He was then immediately moved into an ambulance parked in the tunnel of Ohio Stadium and transported to a local hospital.
"It was very scary," Morris said of when Jones was on the ground. "You just gotta stay prayed up. (I) kept praying for him. He’s alright. Gotta just stay up. Hope for the best from everyone, not just him but all the people that got hurt. Just gotta keep praying to make sure they’re alright."
A team official confirmed Jones was taken to the hospital as a precautionary measure and that he was speaking and moving around shortly after.
In his postgame press conference, head football coach Chris Ash said Jones was "fine" and that he was back on the sidelines with the team by the end of the game.
When Morris asked if it was a relief to see Jones back on the sideline, he said, "Yeah, of course it is, it’d be a relief for anyone. He was able to talk, everything. He’s good. That’s the only thing that matters. Like I said we just kept praying to make sure he was gonna be alright."
Freshman linebacker Tyreek Maddox-Williams led Rutgers with nine solo tackles and 11 tackles total in playing in place of Jones.
- Michael Cintron attempted 10 punts with an average of 37.3 and a long of 47 (47 what? yards?) Ohio State on the other hand didn't punt once all afternoon.
- J.T. Barrett finished the game 21-29 for 238 yards and four touchdowns. He moved into sole possession of Ohio State's touchdown passing record, as he now has 59 in 27 games.
- Strong safety Saquan Hampton dressed for the first time since suffering an upper-body injury in the season opener against Washington but didn't record a snap, unofficially.
- Fifty-eight points is the largest margin of victory in a Big Ten game since 1981.
- Ohio State's 553-yard advantage over Rutgers is the largest margin the Buckeyes have held over an opponent since head coach Urban Meyer took over in 2012.
- Ohio State's missed extra point try off the foot of Tyler Durbin was the Buckeyes' first miss on a PAT since the 2013 Orange Bowl against Clemson.
- In three meetings since the Knights joined the Big Ten, Ohio State has taken all three games by a combined score of 163-24.
- Making his third appearance of the season, Oden attempted his first career pass in the third quarter. The freshman finished with 14 yards rushing on nine attempts.