Despite coming off a bye week, the Ohio State offense didn’t skip a beat as it rolled to a 56-17 victory Saturday afternoon.
The Buckeyes were once again led by redshirt-freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett, who completed 19 of 31 passes for 261 yards and three scores, while also leading the team in rushing yards with 107 on just seven carries.
Barrett, who was responsible for five total touchdowns in the Buckeye victory, said he thought OSU’s offense has been improving each week.
“I felt like we executed better than past weeks,” Barrett said. “But we can still eliminate some mistakes. I put some of that on myself.”
On the receiving end of one of Barrett’s touchdowns was senior wide receiver Evan Spencer, who OSU coach Urban Meyer singled out following the game.
“Evan Spencer, we had a couple of plays designed because he’s probably practicing our best as a wide receiver,” Meyer said. “But the one thing about our style of offense and really everyone’s style of offense nowadays, in the spread sets, you don’t say throw the ball to him because if they take him away, something else is open.”
Barrett completed passes to nine different receivers Saturday, something Meyer said can be a blessing and a curse.
“That’s where J.T. is so good at whatever the defense gives you, giving the ball,” Meyer said. “So we have a lot of pieces right now that deserve maybe a few more, but you can’t really control that in the way we do our business.”
The Buckeye offense broke yet another school record behind Barrett on Saturday, as it scored 50 or more points in its fourth straight game, the first such streak in school history.
Redshirt-sophomore offensive lineman Pat Elflein said following the game that Barrett and the offense have been able to be successful because of the players surrounding the young quarterback.
“He’s been playing great and it’s a credit to everyone else playing well,” Elflein said. “I think he’s been playing great since he stepped in. We’re protecting him well and that gives him time to make decisions.”
Coming into the game, the Rutgers defense was tied for third in the country after racking up 24 sacks. But Barrett wasn’t sacked at all during the game, and the Buckeye offense gained 585 total yards.
Co-offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Ed Warinner said after the game that OSU had emphasized slowing down the Scarlet Knights’ pass rush.
“It was something that was important to us,” he said. “Protecting your quarterback is always big to the offensive line.”
The offensive line opened up holes all night for OSU to run through, leading to the Buckeyes’ 324 rushing yards and an average 8.1 yards per rush.
With so many things going right for the OSU offense, Warinner said he is pleased with one thing in particular.
“Balance. I think early on, they were attacking the run and blitzing a lot, and we threw the ball well,” he said. “That changed their mentality on defense and (we) started to run the ball more in the second half.”
Despite the success, Meyer said he does not want his team to feel satisfied.
“Complacency is awful in this business and with the players, because when you watch the film, we could actually have played a lot better in certain situations,” Meyer said after the game. “So I think there’s a lot of things to work on offensively.”
Midway through the third quarter, OSU threw the ball to Spencer for three straight plays, all of which fell incomplete before Barrett punched it for a touchdown in from five yards out on fourth and goal.
While Spencer eventually scored on a one-handed grab later in the quarter, Meyer was not pleased with the lack of execution in the red zone.
“I still grade us down offensively,” he said. “When your quarterback has to scramble on the fourth down in the red zone, that’s a good play by an individual. So I still consider our red zone offense not as good as it should be.”
The offense will have an opportunity to improve next Saturday in State College, Pa., against the Penn State Nittany Lions. Kickoff is set for 8 p.m.