Taking the 10th-worst passing attack in the country into battle against the best pass defense in college football, it’s safe to say Rutgers and redshirt freshman quarterback Johnny Langan didn’t have much of a chance.
In fact, the only shots the Scarlet Knight offense took early against Ohio State were in their own foot.
Ohio State forced three turnovers on pass attempts, including two in the first three minutes of the game, giving the Buckeye offense an advantage it didn’t need during the 56-21 throttling of Rutgers.
“It defiinitely gives us momentum in terms of field position and just getting the team going,” sophomore quarterback Justin Fields said. “So, of course, we get Chase [Young] back next week, and that’ll be a big help. The big thing is keep forcing those turnovers and just scoring on every drive.”
Redshirt senior cornerback Damon Arnette was listed neither unavailable nor a game-time decision ahead of the game, yet he did not line up in his usual starting spot Saturday.
“I gotta step up. He didn’t play today, so I just had to step up and be a part of the B.I.A. and just really step up and be better today,” redshirt sophomore cornerback Shaun Wade said.
In Arnette’s place, sophomore cornerback Sevyn Banks got the nod, and he wasn’t the only irregularity in the lineup. Including New Jersey native defensive ends in sophomore Tyler Friday and redshirt freshman Javontae Jean-Baptiste, the Buckeyes started with three backups — an indicator of their confidence against a Rutgers team on a 19-game conference losing streak.
Still, it was Wade who ended things before they could begin for the Scarlet Knights.
Langan looked downfield on his first dropback of the game, but made the unfortunate error of tossing the ball in Wade’s direction. The 6-foot-1 corner deflected the pass with his left hand and landed with the ball in his chest, snuffing out any Rutgers hope of finding an early leg up on the Buckeyes.
“I saw the ball that was short, so I just tipped it to myself really,” Wade said.
Wade’s first pick of the season handed sophomore quarterback Justin Fields and the Ohio State offense the ball at the Rutgers 40, and it wasted no time getting on the board. Four plays and 83 seconds of game time later, junior running back J.K. Dobbins scored his 13th rushing touchdown of the year, and the pressure was back on the Rutgers offense.
“The defense is pretty good. They’ve been playing great all season so whenever they do that, it’s easy for us,” Dobbins said.
On the next drive, Langan found a rhythm of sorts, hitting back-to-back receivers for gains of two and six yards — but the ball didn’t stay in freshman Isaiah Washington’s hands for long.
Once again, Wade was there to make a play, stripping the football from Washington’s grasp to cause a fumble that senior safety Jordan Fuller would recover on the Rutgers 33.
Four snaps in for the Rutgers offense, and two of them had already resulted in Wade takeaways.
By the time Fields hit senior wide receiver Binjimen Victor for an 11-yard score just 40 seconds later, Rutgers had been hit by a whirlwind from which it would not recover.
Langan managed just 30 yards on seven completions in the first half, and by the time he got the ball back in the second, the game was already well in hand at a 35-7 Ohio State lead. Langan started the half 1-for-5.
Ohio State sophomore linebacker K’Vaughan Pope intercepted another Langan pass in the third quarter for good measure, setting up a touchdown connection from redshirt senior quarterback Chris Chugunov to redshirt junior tight end Jake Hausmann.
“We think we got the best defense in the country, so when they do that, we try to get the opportunity and score,” sophomore wide receiver Chris Olave said. “So that’s what we did, and we capitalized on it.”
With mostly second- and third-string players in late, Rutgers threw for 90 yards and a score in the second half. But with matchups against No. 9 Penn State and No. 15 Michigan in the next two weeks, the Ohio State starters will likely see four quarters of action.
The Buckeyes advance to stiffer competition, but the next time they take the field, they’ll have the Big Ten’s sack leader in junior defensive end Chase Young.
“He’s the best player in the nation,” Olave said. “He’s the leader of our team, and we can’t wait to get him back in tomorrow.”