The rain from tropical storm Gordon had things a bit soggy at the Shoe yesterday. But, what everyone will remember about the game played there, is the hellfire Ohio State rained down on Rutgers. The Buckeyes put up 579 yards and held Rutgers to 134. They had 32 first downs to Rutgers’ 12. The Scarlet Knights completed just 11 passes; their longest completion was just 13 yards. The Buckeyes harassed true freshman quarterback Artur Sitkowski throughout the first half and forced numerous bad throws. A Nick Bosa sack, on the final play of the half, ended Sitkowski’s day with a shoulder injury. Buckeye quarterbacks went a combined 30-33 for 354 yards and 5 TD’s. Dwayne Haskins was 20-23 for 233 yards and 4 touchdowns, while Tate Martell went 10-10 for 121 yards and a touchdown. Buckeye receivers took advantage of a depleted Rutgers secondary. The Scarlet Knights averaged just over 2 yards per play; the Buckeyes averaged nearly 8 per play. I could go on and on, but you get the idea. The Buckeyes were beyond dominant in a 52-3 win. Ohio State becomes just the second school in college football history to record 900 wins (Michigan is the other).
Rutgers head coach Chris Ash had hoped to use this game as a measuring stick for how much his team has improved over the last two seasons. The Knights had been outscored by the Buckeyes 114-0 during that time. This isn’t a good Ohio State team to measure yourself by. The Buckeyes are supremely talented, athletic, fast, and deep. Regardless of the score, I really do believe Rutgers is a better team than Oregon State. They just had the misfortune of being the Buckeyes’ second opponent. Problems we saw last week were corrected, for the most part, and that was bad news for Rutgers. The return of free safety Jordan Fuller was another thing the Knights had to deal with that Oregon State did not. Fuller looked solid in his return. To add insult to injury, the junior safety is a New Jersey native (Rutgers is located in New Brunswick, NJ).
What I Liked
There are two things which stood out to me. First, most of the issues we saw on defense last week seemed to be corrected. After giving up three very long scoring plays against Oregon State, the longest plays the Scarlet Knights could manage were two runs of 15 yards and one pass completion for 13. Pursuit angles were better and the young linebackers were more sure of themselves. The return of Jordan Fuller was, as I mentioned, another reason why Rutgers struggled. Tackling is still a bit of a concern, but not nearly as much as last week. Also, I’d like to see Baron Browning be a little more patient and not stick his nose into a play immediately and get caught up in traffic. But, overall there isn’t much to complain about when you dominate a conference opponent like the Buckeye defense did yesterday. Defensive coordinator Greg Schiano said, "When you represent the Silver Bullets and when you represent the Buckeyes, there's only one way we play. So when you get in there, you have to represent. We didn't do a good job of that a week ago. I thought we did a much better job today."
The other thing I liked was the play of the offensive line. The pass protection was nearly impeccable and allowed deep routes and crossing patterns time to develop without the quarterbacks being harassed. Rutgers managed to gum up the line of scrimmage here and there to slow down the run game, but by and large Thayer Munford, Malcolm Pridgeon, Michael Jordan, Demetrius Knox, and Isaiah Prince knocked Scarlet Knight defenders backwards and created holes for J.K. Dobbins and Mike Weber.
What I Didn’t Like
Penalties. Far too many penalties. Eleven, in all, for 120 yards. Holding on offense and defense, block in the back on special teams. If it wasn’t one thing, it was something else. It’s one thing to have a lot of penalties and still win against Oregon State and Rutgers, but it is another to try to do it against TCU and Penn State. Malcolm Pridgeon is too good to be caught holding on back-to-back series. Chase Young’s unsportsmanlike penalties were just dumb. They desperately need to cut down on the number infractions in the next few weeks.
Random Stuff From A Beatdown
Tate Martell’s 10 for 10 passing performance set a school record for single game completion percentage with, at least, 10 attempts. The record was previously held by Bill Mrukowski, who was 10 of 11 against UCLA in 1961. Oddly enough, Haskins’ 20 of 23 is good for third all-time in that category.
Speaking of Martell, he threw his first career touchdown pass and scored his first career touchdown yesterday. Offensive coordinator Ryan Day has been working hard to further develop Martell’s pocket presence and it showed on the touchdown pass. With the pocket beginning to collapse to his right, Martell calmly stepped up, kept his eyes upfield and found Terry McLaurin for a 51-yard score. Later on, he showed his quick feet and athletic ability on a nifty 47-yard touchdown run (and got a great block downfield from true freshman running back Brian Snead). Martell led all OSU rushers with 95 yards.
Offensive coordinator Ryan Day wants the offense to play with tempo. You could see the results of that often yesterday. Many times the Buckeyes were snapping the ball while the Rutgers' defense was still trying to align to the formation.
We now know who the third quarterback is. When Tate Martell had to leave the game for a play, after a questionable hit, WVU transfer Chris Chugunov replaced him. It was great to see a big smile on Chugunov’s face as he came off the after that one play. He was, also, under center for the final few plays of the game. Chugunov joined the Buckeyes very late in camp and provides a good insurance policy as the number three guy.
