It wasn’t a question of if Ohio State would win, but by how much?
The Buckeyes didn’t quite cover their 50-plus point spread, but they seemed poised to blow even the loftiest estimations out of the water early, forcing two turnovers and scoring two touchdowns 3:36 into the game.
No. 2 Ohio State (10-0, 7-0 Big Ten) wrapped up the final fluff game on its schedule with a 56-21 beatdown of Rutgers (2-8, 0-7) Saturday, behind 592 yards of offense and three takeaways.
The Buckeye offense scored touchdowns on all three of its first quarter possessions, two of them set up courtesy of redshirt sophomore cornerback Shaun Wade’s ball-hawking abilities.
Wade picked off Rutgers redshirt freshman quarterback Johnny Langan’s first pass of the game, and followed up with a forced fumble on the second Scarlet Knight possession. Ohio State scored less than 90 seconds after each turnover.
“For these next games, we gotta have takeaways. We know that,” Wade said. “So we just gotta be consistent.”
The first came on an 18-yard scamper by junior running back J.K. Dobbins, springing off redshirt sophomore center Josh Myers. The second was an 11-yard toss from sophomore quarterback Justin Fields to senior wide receiver Binjimen Victor, who made a diving catch in the left corner of the end zone to haul in the score.
“If [Fields] is playing in those games, and he’s playing for four quarters, they’re saying he’s right there for the leader of the Heisman,” head coach Ryan Day said. “But because of the situation we’re in, he’s not getting those kind of reps.”
Both Dobbins and Victor would return to the end zone before halftime.
An 8-yard Dobbins scoring run closed the first quarter, and redshirt senior wide receiver K.J. Hill trotted across the goal line on a 35-yard pass from Fields to open the second.
The most surprising development in the early going was Rutgers’ ability to do what some thought it may not in the duration of the contest: score.
Just a week after becoming Ohio State’s starting punt returner, freshman wide receiver Garrett Wilson fumbled his first attempt of the game, recovered by redshirt junior defensive back Lawrence Stevens at the Buckeye 33.
Three plays later, Rutgers sophomore running back Isaih Pacheco got loose down the left sideline for a 26-yard touchdown, welcomed by cannon blasts and confetti at SHI Stadium, as the Scarlet Knights made it a 21-7 game.
It wasn’t the only win the Scarlet Knights came up with in the opening 30 minutes, as they stuffed Ohio State on a four-down goal-line stand with 4:15 left in the half. The Buckeyes ran Dobbins four straight times, but he couldn’t find the end zone, and Rutgers took possession at its own 2-yard-line.
Late in the third quarter, Langan finally found an open receiver in the secondary and hit junior Bo Melton for a 35-yard score that made it 49-14.
Fields came up favoring his left knee after a 13-yard rush earlier in the drive, and despite walking on it gingerly thereafter, came back out for his second touchdown connection with Victor — a 24-yard pitch-and-catch to make it 35-7.
Aside from Dobbins, the Buckeye starters came back out on offense to start the second half and picked up where they left off. A 42-yard catch from sophomore wide receiver Chris Olave preceded a tiptoe touchdown catch by redshirt junior tight end Luke Farrell in the corner of the end zone.
“At halftime we’re up 28 — we just felt like that’s not enough,” Day said. “All the sudden you come out there in the second half and go three-and-out, and they score, it’s 21. That’s not enough, so we felt like we needed to come back out.”
Olave finished with a career-high 139 yards receiving and Fields a career-high 305 yards passing.
Redshirt senior quarterback Chris Chugunov extended the Buckeye lead to 48-7 with a 3-yard pass to redshirt junior tight end Jake Hausmann midway into the third quarter following an interception by sophomore K’Vaughan Pope. The score was the first of Hausmann’s career.
Chugunov got a second score in his home state when he found redshirt freshman wide receiver Jaelen Gill for a 32-yard tackle-breaking touchdown in the fourth quarter.
Rutgers retaliated in the final two minutes with a 1-yard score from Langan to make the final score 56-21.
“Definitely want to celebrate this one, but we know we got a big test next week, so definitely want to prepare for them as well,” senior safety Jordan Fuller said.
Ohio State returns home for a noon matchup with No. 9 Penn State Nov. 23.