The Ohio State football team took a 28-point lead into the half on its way to a 56-17 win against Rutgers in the first-ever matchup between the two schools.
The Buckeyes (5-1, 2-0) gained 585 yards of total offense while forcing the Scarlet Knights (5-2, 1-2) into six punts and three turnovers Saturday at Ohio Stadium.
The Buckeyes’ offensive explosion led to their fourth straight 50-plus point game, which is a school record. OSU also tied a program record with its fourth straight outing with 500 or more total yards on offense.
“We’re definitely rolling right now, we’re clicking,” junior offensive lineman Taylor Decker said after the game. “Things are going right.”
Even though some may expect such success to get to a team’s head, coach Urban Meyer said he hasn’t seen the Buckeyes get complacent so far in 2014.
“The good thing is that I don’t feel like there’s a complacent attitude,” Meyer said after the game. “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.”
Following up on a fast start to the first half, the Buckeyes marched down the field to score a touchdown less than two minutes into the second half, extending their lead to 42-7. Redshirt-freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett’s 33-yard run gave OSU a 35-point lead with more than 28 minutes to play in the game.
Despite the offensive success, co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Tom Herman said he’s still not sure exactly how good the Buckeyes are, but expects to find out in the coming weeks.
“Obviously we’re getting into the meat of the Big Ten schedule here very shortly, so I think we’ll find out a lot more about what the potential is and how good we are in the next few weeks,” Herman said after the game.
On the Buckeyes’ next drive, Barrett sparked OSU with his legs once again. On fourth-and-goal, he evaded the Scarlet Knights’ pass rush to scamper in from five yards to make the lead 49-7. With more than eight minutes to play in the third quarter, the OSU signal caller had 107 rushing yards and a pair of scores to go with two touchdown tosses.
After the game, Barrett said having a year to learn before stepping on the field for the Scarlet and Gray has helped his development just six starts into his OSU career, and added the same may go for other young players on the roster.
“I think it goes to show the time we devote to the younger guys and I was developed last year when I was redshirting,” he said. “That preparation has helped me to get better every day.”
Rutgers tacked on a field goal to cap the ensuing drive, but a 42-yard pass from Barrett to senior wide receiver Devin Smith set the Buckeyes up at the Rutgers 11 on OSU’s next possession.
Senior wide receiver Evan Spencer hauled in a touchdown with one hand two plays later to make it 56-10 with 19:14 to play in the game. The touchdown pass was Barrett’s 20th of the season.
The Scarlet Knights answered with a touchdown drive, but their deficit was still 39 with less than a quarter to play.
Despite Rutgers putting up the final points of the game, it was well short of making up a big first-half deficit.
Barrett opened the game nine for nine on pass attempts, totaling 117 yards and a pair of scores. He hit redshirt-junior tight end Nick Vannett from 12 yards out on the Buckeyes’ first drive before finding Vannett again from 26 yards out to start the second quarter.
Barrett finished the first half with 147 yards through the air and another 50 on the ground, leading OSU to a 35-7 advantage through 30 minutes.
Redshirt-sophomore offensive lineman Pat Elflein said Barrett has been stepping up for OSU behind support from the offensive players around him.
“He’s playing great and it’s a credit to everyone else playing well,” Elflein said after the game. “I think he’s been playing great since he stepped in. We’re protecting him well and that gives him time to make decisions.”
In addition to the quarterback’s hot start, sophomore running back Ezekiel Elliott and redshirt-senior running back Rod Smith each had short rushing touchdowns in the first half to go along with a four-yard fumble return for a score by redshirt-freshman cornerback Eli Apple.
Elliott said the Buckeyes’ goal is to take control of the game whenever they stop on the field, but he added there is still room for improvement.
“We want to dominate every week,” he said. “But I think we can be a much better team.”
Rutgers was forced to punt four times in the first half while also throwing an interception and losing one fumble.
Barrett tallied 261 passing yards and three scores while finishing with 107 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. Sophomore defensive lineman Joey Bosa sparked the OSU defense with a pair of sacks and five total tackles.
Rutgers senior quarterback Gary Nova finished the game with just 192 passing yards and no touchdowns while throwing one interception.
Redshirt-freshman linebacker Darron Lee chalked the Buckeyes’ ability to slow down Nova up to the pressure they brought.
“Pressure was crucial,” Lee said after the game. “We knew they ran a lot of boots and a lot of play action, we knew if we got pressure on him it would help out our secondary tremendously.”
OSU is scheduled to hit the road on Oct. 25 to take on Penn State in State College, Pa. Kickoff is set for 8 p.m.
Meyer said the Buckeyes will have an opportunity to “enjoy the win tonight,” but added he wants his team to be focused when it comes back to practice.
“Do what you gotta do and come back ready to go,” Meyer said. “The good thing (is) this is a really good team to coach right now. They’re as hungry as our coaching staff and that’s a good sign.”