No. 1 Ohio State thrashes Rutgers in 49-7 rout
PISCATAWAY — For a moment, the Rutgers football team looked like it actually stood a chance with the best team in college football.
Midway through the second quarter, the Scarlet Knights were still in the thick of a 7-0 ballgame against No. 1 Ohio State. Fueled by a sellout crowd of 53,111 that packed High Point Solutions Stadium early with a deafening pulse, energy surged for primetime in Piscataway.
And then one play changed it all.
J.T. Barrett hit Michael Thomas on a deep comeback down the sideline. From there, Thomas threw redshirt-freshman cornerback Isaiah Wharton into the turf on a vicious stiff-arm and wheeled his way around the rest of the defense for a 50-yard touchdown to put OSU up, 14-0, with 6:48 left in the first half.
It became a trend for the Buckeyes in their dominant 49-7 blowout of the Knights for all of the country to see in a Saturday night game on ABC.
“The crowd at kickoff was exactly what I said it was during the week. It is the best primetime crowd, best primetime atmosphere in college football, there’s no question about it,” said head coach Kyle Flood. “We didn’t perform very well as a program tonight. And that begins with me.”
Ohio State (8-0, 4-0) let Flood and Rutgers believe they might belong on the same football field, one year removed from a 56-17 beatdown last November at Ohio Stadium.
But when Thomas threw Wharton to the turf and scurried the rest of the way for the score, it almost symbolized the same way the Buckeyes ran away with this one.
“They had a lot of momentum going into halftime,” said redshirt-freshman strong safety Kiy Hester. “That play definitely gave them some momentum. We just gotta buckle down, get that stop right there and maybe the game is different.”
At the end of the massacre, Ohio State showed why it sits on the Big Ten’s throne as the top scoring offense and total offense, gashing the Knights (3-4, 1-3) for 528 total yards.
That all started with Barrett, who poured salt all over the wounds of an already-depleted Rutgers secondary plagued by injuries with 14-of-18 passing for 223 yards and three touchdowns. He trampled the Knights even further with 13 carries for 101 yards and two touchdowns on the ground.
Flood called the sophomore a “prototype dual-threat.” From his perspective at free safety, junior Anthony Cioffi agreed.
“He’s a great quarterback and a great runner,” Cioffi said of Barrett. “He poses that dual-threat mentality where you gotta account for him in the run scheme and that long zone options as well as throwing the ball. He had some weapons that they used tonight.”
One of those weapons from his arsenal was Ezekiel Elliott.
The junior running back’s 142 yards and two touchdowns on 19 touches highlighted a ground game that pounded out 281 yards on 49 carries against a Knights’ defense that entered ranked 30th in the nation against the run (126.2 yards per game).
The Heisman Trophy candidate put the exclamation mark on his performance with a 55-yard rumble to throw more gasoline on the Buckeyes’ fire and make it a 49-0 rout with 13:42 left in the ballgame.
For as much as the Knights didn’t have the answer for either options in Ohio State’s spread offense, none of their own running backs could provide a punch to help sophomore quarterback Chris Laviano and the offense get the wheels going.
After throwing for six touchdowns in his past two games, Laviano had a night to forget on a season-low 10-of-20 passing for 117 yards with an interception.
Flood attributed the sophomore quarterback’s struggles to the lack of help along the line and in the running game. Rutgers ran the ball 29 times for 104 yards, led by Paul James’s 56 yards on 10 carries.
But the senior running back agreed with his head coach, noting the holes the Knights kept digging themselves into on third-down situations where they only converted 5-of-15 attempts.
“I think we definitely need to execute running the ball better. We can’t be having 3rd-and-10, really,” James said. “That puts a lot of pressure on the quarterback. So those situations really kind of dealt (Laviano) a bad hand.”
With a Halloween trip out to Wisconsin (6-2, 3-1) followed by a visit to the Big House for No. 15 Michigan (5-2, 2-1), things don’t get any easier for Rutgers as it dives deeper into its 2015 Big Ten gauntlet.
Keeping that in mind, the Knights know they need to right the wrongs — and quick.
“There’s a lot of corrections we have to make — myself included,” Cioffi said. “We didn’t play our best game at all … there’s so many corrections we can make from this and (Sunday) we’re gonna come in and watch the film to make them.”
For updates on the Rutgers football team, follow @GarrettStepien and @TargumSports on Twitter.
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