Standing in the pocket, Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins had all the time he needed.
The redshirt sophomore quarterback didn’t need much.
Redshirt senior wide receiver Johnnie Dixon got past the cornerback at the line of scrimmage and kept inching his way ahead as he dashed up the middle. With a defensive end only now approaching Haskins four seconds after the snap, he unleashed a perfect spiral to his captain 38 yards away, just as Dixon was creating space near the goal line.
Finally, as Dixon’s foot met the ‘K’ in the Buckeyes’ end zone, the ball met his hands, giving Ohio State the 6-0 lead.
Pressure never really found Haskins, or the rest of the fourth-ranked Buckeyes, in their dominating 52-3 victory against the Scarlet Knights.
That sight, Haskins sitting comfortable in the pocket, leading his receivers perfectly in stride, became a common one for the rest of the game. Making only his second collegiate start, Haskins looked like a veteran, unfazed even when met with pressure.
In front of the 93,057 fans who watched an anticipated blowout in spite of the constant rain, Haskins completed 20-of-23 passes for four touchdowns and 233 yards.
It was the second consecutive game Haskins completed at least four touchdown passes after leading Ohio State to a 77-31 win against Oregon State in the team’s season-opener. With an offense that has clicked on all cylinders in the first two games of the year, Haskins said it is fun to be leading such a dynamic offense.
“I want to run so many series, so many plays that we ran out of time, and up so many points we can’t do what we want,” Haskins said. “But it’s like every series there’s opportunity to go score. There’s me throwing it, me running it or giving it to somebody else to do something with it. It’s a lot of fun.”
Rutgers freshman quarterback Artur Sitkowski, on the other hand, couldn’t take a breath without feeling the crushing weight of an Ohio State defender collapse on him.
Two seconds. That’s about all Sitkowski ever had to release the ball before a scarlet-clad Buckeye brought him to the ground.
Only two sacks and two quarterback hits made it to the scorebook, but back-to-back crushing tackles from defensive ends Chase Young and Nick Bosa to end the first half forced Sitkowski out of the game with his backup taking over.
Acting head coach Ryan Day said the defense felt motivated after having allowed the 31 points in the first game to Oregon State, and that the team had a meeting to discuss the week of practice and what to improve on during the game, and that the defense executed well.
“You could see it during the game,” Day said. “They were in the backfield, I felt like, every other play, really creating havoc. I thought they played with an edge, which was great moving forward.”
Ohio State sophomore running back J.K. Dobbins took the bulk of the carries when Haskins wasn’t airing it out. He bore hit after hit each time the ball was placed in his hands, often being battered by several before hitting the green turf.
Dobbins rushed eight times and caught one pass on a 13-play drive at the end of the first quarter and beginning of the second. It was tight end Luke Farrell who found the red turf, scoring Ohio State’s third touchdown of the game.
It wasn’t until five minutes remained in the second quarter that Dobbins finally reached that red turf, diving between defenders to make it 35-0 Ohio State.
Neither zigging nor zagging, Dobbins made a habit of plowing forward, fighting off defenders and wearing the hits on his way to 73 rushing yards and a touchdown on his team-leading 12 carries.
The lone silver lining for Rutgers came with a field goal with 8:02 remaining in the third quarter. Though seemingly a meaningless three points, the 41-yard-field goal marked the first time Rutgers put points on the board since 13 seconds remained in the Oct. 25, 2015 meeting. Since that late touchdown, Ohio State had scored 166 unanswered points.
In the middle of the second quarter, Rutgers had a respite from the onslaught unleashed from Haskins’ arm. It still didn’t seem to matter.
Redshirt freshman Tate Martell, given plenty of time and space, took a crow-hop and fired a strike right into the chest of redshirt senior Terry McLaurin, who turned and finished off the 51-yard touchdown play. Martell himself turned in an impressive statline in his extended playing time, finishing the game 10-for-10 in pass attempts with 121 passing yards and a touchdown. He also rushed eight times for 95 yards and a touchdown.
Just as he did to open the game, Haskins looked poised in the pocket when he returned, slinging a 44-yard pass that reached Dixon in stride as he raced into the end zone to bring the score to 42-0 before heading to the sideline for the final time. Dixon finished the game with four receptions while leading the team with 89 receiving yards and a pair of touchdowns.
“Johnnie is definitely a home run maker every time he touches the ball,” Haskins said. “That’s with everybody. Give them a good spot with the ball, they can take it to the house any time. That’s the thing for me is ball placement.”
Haskins and the Buckeyes will face their first real test of the season next Saturday when they travel to AT&T Stadium in Dallas to face No. 14 TCU.