Having a more accurate arm at quarterback has helped the running game, because teams can no longer crowd the line of scrimmage. But, pounding away running the ball with two good backs behind an outstanding offensive line can, also, open up things through the air. After running J.K. Dobbins eight times in twelve plays during one drive, the Buckeyes went to play action. The fake to Dobbins froze the linebacker for a split second and he was not able to recover in time to cover tight end Luke Farrell. The result was an easy throw for Haskins and Luke Farrell’s first career touchdown.
Just as Schiano spoke of, Shaun Wade cracked the rotation at cornerback. With the first team defense, he was mostly used as the “nickel back” and covered the slot receiver. Later in the game he moved outside and showed good coverage skills breaking up a pass and, also, coming up with his first career interception thanks to teammate Jerron Cage forcing a hurried throw by the Rutgers quarterback. Expect to see more of Wade as the season progresses. He’s too talented to be standing on the sidelines.
It appears as though true freshman defensive end Tyreke Smith is a permanent fixture in the Rushmen package. But, this week he was moved inside to defensive tackle, so Bosa could move outside. Having Bosa rush from the edge is a nightmare for opposing offensive tackles. Rutgers tried blocking him with a tight end at times. Each attempt ended in disaster. Chase Young had two sacks and is turning into a beast like Bosa. Robert Landers spent the day disrupting things in the Scarlet Knight backfield. We knew this defensive line was going to be good, but they may exceed expectations. Bosa, Young, and Dre’mont Jones are so effective at rushing the passer, the Buckeyes are going to a 3-3-5 look in some passing situations instead of the four-linemen Rushmen.
I mentioned the return of free safety Jordan Fuller earlier. He seemed to be everywhere and was a steadying influence on the back end of the defense. Schiano said, “Big difference. He is such a stabilizing force and what Rutgers does offensively, with all the shifts and motions, there's a lot of adjusting to do. Our guys did a good job of adjusting." Fuller finished the game with three tackles and a pass defended.
Although Demario McCall is fun to watch returning punts, it’s an adventure watching him try to field them. McCall twice had issues yesterday, so he was replaced by C.J. Saunders both times. Saunders, a former walk-on, proved to be elusive and sure-handed. I’m more than content to see Saunders as the regular punt returner.
Speaking of walk-ons, Urban Meyer and his staff put an emphasis on bringing in a quality class of them this past recruiting cycle. All agree they were very successful in doing that. On Saturday, the first of those walk-ons got playing time. Sam Wiglusz, a receiver from Brecksville, was on the field for a few plays for OSU’s final series. Wiglusz, along with H-back Jaelen Gill and safety Josh Proctor, had their black stripes removed.
Dwayne Haskins for offense, Nick Bosa for defense, and Jahsen Wint for special teams were named by Ohio State as their players of the game.
A lot of people are hammering Rutgers for not being very good, but I still maintain they are better than Oregon State. Here is the bottom line: the Buckeyes just may be that good. They’re versatile and deep on offense, with an outstanding offensive line, and a NFL-quality arm at quarterback. Their defensive line is one of the best in the country and, with the return of Jordan Fuller and emergence of Shaun Wade, their secondary is more than solid. Once middle linebacker Tuf Borland returns to full-time status, the defense will be even better. The Buckeyes dismantled a Rutgers team that wanted to use this game as a measuring stick. The Scarlet Knights came ready to play, but were just overwhelmed. This Ohio State team is going to overwhelm a lot of teams this season. TCU represents a step up in competition next week in Dallas. The Buckeyes opened as 12 1/2 point favorites.
Big Ten teams suffered losses to Eastern Michigan (Purdue), Duke (Northwestern), Colorado (Nebraska), and Arizona State (Michigan State) yesterday. Remember when one of the “experts” said the Spartans would make the College Football Playoff? They struggled against Utah State last week and now they’ve lost to a PAC 12 team. They’re not a Big Ten championship team, much less a national contender.
At the end of last season, the Big ten was the best conference in college football. Not anymore. The four losses yesterday came against teams with a combined 24-26 record in 2017. Put that together with last week’s struggles and it adds up to our favorite college football conference is no longer at the top of the heap. BUT, the conference did go 2-1 vs the ACC.
Speaking of the ACC, big, bad Clemson barely survived unraked Texas A&M, 28-26. I’m sure the apologists are spinning like a top today.
Denzel Ward had two interceptions against the Steelers today in a 21-21 tie. Brown did catch a touchdown pass, but Ward did an outstanding job against him, overall, and looks the part of a shutdown corner. However, the Browns are still the Browns. Their defense forced six turnovers, but the offense is still putrid. Quarterback Tyrod Taylor looked confused and indecisive most of the day. The offensive line is porous and the receiving corps is the only in the NFL that can’t get open against the Steelers’ swiss cheese secondary. Predictions of 7, 8, or 9 wins is way too high based on what I saw today.
J.T. Barrett was cut from the Saints’ practice squad the other day, but re-signed yesterday. After being released by the Texans, Braxton Miller was signed to the Eagles’ practice squad.
Michael Thomas had 16 catches for 180 yards and a touchdown for the Saints in their loss to the Bucs.
I wouldn’t say it’s rained a lot in may part of Ohio, but two neighborhood squirrels knocked on my door and asked if I knew some old guy named Noah. Stay dry everyone.