Ohio State remained undefeated and untouchable in the Big Ten Saturday, defeating Rutgers 56-21. The Buckeyes picked up 594 total yards of offense on a Rutgers defense that came in giving up the most yards per game in the conference. Here are The Lantern’s three takeaways from the victory:
Efficiency on the Fields
Even though junior quarterback Justin Fields played only a little more than half of the game, he piled onto his already impressive season stats.
Fields threw just 19 times and completed 15 of those pass attempts for a career-high 305 yards and four touchdowns. He only played one drive in the second half and threw a corner lob to redshirt junior tight end Luke Farrell to make it 42-7.
“You double those stats, maybe he can throw for 500 or 600 yards,” Ohio State head coach Ryan Day said.
Fields has tallied 31 touchdown passes on the season, good for fourth in the country, while ranking only No. 80 in the country in pass attempts.
The Georgia transfer continued to protect the ball too, keeping his interception total at just one this season. Of the five Football Bowl Subdivision quarterbacks with 30 or more touchdown tosses, Fields has the fewest interceptions.
Although his passing yardage doesn’t stack up with other Heisman-contending quarterbacks, Fields’ efficiency matches any passer in the country, and it was a key part of Ohio State’s first-half dominance Saturday.
Ohio State sophomore receiver Chris Olave established himself as a go-to target against Rutgers.
Olave caught four passes for a career-high 139 yards, including a 58-yard bomb from Fields. He also hauled in an impressive fingertip, turf-level catch despite a pass interference call and an underthrown pass in the second half.
“Me and Justin, we kind of struggled earlier in the year with the deep ball,” Olave said. “He was kind of overthrowing me. We finally got connected today.”
Over the past three games, Olave has brought down 16 receptions –– the most for Ohio State over that stretch. He’s second on the Buckeyes in total receptions with 36, behind redshirt senior receiver K.J. Hill.
Olave has seen his volume of targets and catches grow throughout the season, and although he didn’t have a touchdown Saturday, his 139 receiving yards were the most a Buckeye wideout has accumulated in a single game this season.
“He’s got good speed, and he can really track a ball well,” Day said. “Great depth perception and timing.”
Olave proved his worth as a go-to receiver, and as a sophomore, his receptions and yardage should only improve.
Penn State prep
Although not explicitly stated, one of Ohio State’s focuses against Rutgers was likely keeping its most important players healthy for the final stretch of the season.
With a game against Penn State at Ohio Stadium looming, the Buckeyes kept Fields, junior running back J.K. Dobbins and most of the first team off the field for the majority of the second half.
While dispatching Rutgers was Ohio State’s main task, Day said his team knew what was ahead.
“Now all the focus — the minute that game went to zero — is on Penn State and getting ready for this next run,” Day said. “We have to do everything we can to prepare for this game, and it starts right now.”
Ohio State has won every game this season by at least 24 points, hasn’t given up more than 21 points to any team and hasn’t ended any first half with a single-digit lead.
The competitiveness of the Buckeyes’ Big Ten schedule was at its lowest in the past two weeks against Maryland and Rutgers. Penn State will be a large step up in quality, and making sure Fields is healthy is crucial to Ohio State’s postseason run.
Although looking ahead was easy to do against an out-manned Rutgers team, Ohio State took care of business, scoring more than 40 points for the eighth time this season and holding the Scarlet Knights to 231 yards.
“The way we look at it is kind of a March Madness-type thing,” senior safety Jordan Fuller said. “We got to win every game we play.”
After going up 42-7 early in the second half, the Buckeyes’ focus quickly shifted to making it to the Penn State game fully intact and prepared.
“It was one of those games that I thought our guys played good in the first half, and then we decided not to play J.K. in the second half,” Day said. “We came out in that first drive of the third quarter, went right down the field and then decided to go with our twos.”