Rutgers heads to Columbus for Big Ten showdown with No. 4 Ohio State
They say history tends to repeat itself, and while that may be true the Rutgers football team is hoping history is kind to it this weekend when the Scarlet Knights (1-0) square off against No. 4 Ohio State.
Despite coming off of an impressive 35-7 home win over Texas State last week, Rutgers now travels to Columbus, Ohio to take on a Buckeyes (1-0) team that has completely had its number for the past four years, including most recently two straight shutouts in blowout fashion.
And no offense to the Bobcats, but they are no Ohio State, even without head coach Urban Meyer, who is currently serving a three-game suspension.
“It is a difference when you walk into a stadium with a hundred thousand people and it’s loud, and as a visiting offense when a stadium really gets loud for third down and special situations, it is a difference maker,” said head coach Chris Ash.
The good news is that offense, particularly the offensive line that Ash was very pleased with in week one, is healthy and will be rolled right back out there for week two.
The bad news is many of those offensive players that the Knights will rely on are young and inexperienced, especially when it comes down to playing on the road in a tough environment such as Ohio Stadium.
“For those players who have never been in that environment, there’s no way to simulate it, there’s no way to really tell how they’re going to respond,” Ash said. “I have a gut (feeling) with some of these guys (and) how they’re gonna respond. I think it’s gonna be in a positive way, (they’re) gonna embrace it.”
On the injury front, senior defensive back Blessuan Austin will be inactive for the game and will not travel with the team after suffering an injury against Texas State where he needed to be helped off the field. Freshman defensive back Avery Young will start in his absence.
A pair of redshirt sophomores in defensive back Tre Avery and offensive lineman Mike Lonsdorf will travel with the team but might have to watch the game from the sidelines. Whether Avery plays will be a game-time decision, and Lonsdorf will only play in an emergency situation. The Bound Brook, New Jersey native missed a good part of training camp and isn’t quite 100 percent just yet.
Regardless, Austin’s veteran presence and leadership will surely be missed on an already young team that will now have to turn to its true freshman quarterback Artur Sitkowski to lead them in his first college road game.
“Obviously the quarterback is a big, big part of that, and we’ve got nothing but 100 percent confidence and faith that Art’s gonna handle the moment and the situation and play exceptionally well,” Ash said.
Hopefully that can be said about the other young guns on the team who have never experienced playing away from home.
But, Rutgers does plan to expand its playbook this week and possibly try out some things they didn’t do last week against the Bobcats — whatever might help the team pull off the massive upset.
“Each week we go, that volume will grow a little bit and it’s all gonna be based on what the players can handle,” Ash said. “These young players aren’t gonna be able to handle everything all at once. It’s a process and little by little as we go through this season, there will be more and more options to go to and plays to run, but we gotta make sure we can execute.”
Nevertheless, the Knights are excited to take on Ohio State and finally see where this team — one that not only the players but fans have high hopes for — stacks up against the greats.
It’s time to see if the rebuilding process is actually starting to pay off.
“Our football team is very eager to go and compete against a team like Ohio State because it’s a measuring stick for us,” Ash said.
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