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Grumpy Old Buckeye: Ohio State vs. Rutgers

Muffs, illegal touching, and penalties are among the things that “ruined” a 39-point win.

Syndication: The Columbus Dispatch Joseph Scheller/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK

The Ohio State Buckeyes defeated the Rutgers Scarlet Knights by 39 points in a 49-10 romp on Saturday, and based on social media posts and discussions I was having during the game with my Land-Grant Holy Land family, it’s obvious that I’m not the only grumpy old Buckeye out there.

It seemed that everyone was annoyed with winning a conference game by merely five and a half touchdowns. While I can’t speak to everyone’s anger (though it seemed like a lot of people were beefing with C.J. Stroud’s average day), I can list some of the things that boiled my blood on Saturday.

Muffin’? Stop!

The Ohio State defense came out with great energy and forced a quick three-and-out to start the game. The Buckeyes figured to get decent field position to start their first offensive series, but that had to wait, because wide receiver Emeka Egbuka muffed the first Rutgers punt. It was the second muffed punt by the Buckeyes already this season — the first by Egbuka — and Rutgers quickly turned the mistake into the first points of the game.

Burke Continues to Unimpress

Following that early turnover, Rutgers had a third-and-long situation, and the OSU defense was in a great position to force a field goal. But then Rutgers found the weak spot in Ohio State’s defense, which has inexplicably been cornerback Denzel Burke through the first third of this season. Burke changed his number from 5 to 10 before the game, but it didn’t help him in his coverage as he was burned by… I don’t remember, someone on Rutgers, so the name is irrelevant to me. (OK, I admit that I know the receiver was Sean Ryan, which is the name of someone who should be pouring my Jameson shots down at the Irish pub, not a guy torching OSU corners.)

To add to my annoyance, the early Rutgers touchdown gave the Scarlet Knights their first lead against Ohio State. Ever. Is there anything more annoying than trailing Rutgers?! To add even further to my annoyance, Burke again got roasted on a long pass on the Scarlet Knights’ first play of the second half. It led to points again, as Rutgers kicked a field goal to end the drive. I’ve never seen a player regress as badly from one year to the next as Burke has after his stellar 2021 campaign. I don’t know what happened to him since last season, but if it doesn’t unhappen, he can just have a seat and watch younger guys pass him by.

Marvin’s Mishaps

Ohio State’s second drive featured a jet sweep for Marvin Harrison, Jr. from right to left on first-and-goal. Harrison approached the end zone and reached out the ball and lost control of it. The ball appeared to be wide of the pylon when he lost control, and the call on the field was that the fumble took place out of bounds. That could have been an awful mistake by Harrison, but luckily there was no evidence to overturn the call. Players continue to stretch out the ball dangerously when trying to score at all levels of football, and it goes wrong a lot.

On the very next play, Harrison stepped out of bounds in the back of the end zone before catching an apparent touchdown pass from Stroud. The infraction was spotted and the penalty for illegal touching was called. Miyan Williams punched it in on the next play anyway, but those were two potentially critical mistakes on back-to-back plays by the young receiver.

More Pre-Snap Follies

The Buckeyes did well to minimize mental errors against Wisconsin, committing just three penalties — none of the pre-snap variety. But those issues resurfaced against Rutgers. Donovan Jackson had a false start early in the game. A more egregious penalty was on J.T. Tuimoloau, who lined up in the neutral zone on a Rutgers 3rd-and-4 play. The Buckeyes stopped the 3rd down pass play, but Tuimoloau’s error gave the Scarlet Knights a free first down.

Again, with the Illegal Touching?

Stroud did well to avoid the rush on the fourth OSU drive, and instead of throwing the ball away for no gain, he found backup tight end Gee Scott Jr. for a 2-yard gain. Stroud can do things like that because he’s good at football. But even that modest gain was erased via penalty as Scott — like Harrison earlier — stepped out of bounds prior to catching the ball.

A penalty you might typically see a team commit about once per season happened twice in one game. I don’t get to sit in on team meetings or join the Buckeyes for practice, so I don’t know what the receivers are being taught, but it seems like you shouldn’t even have to coach your receivers to remain eligible during play. It obviously wouldn’t hurt to start doing that. “Hey guys, don’t touch the white line that surrounds the field before you catch the ball. It’s important!”

Even More Dings

This season so far has been a nightmare in terms of keeping guys healthy. TreVeyon Henderson was held out against Rutgers after a big game a week ago. Tanner McCalister and Tyleik Williams picked up injuries on Saturday, and several key contributors are still out.

Thanks for that, Matt. I feel like I’m not alone.

Watching guys continue to go down, or not even get on the field to start with, just happens some years, but this year it’s been maddening to watch.

Breaking News: Quadruple Coverage Doesn’t Favor the Receiver

Ohio State’s first play of the second half came from great field position, because Rutgers stole the Buckeyes’ go-to move of kicking off out of bounds. But Stroud felt bad for the visitors about that. Or, at least, I guess he must have, because I can’t figure out why else he would have thrown a pass into quadruple coverage.

If you didn’t see the game, that went about how you’d expect, as Stroud served up his second interception of the season. The Knights turned it into points after Burke allowed that aforementioned big gain. I will credit Rutgers’ secondary for frustrating Stroud a bit throughout the game, and that, combined with a play call to take a shot down field coming out of halftime, may have contributed to the unnecessary risk, but it was not a great decision by a guy who normally makes good ones and is generally not careless with the football.

Dumb Late Penalties

As the game wound down, Ohio State players started doing dumb things, as if they had been pushed around all game and were fed up. Paris Johnson, Jr. was called for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on an extra point. An extra point! You’re winning big and you just scored a touchdown. Be happy, block on the point after, and move on. If an opponent makes you angry, point to the scoreboard and walk away.

A little later, when the backups got onto the field, defensive end Caden Curry extended a Rutgers drive by roughing the passer on an incomplete third-down pass. While it was pretty soft by roughing standards, the rules are pretty clear: once you see the quarterback release the ball, don’t give him the extra shove and knock him down. Curry had ample time to pull out of that and didn’t. While that didn’t cost Ohio State anything in the end, it is a pretty basic lesson that must be learned.

Those were the things that made me grind my teeth on Saturday, and I’m even more aggravated that I wrote more than a thousand words about what was another destruction of Rutgers. I didn’t even add a section about those who think punter Jesse Mirco shouldn’t take off when the opponent doesn’t bother to leave anyone to defend the entire right side of the field (he should). Ohio State didn’t get any more points out of him doing it, and it wasn’t a fake call by the coaches — it was a player doing what he’s coached to do, given a sight read in a game situation. I want my punter doing that 100% of the time. OK, I guess I did end up writing about it after all. Grrr.

Obviously, Saturday was mostly great yet again. Miyan Williams ran roughshod over, around and through Rutgers all day, and tied a school record with five touchdowns. Egbuka made some more big plays. Julian Fleming had a big catch and run for a touchdown. Steele Chambers made it his personal mission to destroy the entire state of New Jersey. A lot of good happened, and we can still be annoyed about the game because that’s where our ridiculous standards are.

Next up, the Buckeyes will finally leave the friendly confines of Ohio Stadium next Saturday when they travel to East Lansing to take on Michigan State.