In their first ever trip to Rutgers, the Ohio State Buckeyes were able to come away with a 49-7 win. With the win, the Buckeyes improved to 8-0 and 4-0 in Big Ten Conference play.
The first Buckeye drive looked promising to start off, with J.T. Barrett running for 39 yards on his first carry. The drive would come to a conclusion after Barrett fumbled the ball in the red zone. Ezekiel Elliott would get in the end zone towards the end of the first quarter, where he also eclipsed 1,000 yards on the season. The third 1,000-yard rusher at tailback in Urban Meyer's coaching career.
The Bucks were able to expand on their lead in the second quarter on a 50-yard Michael Thomas touchdown, putting the Buckeyes up 14-0. One of the great highlights of the game however, was when Braxton Miller brought in an insane catch off of the knee of a Rutgers defender, setting up a J.T. Barrett touchdown to put the Buckeyes up 21-0 late in the first half.
Ohio State received the ball to start the second half, and wasted no time getting into the end zone with a J.T. Barrett passing touchdown to Curtis Samuel. J.T. Barrett also got in on the second half action, with a 10-yard run of his own, and Jalin Marshall joined the party, with a touchdown of his own. By the fourth quarter, Rutgers had all they could handle, as Ezekiel Elliott clinched his 13th consecutive 100-yard game after a 55-yard burst into the end zone early in the quarter, sealing the deal for the Buckeyes.
3 things we learned:
1. The offense seemed to move a lot better. Those explosive plays we got used to last year? We saw a lot of that tonight, from a bunch of different guys. While the pass protection was slacking in the first quarter and part of the second, once the run game got going, there was no stopping the Buckeyes. We saw an early big plays from J.T. Barrett on the ground, that great 50-yard touchdown reception by Michael Thomas, and a concentration-heavy grab by Braxton Miller. Even then, the offense wasn't quite efficient enough for some, and the Buckeyes were still up 21-0.
In the second half, the offense seemed to move even better. Barrett continued to get his on the ground, and Ezekiel Elliott saw many more meaningful gains. The Buckeyes scored an easy 21 points in the third quarter, where even Jalin Marshall was able to find the red zone on what appeared to be a broken play.
Michael Thomas was able to amass 103 yards receiving for the game, just the second time he has done so all season. Along with Thomas, Ezekiel Elliott and J.T. Barrett both broke the 100-yard mark, but on the ground. It was a complete, dominant offensive showing by the Buckeyes. This game was perhaps the first one all season where start to finish, you didn't have very many concerns on that side of the ball.
2. The threat of J.T. Barrett's legs helped a ton. J.T. Barrett's run threat helped open up things in the air for the Buckeyes quite a bit. While many (and how can you blame them) fell in love with Cardale Jones' big-arm, big-passing play ability, Barrett was able to provide the same in this game because of his running ability. Because of the threat, Rutgers was forced to bring a safety in on multiple occasions, which led to a lot of 1-on-1 coverages, as pointed out in the ESPN broadcast.
Ezekiel Elliott benefitted from both of these occurrences, as his gains on the ground got bigger and bigger as the game went on. Early, Elliott had just 13 yards on eight carries, as Rutgers was strictly playing for the run, as well as Ohio State's offensive line getting off to a sluggish start. But again, the simple threat of J.T. Barrett's running ability helped bandage both of these things, and it made for a great night of offense for the Buckeyes.
3. The defense looked better. While it wasn't terrible, the defense had been missing tackles in the past couple of weeks, and particularly last week. There were a couple of missed tackles on Rutgers' first drive, but outside of that, they were much closer to the defense we saw early on in the season. They were always around the ball, were wrapping up on tackles, and finding their way into the backfield, seemingly too easy at times.
The Buckeyes forced the Scarlet Knights to punt on every drive in the second quarter and third quarter, with the only drive ending differently was one late in the third, when Gaeron Conley picked off Chris Laviano. Conley also had 5 total tackles, and topped off his good night with a blocked punt. Joey Bosa and Sam Hubbard both added a sack apiece to the stats sheet. Overall, the Silver Bullets looked damn good this week.
Another impressive thing to note about the Ohio State defense, is that they held Rutgers to just seven points. Sure, you would expect them to do so, but this is the same Rutgers team that scored 24 on Michigan State two weeks ago, and 55 on Indiana. The Buckeyes were merely seconds away from a shutout, but Rutgers was able to find the end zone with just 13 seconds remaining.