PISCATAWAY, New Jersey — Ohio State shut Rutgers out 56-0 Saturday night as the Scarlet Knights could neither slow down the Buckeyes’ offense or advance against the Silver Bullets. Here are some of our takeaways from the shellacking.
Demario McCall plays well despite health questions
Though he did not take a carry until the second half, H-back Demario McCall led Ohio State with 11 carries for 103 yards, the most in the sophomore’s career. He looked explosive in his 18-yard rush and 48-yard scamper for his first touchdown of the season. McCall also had the game’s final score, a 35-yard touchdown reception from quarterback Dwayne Haskins.
McCall has played sparingly since dealing with groin and abdominal injuries. He entered Saturday’s showdown without a single carry and one reception recorded last week. Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer said he thinks the young H-back has not reached the apex of his abilities and is not fully healthy yet.
“He’s got more in the tank than what I saw,” Meyer said. “So, you know, in that one where he broke away, usually he’s out. We’re still fighting through that thing. He’s doing a good job trying to fight through it.”
Whether McCall is healthy, he showed noticeable burst and ability to break big plays for major yards. Last year, McCall served as then-redshirt freshman running back Mike Weber’s primary backup and toted the ball 49 times for 270 yards and three touchdowns.
The Buckeyes are less than a month away until Penn State heads to Columbus for a likely top-15 matchup on Oct. 28. If McCall is back to full health by then, he could have a major impact on the future success of Ohio State’s offense, which has been searching for a reliable playmaker since early last season.
Big play Binjimen Victor
None of Ohio State’s six starting wide receivers looks as physically imposing as 6-foot-4, 195-pound sophomore Binjimen Victor. Unfortunately for Ohio State, he has not developed into the consistent red zone threat the team desired when he was recruited. Even in Saturday’s game, Victor dropped a 10-yard pass without any defender in his vicinity, a similar pass which he dropped in pregame warmups.
But in the third quarter, he did exactly what he needs to do to make an impact; he caught a touchdown in the corner of an end zone.
“I told J.T. [Barrett] to give me a chance, that’s what he did,” Victor said.
As the offense’s best potential target on end-zone fades and jump balls, Victor will be counted on to leap over members of opposing secondaries to snag contested passes as he continues to build trust with the redshirt senior Barrett. Victor’s 22-yard touchdown wasn’t his first catch of the game. He got on the board with a 46-yard touchdown which jump-started a drive that ended with Ohio State’s fifth touchdown.
“It was a great feeling,” Victor said. “There’s more to come for us because we worked so hard on that in the winter and the summer, so we’re going to keep making it happen.”
Johnnie Dixon: The latest playmaker
The latest frontrunner in Ohio State’s seemingly never-ending search to find a reliable, playmaking primary wide receiver is redshirt junior Johnnie Dixon, who sparked the Buckeyes with three catches for 115 yards and two touchdowns.
“We’re finally connecting, getting that communication and things down,” Dixon said. “We’re getting on a roll, for sure.”
He gave credit to redshirt senior tight end Marcus Baugh for springing him and giving the wideout an opening on his 39-yard touchdown in the second quarter. On Dixon’s 70-yard score, he simply found himself behind the defense on blown coverage, and Barrett eventually found him without a defender within 15 yards.
Dixon also had a third touchdown called back due to an offensive pass interference penalty due to him pushing off. Though it will never show up in the box score, that might be the most important play of the game for the offense because Barrett and Dixon finally connected on a deep ball.
Dixon, who was still mad the referee threw the penalty, knows he and Barrett must connect without penalty flags flying.
“It was amazing,” Dixon said. “You just know you’ve got to make that play because you work so hard on something, you’ve got to make it count.”
Ultimately, Dixon understands the pass did not count. But it does not make him any less confident.
“I know we can do it again because we hit them all the time, it’s just we hit them at practice,” Dixon said. “Now it’s just getting it out and letting everybody else see it.”
This was the first game a defense has primarily played man coverage against Ohio State. Victor said he would not play man-to-man if he were coaching the Buckeyes’ opponents. Dixon believes it doesn’t matter what defense is played, Ohio State can throw the ball downfield successfully, even against zone.
“Yeah we can,” Dixon said. “We have the speed to get behind anybody.”
Schiano returns with a shutout
Ohio State defensive coordinator and safeties coach Greg Schiano spent 11 years as Rutgers head coach from 2001 to 2011 before bolting to Tampa, Florida, to become the head coach of the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2012. On Saturday, Schiano made his first return to Piscataway, New Jersey, as a coach of an opposing team.
“I love the place. I love the people here,” Schiano said. “I got to see guys like Kenny Ford and I’ll forget people, but guys that you know, I trust them with my life, literally. It’s a special place to me.”
Schiano said he thinks about how successful the program would be if he stayed “all the time.” Rutgers played a tribute video for its former head coach, one Schiano said he was anxious to watch.
“I’ll get on the bus and maybe it’s recorded somewhere I’ll get a peek at it,” Schiano said. “It was nice of them to do. They didn’t have to do that.”
Meyer said he brought up Schiano’s return to the defensive coordinator a couple times this week. He remembered the Empire State Building lighting up with Rutgers’ colors after the Scarlet Knights defeated Louisville during Schiano’s tenure.
“I think that also helped the [Florida] Gators get into the national championship game, so I really appreciate that,” Meyer joked.
Though Weber returned to action and scored three touchdowns after missing his second game this season with a hamstring injury, Ohio State continued to increase its list of inactive starters Saturday. Less than an hour before kickoff, Ohio State announced defensive tackle Dre’Mont Jones and safety Erick Smith did not make the trip to Piscataway, New Jersey.
Jones injured his knee and required stitches in what Meyer described as a freak accident in the locker room earlier this week.
“We have a good practice, hot day, and we’re in there watching film and I get a text message, Dre’Mont cut his leg on the locker. And I go in there and it’s ridiculous,” Meyer said. “He’s going to be fine. It was bad. Almost going to be a nerve injury, but it’s not.”
Meyer said Jones would likely miss next Saturday’s game against Maryland. This season, the defensive tackle has seven tackles, including three for losses.
Meyer said Smith “wasn’t ready to make the trip” and would play next week “if he’s ready,” but said the situation is between the player and coach. Sophomore running back Antonio Williams also did not make the trip, Ohio State announced just prior to Saturday’s kickoff. Meyer said Williams was injured but has been cleared and will practice Sunday.
Redshirt senior linebacker Chris Worley once again sat out with a sprained foot and redshirt freshman Tuf Borland took his spot in the starting lineup.
“We’re just being cautious,” Meyer said. “He got a little sore on Thursday, so he should be cleared next week.”
Redshirt sophomore defensive tackle Robert Landers returned to action Saturday after missing last week’s game with a sprained foot.
Redshirt senior defensive tackle Michael Hill remained suspended indefinitely for undisclosed reasons. Freshman cornerback Shaun Wade did not travel with the team to the game.