PISCATAWAY, N.J. – No. 1 Ohio State marched into High Point Solutions Stadium in Piscataway, New Jersey, and handled its business against Rutgers. Here are the results of the five things the The Lantern’s sports editors Ryan Cooper and Kevin Stankiewicz were looking out for in the 49-7 game.
How will the offense react to full-time Barrett?
The spark that OSU coach Urban Meyer was looking for after replacing redshirt junior Cardale Jones in favor of redshirt sophomore J.T. Barrett materialized from the opening whistle on Saturday.
The offense quickly marched down the field on its first possession, going 60 yards in seven plays, though Barrett collided with redshirt junior wide receiver Michael Thomas on a third-down run and coughed up the ball.
That, however, was the only major blemish for the Buckeye offense on the night.
OSU piled up 528 total yards of offense, 324 of which were accumulated by Barrett.
“J.T. Barrett came in and played very well,” Meyer said. “Energized us, ran the ball very well. (I’m) very pleased.”
The overall performance was balanced. Through the air, OSU had 247 yards, while an additional 281 were chalked up on the ground.
Thomas had five catches for 103 yards and a score, and redshirt senior H-back Braxton Miller had two snags for 55 yards.
“We had great momentum today,” junior running back Ezekiel Elliott said. “Everybody made plays when their number was called. You can’t really ask for more from us.”
Offensive coordinator Ed Warinner said Saturday’s win is beginning to show out who the top-ranked Buckeyes are on offense.
“We are starting to figure out who we are and get our identity,” Warinner said. “That’s all coming together nicely.”
Replacing a defensive starter
Senior defensive tackle Tommy Schutt started the first seven games of OSU’s season, but he was inactive on Saturday following wrist surgery. Filling his void in the middle of the front four were redshirt senior Joel Hale and redshirt sophomore Michael Hill.
Hale technically made his 10th career start on Saturday, but the two players mostly split time.
Hale finished the night with just one tackle in the box score, while Hill tacked on two tackles of his own. Though the numbers aren’t jaw-dropping, the two made plays that don’t show up in the stat sheet, such as in the third quarter when Hale helped defensive end Sam Hubbard wrestle Rutgers quarterback Chris Laviano to the turf.
While it doesn’t show up, both Hale and Hill contributed nicely to the near-shutout performance the defense pitched in Piscataway.
Hubbard praised the performance of Schutt’s fill-ins and the unit as a whole.
“We’re really happy with (Hale and Hill),” the redshirt freshman said. “They played hard and did their job. Defensively overall we were flying to the ball today. We are happy where we are at.”
In what can be considered a microcosm of his season, junior defensive end Joey Bosa had a very noticeable effort on the defensive line while not stuffing the stat sheets.
The Fort Lauderdale, Florida, native did end the game with a solo sack in the box score, but he only finished with three tackles — two of which were for a loss.
Bosa made two tackles in the first quarter. The first was a solid tackle in the first series, in which he wrapped up Rutgers redshirt senior running back Paul James before James could get into open field. The running back saw some daylight, but Bosa shed his blocker and made a wrap-up tackle.
Later in the quarter, Bosa got his third solo sack of the season, a four-yard takedown of Rutgers quarterback Chris Laviano. His final tackle game in the third quarter, a four-yard run stop in the backfield of junior running back Justin Goodwin.
Bosa remains one of the top defensive linemen in the nation, and while he often doesn’t pick up the tackle numbers he could because of the attention he attracts from the opposing offensive line, the impact he does make continues to be a game-changer for the OSU defense.
How effective can Carroo be?
Leonte Carroo, possibly Rutgers’ best offensive weapon, was listed as questionable with an ankle injury, but the senior wide receiver was able to suit up for the Scarlet Knights.
His night, however, ended in the third quarter. With the game essentially out of reach for the Scarlet Knights, coach Kyle Flood shut the hobbled Edison, New Jersey, native down for the contest.
Rutgers’ offense struggled throughout the entire 60 minutes, but Carroo was able to corral three catches for 55 yards in his limited action.
Early on, Carroo looked like he would be a thorn in the Buckeye secondary’s side. On the game’s second play, he burnt redshirt sophomore cornerback Gareon Conley for an 18-yard reception.
He beat Conley again eight plays later but Laviano overthrew the wide receiver in the end zone.
Carroo’s other two catches came on a first-quarter screen pass for four yards and a 33-yard pickup in the second quarter.
The entire Scarlet Knight offense was decimated by the Buckeye defense, but Carroo still showed a few flashes of why he is considered one of the Big Ten’s top pass catchers.
Is the Zeke streak in jeopardy?
Elliott’s streak of 12 straight games with over 100 yards rushing appeared to be in jeopardy after the first half, as the junior running back tallied just 15 yards on nine carries. But a strong second-half performance of 127 yards on 10 carries resuscitated the streak, extending it to a nation-leading 13 games.
Barrett as the starter means a chunk of the designed runs that used to go Elliott would be shifted to the quarterback’s legs. Snowball that wrinkle with the fact the Scarlet Knight run defense ranked 30th in the country heading into the game, and there was a potential for the streak to be buried near the banks of the Raritan River.
But it lives on.
After being contained for the first 30 minutes, Elliott’s first carry of the second half, which went for 27 yards, proved to be the spark to set the St. Louis native rolling.
“I think it was a nice spark,” Elliott said. “Pop one out a little bit.”
Carries of 13 and six yards quickly followed, which began to erase any doubt that Elliott would top the 100-yard mark, at least, once more.
The play that elevated Elliott over the century mark was his final play of the night: a 55-yard touchdown run near the start of the fourth quarter right through the Rutgers defense.
Adjustments made during halftime proved to be what kept Elliott’s streak breathing, at least until the Buckeyes take on Minnesota at home on Nov. 7.
“In the second half we made adjustments, went to more gap schemes, powers, where we could get to the double teams and that’s where we popped a couple big ones.”